LeBrun: Canucks GM Patrik Allvin on quiet deadline, signing Pettersson, plus Lindholm, Demko and more

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Imagine someone had told Patrik Allvin at the NHL GM meetings 12 months ago that his Vancouver Canucks would be sitting first in the Western Conference the next time he stepped foot in these same meetings.

“Ah, I do think that we had hopes during the process that we would be going in the right direction, but I wouldn’t think we would be in first place, no, definitely not,” Allvin told The Athletic with a smile.

Twelve months ago, the Canucks were out of a playoff spot. Now, here they are. Sure, there have been some tougher moments in the second half of the season, especially in the month leading up to the trade deadline, but as of Monday morning, the Canucks are still first in the conference, albeit by just one point.

By any single measure, it’s been a fantastic turnaround year for a Canucks team that nobody picked to be at the very top.

“I think we’re still learning every day,” Allvin cautioned. “I do give the coaches and the players a lot of credit for working as a unit and having a partnership together. Everything starts with trust. That’s been the biggest thing.”

And when Allvin says he feels his team is still learning every day, he means playing these games right now in March and battling for first place is the kind of meaningful hockey a lot of his players haven’t experienced. Never mind what’s coming next in April.

“A lot of guys haven’t played in the playoffs,” said the Canucks GM.

The Canucks ended up being quiet during trade deadline week earlier this month, although that certainly doesn’t tell the whole story, as the front office made a splash on Jan. 31 with the Elias Lindholm acquisition from Calgary (more on that in a moment) and was among the busiest teams in the league from September on when most clubs don’t really touch their roster a whole lot:

• Sept. 19: Vancouver traded Tanner Pearson and a 2025 third-round pick to Montreal for Casey DeSmith

Oct. 8: Vancouver traded a 2024 fifth-round pick to Toronto for Sam Lafferty

• Oct. 17: A minor-league deal with Pittsburgh, Jack Rathbone and Karel Plasek for Mark Friedman and Ty Glover

Nov. 28: Vancouver traded Anthony Beauvillier to Chicago for a 2024 fifth-round pick

Nov. 30: Vancouver traded a 2024 fifth-round pick and a 2026 third-round pick to Calgary for Nikita Zadorov

Dec. 15: Vancouver traded Jack Studnicka to San Jose for Nick Cicek and a 2024 sixth-round pick

Then of course the big one for Lindholm, and when you consider the trade history of Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford, it’s no surprise it was a January deal. The Hockey Hall of Fame executive has always tried to get ahead of things trade-wise.

After that, as our Canucks columnist Thomas Drance pointed out and as other league sources also confirmed, Vancouver had gone after two specific rentals in Chris Tanev and Jake Guentzel but didn’t get them.

“We had prioritized a couple of players that we had interest in, and for different reasons we weren’t able to execute (those deals), but then there wasn’t a Plan B or a panic move,” Allvin said. “To your point, I think we addressed our needs even going back to the Casey DeSmith pickup in the summer. So I’ve learned from Jim, I’m always trying to stay ahead of things.

“I think having Jim around for those critical decisions, he’s very good for me,” added Allvin.


Drance: Why the Canucks decided to be quiet at the NHL trade deadline

Obviously Allvin can’t name Guentzel, but it’s believed whatever the Penguins wanted was a price the Canucks didn’t feel comfortable paying given some of the future assets already spent this year and the balance of what the team needs to look like past this season, too.

“That’s where, for us, it was more where we are today and how would that impact next year and the following year?” Allvin said of some of the internal conversations before the deadline. “And obviously with the signing of Petey, that was important for us, too, so we have our core here moving forward.”

The contract extension for Elias Pettersson a few weeks ago was indeed something that mattered timing-wise to the Canucks front office. They would have liked to have had it done last summer, of course, but as everyone knows, Pettersson wanted to wait — and until 3-4 weeks ago, he still wanted to wait until after the season. But Allvin and Rutherford implored their star player to get something done before the deadline, which would help them develop a more concrete vision about the team’s core.

Through that process, rumors of trade discussions popped up, and the white noise and burden of it all became enough for Pettersson to green-light his agents to finally negotiate with the Canucks.

“This has been a process since I got here to get to know him and express how much it mattered having him in the core,” Allvin said. “Also the importance for his teammates to know where he’s going to be. It’s easy to say that you’re not going to be affected by all the rumors, but at some point you get affected. I think it started to creep up with the outside noises, and I think Petey also felt that where the team was going and the direction we’re going pleased him and got him excited.

“And also the relationship he has with Rick Tocchet meant a lot for him,” added Allvin.

So, looking back, was a Pettersson trade really an option had he not signed?

“I mean, again, my job is to try to be ahead of things, and yeah, teams are calling when there’s a player like that who potentially is walking into his last year as (an) RFA and we’ve seen other teams who have struggled signing players like that,” Allvin said without naming Matthew Tkachuk and his forced exit out of Calgary two years ago as an RFA one year away from UFA status.

“So, I don’t know … but we’re very happy to get him signed.”

Happy not to have ever had to open the other door in that equation, that’s for sure.

