The Canucks are at a pivotal point in their rebuild – a majority of their prospects are set to become North American pros within the next season if they aren’t already. Bo Horvat has lead the charge, and will be in his fourth season next year. Acquired NHL/AHL tweeners such as Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund have made almost immediate impacts – both became better in the season after they were acquired, and I would expect Nikolay Goldobin to do the same. Brendan Gaunce, who’s unfortunately injured, isn’t flashy offensively but is a fairly reliable rookie bottom six player. Brock Boeser has now made the Canucks and will almost certainly make the team next year. Jake Virtanen seems to have turned a corner and could make the roster next season, and Jonathan Dahlén, who has lit up the Swedish Allsvenskan league, is probably coming over – although he’ll likely end up in Utica. That’s just the forwards – defensive draftees Ben Hutton and Nikita Tryamkin have already started their takeover of the team, with college signee Troy Stecher joining them and 2016 5th overall pick Olli Juolevi not far away. Thatcher Demko, of course, is dominating the AHL in his rookie season and will probably see NHL playing time if injuries occur again next season. I may have even missed a couple prospects.
The point of that big long paragraph covering things you may already know is to say this – the Canucks must remain committed to the rebuild. The Canucks have three foundations – The past and present, the transition, and the future. Henrik and Daniel Sedin are still around for at least another season, of course. They’ll be leaders for the Canucks as long as they’re in the organization in any capacity. For the transition, Vancouver has solid veterans that a team can support a team of young guns: Brandon Sutter, Loui Eriksson, Chris Tanev, Jacob Markstrom, and Erik Gudbranson will (likely) all help the team move from the 2011 era to the future. While Tanev is the only elite player, they are all character guys – apart from perhaps Loui, whose locker room presence isn’t known too well – who will have an influence on the young guys and play a support role in their development.
Finally, you’ve got the future, which was mentioned in the first paragraph. Baertschi, Horvat, and Boeser have shown great chemistry in the two games they’ve been together, leading many to speculate that this is the new first line or even the West Coast Express 2.0. Dahlén, Granlund, Adam Gaudette (who could turn pro from Northeastern University at the end of next season), as well as if the forward the Canucks might take with their high 1st round pick will all have the potential to be top 6 forwards in the coming years.
Signing a top free agent goes directly against this. The Canucks will soon have a logjam on defense and a logjam for their top 9 forwards. Third-string goalie Richard Bachman’s also shown that he can be a serviceable backup. The last thing they need is more competition in each area unless it flows with their youth movement goal. More Dahléns, less Erikssons. This will allow the Canucks to form their own identity as a young team, instead of continuing to import their identity, not being able to support their chomping at the playoff bit.