Adam Gaudette is officially back in the Vancouver Canucks’ fold.
The third-year centre and the National Hockey League team have agreed to a one-year contract that will pay him $950,000.
Because Gaudette, 24, only played five games at the tail end of the 2017-18 season, he didn’t accrue a season of service time under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, even as he burned a full year on a three-year contract he signed after leaving Northeastern University.
That left him as a 10.2(c) player, meaning that unlike a conventional restricted free agent, he couldn’t accept a qualifying offer nor could he opt for salary arbitration. (Defenceman Quinn Hughes will be in that same category next summer.)
If Gaudette had full rights as an RFA, he probably would have earned himself a bigger raise given he scored 12 goals and added 21 assists in 59 games last season for the Canucks.
His salary this season is a small raise over the $925,000 he earned last season.
Canucks general manager Jim Benning said there was never much doubt about getting Gaudette re-signed.
“W e were always going to get that figured out,” Benning said, matter-of-factly, over the phone on Monday.
“He’s made good progress for us. We like his energy and skill.”
Gaudette was a handy player on the Canucks’ second power-play unit last year and was a solid offensive contributor at even strength as well in 2019-20. But he was often scratched in the post-season, going pointless in 10 games.
Gaudette didn’t speak with the media on Monday, but he did tweet about his re-signing.
“Excited to be back with the Canucks again this season! Little switch up coming at ya,” he tweeted, before indicating his new sweater number will be 96. (He’s giving up No. 88 to new addition Nate Schmidt.)
There’s little doubt the Canucks are pleased with Gaudette’s offensive growth, but need to see improvement in his defensive game. He was relegated to fourth-line ice time when he did play in the playoffs, a statement about how the coaching staff felt about his overall game in comparison to Jay Beagle, who doesn’t contribute much offensively but who still has a strong defensive reputation (even if the performance doesn’t exactly reflect that reputation anymore.)
In 120 career games, all with Vancouver, Gaudette has tallied 45 points (17-28-45) and 55 penalty minutes.
A native of Braintree, Mass., Gaudette was originally drafted by the Canucks in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, 115th overall. He won the Hobey Baker Award as the top U.S. collegiate hockey player for 2017-18.
Monday has been a busy day for the Canucks, as they also agreed to terms with free agent forward Jayce Hawryluk, most recently with the Ottawa Senators.
Signing Gaudette and Hawryluk means the Canucks are now nearly capped out, with one more forward still to be signed in Jake Virtanen.
He has an arbitration hearing scheduled for Oct. 28, but could sign before then. It’s expected he’d land a deal that will pay him $3 million per season. To get Virtanen under the cap and to create space for a seventh defenceman, Benning will have to make some other roster moves, like demoting Sven Baertschi and Loui Eriksson to the minors, which would reduce their cap hits by about $1 million each.
Eriksson or Brandon Sutter could also be bought out of their deals, which would reduce their one-season cap hits in a similar amount, but also add penalties to next year’s cap total (and beyond, in the case of Eriksson). That seems unlikely, as Canucks ownership has never been fans of buyouts, on the grounds that they don’t want to pay players not to play for their organization.
There’s also the possibility of Micheal Ferland landing on long-term injured reserve because of his ongoing struggles with post-concussion syndrome.
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