IN Vancouver Canucks“Off-season is underway and although there is a lot of speculation about what the front office can do to upgrade its blue line, or which of Brock Boser, JT Miller or Connor Garland they can trade, the first move of the note was the signing of the FA.
Although not yet official, Russian winger Andrei Kuzmenko and his agent Dan Milstein pledged with Kanuks on Monday, the team confirmed shortly afterwards.
The addition of Kuzmenko is a welcome and certainly interesting development for Kanaks. The signing rules limit Kuzmenko’s deal to an initial level of one year, reaching the $ 950,000 ceiling, but allow bonuses for signing A and B results, which could lead to a ceiling of millions.
However, these conditions are still being developed and the contract cannot be formal until July 13, the day of the opening of the free agency.
This is a player that GM Patrick Alvin has been aware of and following for some time.
“I have been watching Andrei since his 2014-15 season and I am impressed with his development and improvement,” Alvin said in a statement from the team. “Once the details of the contract are finalized, we look forward to helping him continue to grow as a hockey player.”
So who is Kuzmenko? What type of player is he? Where could he fit into Vancouver and what could that mean for other potential moves this summer? Here is a brief overview:
WHAT KIND OF PLAYER IS KUZMENKO?
He has never been drafted in the NHL and has not fully completed the Russian Junior MHL in two years since he was eligible for the draft for the first time. He is a late thriving who was not even close to a point of play player in the KHL until just last season, when he finished second in the league with 53 points in 45 games and fourth best points per game from a 25-year-old player. in the history of the league.
“Going back three years, he was a good player, not an elite player, and then two years ago he took another step forward … and then this year he really jumped out,” said Kam Robinson, director of film scouting for Elite. Prospects, FAN 650. “He was given every opportunity you could imagine. Another thing is whether he will get this in Vancouver, but it will be to put him in a position to succeed, to understand what he can do and to forgive some of these mistakes and still put him there for whatever he gets, at 15- 17 minutes a night with the power of the game. “
Every team that acquired Kuzmenko did so because of the attack he could bring, along with the relatively cheap and low-risk goal he had come up with. Kanuks, with about $ 9.6 million in cap space, has options on how to use Kuzmenko, and although the idea is for him to become a top 6 striker and use a little force, reports show that the team did not promise him these roles comes out of the gate and that you will have to win it.
If he is given the opportunity to succeed and fail and given the space and time to adapt to the NHL game, all indications are that this is a player who should give Kanux a boost in attack and flexibility around the lineup, as is. built at the moment.
“He’s an elusive skater. He has good speed, he can change gears effectively. He controls the pace and he has some good fakes,” Robinson said. “In the area at the offensive end, he can disturb people with some quick movements.
“While transporting the puck through the neutral zone, he plays a little more in the NHL style, where he doesn’t look for a deck right away. He will look for entry first, bend over, and then look, perhaps to embarrass someone.
“I would call him a playmaker above all on the wing. He has a decent shot. It was used in many different ways in the game of power. “This short player who looks to distribute. His ability to see the ice, patience, attract coverage and then move it is perhaps the most translatable part of his game.”
WHO DOES YOU GET MOST BENEFICIAL?
Here’s the multi-million dollar question and how Canucks’ management projects will inform some of the other choices they have to make this summer (more on that soon).
If Kanuks returns JT Miller and returns him as a center instead of on the wing, then there will be three points of support that Kuzmenko can line up next to, between Miller, Elias Peterson and Bo Horvath. By the end of next season, Kuzmenko will probably look at different combinations.
If Canucks have this three-headed monster in the middle, maybe Kuzmenko can first be relieved in the role of third line to someone who can complement his game best.
“Bo Horvat is kind of a shooting center, so he can be a good winger playing for him,” Robinson said. “Horvat is also more of this style of chasing heavy puck. Kuzmenko is also quite persistent in releasing goals, especially in the offensive area. By no means would I call him a heavy player, but he has a bit of that toughness in his game as well.
“I’m sure Peterson and he would do well. It depends on where you want to place it. He’s a right-handed man who traditionally plays with the left wing, he can also play with the right wing, so maybe if they end up moving JT Miller, he’s a good man to slide into Pete’s left wing there. “
WHAT IS THE DEFICIENCY?
With so little investment for a mandate or to reach a ceiling, there is virtually no risk of putting Kuzmenko in the lineup and seeing what he can do. The only drawback may be if Kuzmenko is not placed in a position in the squad where he can succeed, or if the coaching staff avoids using it early, if Kuzmenko has several breakdowns in defense to which he may be prone.
“He doesn’t really do that much in defense,” Robinson said. “He will stick to his man on the back check and that’s it. He will have to play an offensive role in order to be an effective and contributing factor. I have a feeling that the organization has cut his name into an offensive role. “
Not every Russian offensive master who comes to the NHL later in his career carries this production. Vadim Shipachov and Nikita Gusev are some recent examples of Russian players who arrived in the NHL with great fanfare and were seen upstairs and then returned to the KHL after a brief and unsuccessful stay in North America.