USATSI 22768225 scaled

Elias Lindholm has had a tough go since being dealt to the Canucks, with just seven points in 19 games. (Bob Frid / USA Today)

Looking ahead, the Canucks have a slew of pending UFAs on the roster, namely Lindholm, Zadorov, DeSmith, Dakota Joshua, Lafferty, Teddy Blueger, Tyler Myers and Ian Cole.

Let’s start with Lindholm.

“Initially when we made the deal, I talked to his camp and said our intention was to sign him,” Allvin said. “But obviously it’s got to work for both sides. We’ll see. I think it’s been a little bit of an adjustment time for him. And in fairness, the whole team hasn’t played great, we knew we were going to have a tough February schedule workload-wise, it was heavy and we got out of it with a .500 record which is the reason we’re still sitting at the top I think.

“But as I said earlier, we’ve got guys who haven’t played in important games in March.”

All part of the learning process, Allvin stressed again.

It’s been a tough go for Lindholm by any definition, with just seven points in 19 games with Vancouver.

“Part of it is that we play a different style and hopefully he can find his game more offensively,” Allvin said. “I think he’s been good defensively and solid, but I think he would agree he would like to contribute more.”

In terms of the other pending UFAs on the roster, Allvin says there are two ways to look at it: The club has potential cap space, but also players in the system ready to step in.

“Again, based on the conversations that I have had with the players’ agents and the players, it’s an environment that the players like. So we’ll have to figure out if it works for both sides.”

But at this point on the calendar, those are probably after-the-season conversations.

“At this point, we probably wait, yeah,” Allvin said. “Unless they come in and they’re begging to sign a really team-friendly deal.”

As for the latest on injured star goalie Thatcher Demko, Allvin says he’s still week to week and that it’s hard to set a specific time frame. Does Demko’s injury lead the Canucks to wonder about workload and having a second goalie who can play enough games to ensure their No. 1 has a manageable schedule? Allvin feels the coaching staff was managing that pretty well with Demko throughout the season but pointed again to a tough team schedule in February.

“It was a tough workload and a tough stretch for us in February after the break,” said Allvin. “I think this is something (a goalie plan) that we continue to manage. Will Casey come back (next season)? He’s been playing excellent for us. He’s been a great teammate. And we also have (Arturs) Silovs, who is capable as well.

“We’ll see here how things go down the stretch.”

USATSI 22721020

Thatcher Demko is out week to week with a lower-body injury. (Stephen R. Sylvanie / USA Today)

But as far as Demko getting solid support in a tandem, Allvin feels DeSmith proved in Pittsburgh he can be that guy.

“I also think when you have a goalie like Demko, you know, I think in his mind he wants to play every game,” Allvin said.

That’s how those stud goalies are wired, to be sure.

In the meantime, what’s the plan for 2022 first-rounder Jonathan Lekkerimaki?

“Well, I think he’s got his final game (in the Swedish League) coming up, but I do think he’s in the discussion for the world championship team,” Allvin said.

So it sounds like Lekkerimaki might stay back and get ready to play for Sweden in the men’s worlds instead of joining AHL Abbotsford, although no final decision there yet. The Canucks are weighing the benefits of Lekkerimaki coming over to play some AHL games or staying home to train and recover ahead of the worlds.

“That’s something we’ll talk about,” Allvin said. “Initially our plan was to bring him over to Abbotsford. But then the Swedish (national team) coach reached out.”

A GM’s duties never end. Allvin recently signed a contract extension (his current deal was expiring after this season) and was surprised at how quickly time had flown by since being named Canucks GM in January 2022.

“I can tell you it was crazy that it’s already been two years,” smiled Allvin. “When Jim called to talk about it, I said, ‘Geez, we’re there already?’ It went quick!

“I’ve been fortunate to be one of those guys that was around good people. I would say a lot of the experienced GMs would tell me that it’s definitely different sitting in the big chair, and I was fortunate enough to experience it for a couple of weeks in Pittsburgh (as interim GM) when Jim stepped down.

“So, yeah, it’s different (sitting in the big chair).”

What has he learned most since becoming a GM?

“Good question,” Allvin said. “I think delegating and trusting your staff, so you can hold them accountable. I don’t believe in micro-managing. I believe in empowering. I think that’s the culture I came from growing up in Pittsburgh and seeing so many executives move on to different teams. The reason why is that Ray Shero and Jim Rutherford were excellent in that regard, trusting their staff and holding us accountable.

“I think that’s something I continue to do now.”

Allvin then paused before mentioning another important thing he’s learned: Building a strong relationship with the coach, which he feels he absolutely has with Tocchet.

“What I really like is his ability to communicate with people,” Allvin said of Tocchet. “The hours he puts in there, to having individual meetings with players, I think that’s paying off.

“And part of it was I felt we needed that accountability and credibility with guys who have done it, like Tocchet, Footer (Adam Foote) and (Sergei) Gonchar, they all won Cups.”

And, the Canucks GM added, the coaching staff’s influence in teaching the team’s young, core players is paramount.

“That’s the biggest thing for us to continue to raise the bar,” said Allvin.

(Top photo of Elias Pettersson: Bob Frid / USA Today)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top