VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks are like a beautifully-renovated home that shows really well at an open house. As long as you don’t go downstairs.
Limits on the team’s renovation budget were evident in the opening hours of National Hockey League free agency on Wednesday when the Canucks essentially turned defenceman Nate Schmidt into three players for the right side of their blue-line: Tucker Poolman, Travis Hamonic and Luke Schenn.
These three experienced pros will cost the Canucks $6.35 million in cap space next season, roughly the spending money Vancouver general manager Jim Benning created late Tuesday by trading Schmidt and his $5.95-million hit to the Winnipeg Jets.
The Canucks on Wednesday also mended the hole in net behind starter Thatcher Demko by signing veteran goalie Jaroslav Halak to a bonus-heavy, one-year contract that will cost the Canucks $1.5 million next season and, likely, the same amount again in 2022-23 after the 36-year-old is gone.
And incumbent Canuck Brandon Sutter was re-signed at a bargain $1.15 million to centre the fourth line, kill penalties and provide some stability and leadership on a roster with six new faces, more if you count some of the “bubble” players from the swarm of minor-league signings on Wednesday.
The hockey-ops department signed 11 players, most of them with some NHL experience, to stock the minor-league team the Canucks have relocated to nearby Abbotsford. Note to fans in the Fraser Valley: the Abbotsford Canucks are…