If that happens to Kuzmenko, the Canucks are unlikely to be burned by it unless they make another move on the list or exchange it. banks for Kuzmenko she is a breakthrough, top-6 star.
The key for Vancouver and his coaching staff is to put Kuzmenko in a good position, not to be afraid of his early blunders and to let him breathe in a role that best suits his game.
“Understanding and identifying the player’s skills and what they can bring to the table to benefit them and the team is a priority № 1. I guess they’ve watched a lot of tapes and know the player well.” Said Robinson.
“If he gets the trust of the coach and the trust of the coaches that there will be mistakes, there will be missed tasks in the back check, that you continue to let him go there, keep giving him the means to increase confidence.”
ANALYSIS OF A SCOUT BY JASON BUKALA:
“Kuzmenko brings a set of higher level skills (top six) to the Vancouver Canucks. He has the ability to make games in small areas and make checks. Although he chooses his places at times, he has an extra gear in the transition and can be quick to detect open ice in the offensive zone and outside the aspiration. He is not tall (5 feet-11), but is very strong / strong (194 pounds). When defending puck, it’s hard to push the game. to tune in and provide more details about the defensive side of the game, but his skill set wins. Expect him to contribute to the powerful game. “
WHAT OTHER CHANGES CAN THIS SIGNATURE BRING?
If Kuzmenko will enter the top 6 goal scorer and contribute to the power game, he gives Vancouver many advantages for the ceiling with only $ 950,000 this season alone. Of course, if he eventually hits, that percentage will only jump next off-season when he becomes eligible for the UFA.
This is a discussion for another day.
In the meantime, have someone who is projected as a wing in the top 6 and who might even be able to get started Kanuks remains in a better place to move another one forward if they choose.
“It definitely frees them up now to move the main body to help another part of the team or to clear the hat space,” Robinson said.
If we look at Kuzmenko as a left winger who will get minutes for power play, it looks like he will leave Tanner Pearson and its $ 3.25 million limit is no longer needed. Maybe his name could be added to Vancouver’s list of business candidates this summer.
But that could also leave Boeser in the limelight. The pending RFA could go into arbitration this summer or accept a one-year qualified bid from Canuk for $ 7.5 million. If there is no cheaper, long-term deal here, Boeser may be the player who makes more sense to move forward in light of Kuzmenko’s takeover.
“There is a lot of money spent on the wing. You have Tanner Pearson, Brock Boezer and Connor Garland, and if you want to include JT Miller as a winger, I still see him as the main one … that’s a lot of money, “said Thomas Drans of Athletic at Halford and Brow. “It’s a lot of dollars for wing caps. If Boeser accepts his qualifying offer, that’s $ 20 million for the top six. If you throw Kuzmenko into the mix, but Podkolzin and Hoglander too, one way to free up space for covers – something that this club has been focusing on since the new leadership came – would feel like an obvious four-player zone. some value in the league.
It’s hard not to think that maybe in some way this is a move that gives them some opportunities in terms of managing leaving in an area where they have a surplus of talent and limited space … You watch Kuzmenko’s tape of the powerful game and I would say it’s hard not to think that he could really move on, which would be Boeser or Pearson to make room. ”
Miller, who has played a lot in the center this season, but is also traditionally a left winger, is another trade candidate in focus here. He could sign an extension from July 1 if Canucks can’t agree with him and prefer not to enter next season without Miller signing an extension when Kuzmenko on the left helps offset at least that loss in the offensive. The Russian, of course, is unlikely to be a 99-point player right away, but trading with Miller should also bring a good return on one of his many suitors.
Of course, there is always a chance that Kuzmenko just did not work out and you are uncomfortable to make any other monumental decisions before even stepping on the ice.
“The thing to remember about this type of signing is low-risk signing, high-rise signing from Vancouver’s point of view,” Drans continued. “Kuzmenko is an impressive player, but there is also a real chance that he will not be a great contribution in the end. That he is settling down as a third-line power play specialist. Despite all the excitement, there is a real chance that he is just a small player or even less. “
More than an incredible hit added to Kanuks, Kuzmenko is better seen through the same lens as a perspective that comes out of the system and gives him an opportunity at the NHL level. Vancouver does not have many of these types of young people who insist on work, so Kuzmenko receives money this way. Would you replace a Miller player just because a potential customer is ready to step forward?
This is a decision that you have to be very careful with.
Kuzmenko will have the right to extend his contract in the middle of next season and it is believed that his future with the team was part of the Vancouver field. This is not a team with a lot of flexibility after next season – 48.497 million dollars have already been committed to the list for 2023-24 and this is before any other acquisitions this off-season or reporting potential extensions for Miller, Horvat or Boeser.
“It certainly suggests some of what we can see this off-season and some of the bigger moves this club can make,” Drans said.
“And maybe they just decide to go with a busy group of the first nine.”