You wanted change. Here it is.
The Vancouver Canucks took another bold step towards a potentially brighter, marginally younger future on Monday, demoting Linden Vey, Frank Corrado, and Alex Biega to the AHL – although all three will have to clear waivers, meaning they’re at risk of being claimed by another NHL team.
That means rookies Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann, and Ben Hutton have likely made Vancouver’s opening night roster, joining 20-year-old Bo Horvat on a fresher Orcas team.
Adam Cracknell is also still on the Canucks’ roster.
“I think it was just a matter of merit. We talked about that in the summer, that if we had young players that were pushing for jobs we’d make room, and I think we saw that through the preseason,” said Trevor Linden, the Canucks president of hockey operations, on the radio with TSN 1040 Vancouver on Monday.
“Guys that deserve to be here are here, and that’s the way we’re going to start.”
And while there’s a good chance either Vey or Corrado could be scooped up by a competitor, the NHL’s waiver and free agent market is flooded with other established names – Curtis Glencross, Mason Raymond, Paul Byron, and Max Talbot, among others who remain unclaimed or unsigned.
“That’s obviously a possibility,” said Linden, referring to the waiver situation, specifically with Corrado I think our view is that Frankie needs some time at the American League level… We owed it to a guy like Ben Hutton that deserved to be here to be here.
“Keeping a player here just to have him here is not serving that player well, either,” said Linden, again talking specifically about Corrado.
Linden said keeping Ben Hutton was the “easiest decision” the management team made in settling on their roster, adding that “many nights” the 22-year-old defender was their best player along the blueline.
Linden lauded Hutton for his exciting play, his decision-making, his awareness, and his poise with the puck.
McCann, Virtanen, and Hutton all impressed during the preseason, as did the now-demoted Biega, and were key offensive contributors alongside Canucks veterans like Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Radim Vrbata, and the rest.
If all three players stick, it would definitely be a change in culture for a Vancouver franchise that has, up until very recently, valued tenure above all else. While Hutton (22 years old), Virtanen (19), and McCann (19) aren’t much younger than Corrado (22), Vey (24), or Ronalds Kenins (24), they are less experienced.
And after a summer of significant character losses – longtime defender Kevin Bieksa and fan favourite goalie Eddie Lack were shipped to Anaheim and Carolina for spare parts and others’ opportunities – today’s announcement certainly leaves a wake.
(And for those who have said they just simply don’t understand the direction the Canucks have taken this season, they might say the same about Monday – while Vey has just failed to outplay Virtanen, Cracknell, and McCann, there is some surprise about the waiving of Frank Corrado, who has been knocking on the NHL’s door for three seasons now.)
With the injury to Chris Higgins and the departure of Nick Bonino, who was traded to Pittsburgh for replacement Brandon Sutter, the Canucks could field an opening night lineup that features up to seven completely new faces – Virtanen, McCann, Hutton, Sutter, Cracknell, Brandon Prust, and Matt Bartkowski – as well as new backup goalie Jacob Markstrom and playmaking forward Sven Baertschi, who was acquired at last season’s trade deadline and still has that new car smell.
Of course, today’s moves might not be as definite or thunderous as they seem right now.
Both Virtanen and McCann can play up to nine games in the NHL as an audition, and may be sent down if they don’t impress in that time. As well, since Jim Benning took over as Vancouver’s general manager in 2014, the Canucks have invested much more into Utica’s on-ice product, so perhaps this is just an example of how fluid their movies between both levels will be.
Vey, Biega, Kenins, and Corrado will be cogs for Travis Green’s Comets team, and can be recalled to Vancouver if they clear waivers by Tuesday.
If Hutton were to be sent down, he would play for Utica, while Virtanen and McCann would have to be sent back to their junior teams in Calgary and Sault Ste. Marie, respectively.