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Canucks re-sign Vasily Podkolzin to two-year contract extension

Vasily Podkolzin's new contract with the Vancouver Canucks is for two years at a cap hit of $1 million.
Vasily Podkolzin has signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks.

Vasily Podkolzin started the season in the AHL with the Abbotsford Canucks; he ended the season with a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks' first-round pick in 2019 — tenth overall — was in the final year of his entry-level contract that paid $925,000 per year at the NHL level. Podkolzin's extension is for two years with an average annual value of $1 million. It's a one-way deal, meaning he will get paid the same amount whether he's in the NHL or the AHL next season.

It's a similar extension to that of Nils Höglander after he, like Podkolzin, spent the majority of the 2022-23 season in the AHL rebuilding his game.

Podkolzin spent all of his first year in North America in the NHL, putting up a respectable 14 goals and 26 points in 79 games in 2021-22 with the Canucks. After that, however, his game faltered. He had just 7 points in 39 games in 2022-23 and spent half the season in the AHL, then got cut at training camp this season when he didn't seize an early opportunity to play with J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser. 

There was never any doubt about Podkolzin's effort level; the trouble was missed assignments in Rick Tocchet's system and a lack of results from all of his effort.

While Podkolzin's season in Abbotsford was tumultuous — a scary head injury in October derailed a very strong start — he was able to wrap his head around the way the Canucks want him to play and came back up to the NHL as a more complete player.

"The Sedins were up and down, practicing with me in Abbotsford and here as well," said Podkolzin. "Everybody just wanted to help me, like Jeremy Colliton, Ryan Johnson, and everyone in Abbotsford worked for me to get to this point."

“We are happy with how hard Vasily has worked on his game to try and become a more consistent player,” said Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin. “While there is still room for him to grow, starting the year in Abbotsford and working his way back up to Vancouver shows the type of commitment and dedication we want in all our players. Our group looks forward to helping Vasily continue to improve and get better.”

Since getting called up, Podkolzin has primarily played in a fourth-line role, averaging just 10:49 per game, more than only Nils Åman among Canucks regulars. In those limited minutes, however, Podkolzin has made an impact — literally.

Podkolzin has 68 hits in his 18 games, averaging 20.95 hits per 60 minutes, which leads the Canucks by a wide margin. He's also played a strong two-way game, with a 52.9% corsi. Only Åman and Conor Garland have been on the ice for a lower rate of high-danger chances against at 5-on-5 among Canucks forwards.

While the points haven't come for Podkolzin yet — he has zero goals and just 2 assists in his 18 games — he's at least proven that he belongs in the NHL and can be a role player in the team's bottom-six. That's a solid foundation from which he can build his game over the next two years on his new contract.

If Podkolzin can break out within the next two years and become the top-six winger the Canucks believe he could be, then this contract will provide great value for the Canucks, who will need some players to play above their contracts. Even if he doesn't break out, however, Podkolzin won't break the bank.

The timing of the contract is a little unusual — teams aren't typically re-signing players on the final day of the regular season — but Podkolzin suggested it was a weight off his mind. 

"It's good for me to make this deal before playoffs and just right now focus on the team, on your game, and that's it," said Podkolzin. "My agent just called me and said, 'Hey, we have a deal here.' I'm happy to sign before playoffs and go to the playoffs with this mentality and mindset — it's good for me."