Canucks star Brock Boeser not worried about earlier trade talk, keeps positive in contract talks

The one-year contract gamble by Patrik Laine this season took the Columbus Blue Jackets star’s leverage to new heights. That could resonate with RFA Brock Boeser

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Inspiration to reach a contract agreement can take on many forms.

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For Brock Boeser, it can come from an inner resolve to silence critics by meeting expectations. It can also come from afar with admiration for the lucrative gamble that Patrik Laine took this season to take his contract leverage to new heights.

Boeser has never been afraid to bet on himself and the Vancouver Canucks’ restricted free agent will do it again in some shape or form.

From a back-loaded, three-year extension that allowed the 25-year-old to pocket US $7.5 million into total salary this season, to survey the current landscape of options, his repeated refrain is a desire to remain here.

In advance of the National Hockey League trade deadline, when rumors were swirling in March about his future in the organization, Boeser was true to his word.

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He’s grateful to be playing, contributing and being handsomely rewarded for a game and city he loves. Being lumped into deals for a proven right-shot defenseman or young center didn’t face him.

“It’s not really a worry of mine,” said Boeser. “I’ve been a big believer in saying whatever happens, happens. I’ve said what I wanted to say in how much this organization means to me. But at the end of the day, it’s up to them (management).”

When the league trade deadline passed and he was healthy for the stretch drive to push for the playoffs, Boeser was again at his best perspective.

“At the end of the day, we’re pretty lucky,” he summed up. “We’re in the NHL and have it pretty nice.”

Canucks winger Brock Boeser gets set to fire a shot on net against the Minnesota Wild during a January game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
Canucks winger Brock Boeser gets set to fire a shot on net against the Minnesota Wild during a January game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn /USA TODAY Sports files

To his credit, Boeser also took ownership of a 23-goal season beset by personal and professional struggles, a COVID-19 diagnosis and a hyper-extended right elbow.

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He tied JT Miller for game-winning goals (6) was second in power play goals (11) and third in shots among forwards. His shooting percentage of him slipped to 11.8 per cent after 16.3 per cent in 2020-21, but 19 of his goals of him came with Bruce Boudreau at the coaching helm.

“I wasn’t as good this year with the little details like that and showing up on a consistent basis,” admitted Boeser. “There were times when I would get into games and not feel confident and I didn’t really make much of a difference.

“If I can fix that, we could get some more wins and be in the playoffs.”

That’s what the coach and management want to hear.

However, whether the right-winger can reach palatable salary and term objectives in a three-year extension by the July 13 deadline — or opt to accept his qualifying offer of US $7.5 million in a one-year roll of the dice — the scenario is intriguing.

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Boeser could take a pay cut over three years and get an unrestricted free agency to bag a bigger deal here or elsewhere. Or he could hit career highs next season to do the restricted free agent contract dance once again with more clout.

And if an extension is below US$6 million annually, that could be a problem, according to an NHL source. The only way that figure works is with a much longer extension.

Accepting a multi-year deal would mean aiming for something close to the reverse arbitration number of US$6,375 million. If not, playing out the one-year QO makes sense because Boeser would be in the same arbitration situation next year.

That’s where Laine, 24, provides perspective. The mercurial Finn bet on himself this season and will be richly rewarded.

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The Columbus Blue Jackets’ hulking winger accepted a one-year, qualifying offer of US $7.5 million last July and turned it into a point-per-game performance with 56 (26-30) in 56 games, which included seven game-winning goals .

All this while missing 19 games with an oblique muscle strain suffered in early November, and then sitting for the last seven games with an upper-body ailment.

It answered lingering questions about commitment and consistency, but Laine was much more engaged on and off the ice. He also lauded being allowed more offensive freedom by rookie head coach Brad Larsen, as opposed to the more restrictive and responsible regime deployed by the departed John Tortorella.

It has brought the player and management to a happy place.

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“The feeling is mutual,” said Laine. “Just figure out the term and the money and all that, and I think we should be fine.”

Fine is a relative term because Laine has arbitration rights.

He could command the biggest extension in franchise history and it would surpass the US $9,583,333 million salary cap hit for defenseman Zach Werenski, a six-year extension that takes effect next season.

It would also get Laine out of free agency next season and the math from a Columbus source means that it could be a five-year commitment at US $47.5 million.

OVERTIME— Former Canucks defenseman Mattias Ohlund, who was added to the club’s Ring of Honor in 2016, will be formally feted by the BC Hockey Hall of Fame on July 22 in Penticton. Ohlund was actually inducted in 2020, but COVID-19 put the party on hold for two years. He had 325 points (93-232) in 770 games over 11 seasons in Vancouver. Also being honored are the 2012 national junior hockey champion Penticton Vees, 2002 Memorial Cup champion Kootenay Ice, NHL defenseman Eric BrewerNHL official Jay Sharrers and late junior hockey builder Ray Stonehouse.

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