Inside the Canucks’ successful search for Andrei Kuzmenko

Andrei Kuzmenko could not wait.

Fresh off a whirlwind recruiting tour of North America, Kuzmenko returned to Moscow. He had been to places as iconic and remote as South Beach, Ann Arbor, Vancouver and Joey’s in downtown Edmonton.

It was a dizzying ride. The original plan laid out by Kuzmenko’s representatives called for the skilled 26-year-old Russian winger to wait until mid-week before making his decision: settle in, digest what he had seen and said, and process his options with the his family before. deciding which NHL team to commit.

However, Kuzmenko’s mind was made up. He didn’t need to wait or indulge in any more sober reflections.

the vancouver canucks they felt confident after Kuzmenko’s weekend visit. General manager Patrik Allvin, who had followed the player closely for the better part of a decade, had flown to Vancouver to host Kuzmenko’s camp. In typical Canucks fashion, Kuzmenko and his agents wined and dined at a variety of TopTable locations, including Blue Water Cafe and Elisa.

The property was involved in the process, although President Francesco Aquilini was out of town during Kuzmenko’s visit.

On Saturday night, the club believed they had their man.

On Sunday, Kuzmenko’s representatives learned the result, and on Monday morning, Kuzmenko notified the world in an Instagram post that he would be bringing his talents to False Creek and committing to sign with the Canucks.

The accelerated pace of Kuzmenko’s decision reflected the strong impression Vancouver had made on Europe’s top free agent.

And in truth, it reflected the extent to which Kuzmenko’s mind had Already has recovered in the last week of the process.

As Kuzmenko continued with final interviews with several remaining clubs, the Canucks had laid the groundwork, paving the way for Kuzmenko’s urgency, the previous week during a meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

In that meeting, attended by Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau, who drove nearly seven hours from his offseason home near Hershey, Pennsylvania, and Allvin, who drove nearly four hours from Pittsburgh, the Canucks exposed his plan for Kuzmenko.

Despite industry rumors that Kuzmenko’s camp was seeking a games-played guarantee, a top-six role, a power-play opportunity and details on what the framework of an extension would look like beyond the next season, multiple sources familiar with the negotiations insisted the athletic on Monday that no guarantees were made.

That might stretch the limits of credulity, considering how fraught with falsehoods the recruiting process can be in professional sports, but in truth, the lack of guarantees is in line with a tough stance the Canucks held firm during their ultimately unsuccessful search. from several top NCAA free agents last spring as well. Allvin, who ran many of those recruiting meetings in April and May, was adamant about his refusal to make roster promises or guarantee ice time.

It is believed that it cost the club, in at least one case.

However, on that fateful Friday in mid-June at Michigan, the club’s honesty was not a setback. Perhaps it helped that Boudreau and Allvin, sincere in their belief that Kuzmenko’s game will be a power play weapon early on at the NHL level, charted a path for Kuzmenko to make an impact in his first season. Allvin also focused on how Kuzmenko could fit into the club’s long-term plans, provided he earned a spot and made an impact, beyond next season.

The impressions Boudreau and Allvin made were ultimately decisive for Kuzmenko and his camp in leading him to a commitment with the Canucks. There is a particular familiarity between Allvin and Kuzmenko, with a source close to the negotiation describing them as having “a good connection” going back years when Allvin was with the pittsburgh penguins organization.

From day one of this process, when nearly two-thirds of NHL teams were vying for the skilled winger playmaker, the Canucks were high on Kuzmenko’s list of teams to consider. That’s partly because the player knew Allvin believed and trusted his ability.

“Andrei felt good with Vancouver,” said a source close to the player. the athletic.

By the time the Ann Arbor meeting concluded, Kuzmenko was convinced to join the Canucks organization. He still intended to honor commitments made to other finalists, but as of that point, the Canucks were no longer there. prohibitive favorites but they were firmly in the driver’s seat to land the player.

There are still obstacles to clear. While Kuzmenko is committed to Vancouver and will officially sign with the club when the market opens on July 13, the contract is not yet signed.

Kuzmenko is only eligible to sign an entry-level one-year deal, meaning the final terms of his deal are defined by numbers, though. there are new and modestly raised thresholds.

Kuzmenko is sure to earn a maximum average annual value ($950k), a standard signing bonus of $95,000, and potentially maximum Program A performance bonuses ($1 million) or close to that. Neither negotiating side would comment on whether Exhibit B bonds could be included in the deal or would be a sticking point in negotiations, but those bonds could total an additional $2.5 million if maxed out.

The maximum Schedule B bonuses are very rare for European free agents. They tend to be reserved for top overall picks, NCAA star players with August 15 clout, or high-pedigree draft picks who absolutely sweep their respective junior, collegiate, or pro leagues. artemi panarin‘s basic two-year contract with the chicago blackhawks He did, however, include a near-maximum list of Schedule B bonuses when he signed with Chicago in 2015, so while they’re unlikely to be factored into these talks, they’re not entirely unheard of.

The agreement, however, is a formality at this stage. Kuzmenko is committed to the Canucks; the Canucks are committed to the player.

The day Allvin was introduced in Vancouver promised that recruiting European and NCAA free agents would be a major part of his strategy. That these unconventional fishing holes would offer the club a way to replenish their depth of talent.

On Monday, when Kuzmenko posed for a photo signing a prop while wearing a No. 96 Canucks jersey, Allvin had delivered, both on his promise and as Europe’s top free agent this offseason.

(Photo: Maksim Konstantinov / SOPA Image / Sipa USA)

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