Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford said for some time that he believed his team needed to rejuvenate a bit.
Last month he suggested they should focus on players 26 and under.
It was a number that caught my attention. In the past, former Canucks general manager Jim Benning had also cited 26. But in his case, he was implying that was the age at which he believed players were no longer young.
So I decided to ask Rutherford about this.
I was wondering if maybe it had to do with what we know about aging players, that the closer they get to 30, the more likely they are to start to decline in performance.
It wasn’t about the aging curve, he said.
It’s more about seeing where the core of this team is and how old the players around them should be if they’re going to become a contender together in a year or two.
“It’s not a hard and fast number, it’s more of a guideline, more of a point that we’re trying to maintain an age group where the team can grow together,” he said. “It’s not a hard and fast number, there will be guys that are older than that, depending on their role.”
That said, the aging curve is an important consideration in other ways, he acknowledged.
“When you start a long-term contract, it becomes more of a risk later in the long-term contract,” he said of signing players closer to 30 years old. And then he raised an example on his account.
“With JT Miller, we suggested that we would like to keep it. He’s been a good player for the Canucks,” he said. “(But) he may not make sense to both parties. This is time that has been earned, going into free agency. We would like to do it, but we have to be careful.”
Miller is 29 years old and is expected to receive big offers in unrestricted free agency, should he run out of contract in the summer of 2023. He still has one season left on his current deal, capped at $5.25 million.
There’s a lot of business value in a player with such a team-friendly deal, even if it doesn’t match the staggering 99 points he’s racked up this year. He’s likely to remain an effective offensive force for a few seasons, but the uncertainty beyond that is Rutherford’s point.
And if you read between the lines, it seems pretty clear that the team has a number they just won’t beat.
Earlier in the day, CHEK TV’s Rick Dhaliwal reported that the Canucks are once again listening to trade offers from Miller, something they’ve been open to on and off since before the trade deadline.
Dhaliwal said he checked with Miller’s representatives after hearing the Canucks were buying the star forward, who scored 99 points last season and has one year left on his contract.
“They are not surprised,” Dhaliwal reported, was the reaction from the Miller camp.
Not upset, just not surprised. And that says a lot about where the negotiations stand.
More news, less ads: Our in-depth journalism is possible thanks to the support of our subscribers. For just $3.50 a week, you can get unlimited, ad-lite access to The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post, and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: the vancouver sun | The province.