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Key 2023 offseason dates for the Vancouver Canucks

When is the NHL Entry Draft? What's the deadline for RFA qualifying offers? When does free agency begin?
How long will it be until Canucks fans are back at Rogers Arena?

The off-season started earlier for the Vancouver Canucks than they had hoped. In fact, they initially acted like the season hadn’t ended, netting them a $50,000 fine for violating the NHL’s off-season training rules.   

Some key off-season dates are fast approaching. Let’s take a look at the calendar to see what’s coming.

June 1 - Deadline to sign drafted players

When an NHL team picks a player in the NHL Entry Draft, that player goes on the team’s reserve list, which consists of every player whose rights that team holds. An NHL team can have up to 90 players on that reserve list.

But teams don’t hold those rights forever. A team holds the rights to a drafted player for only a certain length of time, depending on the league they were drafted out of and the age of the player. If the team doesn’t sign a player before losing their rights, they either re-enter the draft or become a free agent.

For a player drafted out of the CHL — Canada’s three major junior leagues — that window is just two years. If a team doesn’t sign a draft pick after two years, that player goes back into the draft. 

For players who go through the collegiate system in the US, teams hold their rights for the duration of their NCAA eligibility. 

For 18-year-old players drafted out of a European league that has a transfer agreement with the NHL, teams hold their rights for four years. In the case of Russia, which does not have a transfer agreement with the NHL, teams hold the rights to draft picks indefinitely.

The deadline to sign players whose rights are lapsing is June 1.

The Canucks have just two players they need to sign or lose their rights: Arvid Costmar and Connor Lockhart.

Costmar was the Canucks’ 7th-round pick in 2019 after a solid junior season in Sweden. He followed that up with an even better post-draft season in the junior SuperElit league. Unfortunately, his development stalled after that. At 21 this past season, Costmar had just 9 points in 52 SHL games. It seems unlikely he’ll get signed.

Lockhart was the lone North American in the Canucks’ 2021 draft, picked in the 6th round out of the OHL. It was a bit of a shot in the dark, as Lockhart’s 2020-21 season was entirely wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The undersized centre had a very good season as an over-ager for the Peterborough Petes this past season, putting up 29 goals and 79 points in 66 games, so there’s a chance the Canucks might ink him to a deal before the June 1 deadline.

June 4-10 - NHL Scouting Combine

The last chance to see if a prospect can perform a pull-up will be early in June in Buffalo, New York. 

It’s questionable how valuable the fitness testing at the Scouting Combine really is but some teams swear by it. Teams particularly value the interview time they get with each prospect, though some teams ask some very strange questions that seem to have limited actual value. The interview can make or break a prospect’s spot on a team’s draft board.

June 15 or 48 hours after end of Stanley Cup Final - First buy-out period begins

General manager Patrik Allvin has said that he doesn’t want to use buyouts this off-season but it’s hard to ignore how much cap space could be cleared up by buying out the team’s biggest albatross.  

If Allvin does decide to go the buyout route, his first opportunity will be two days after the end of the Stanley Cup Final.

48 hours after end of Stanley Cup Final - Deadline for first club-elected salary arbitration window

There are two windows for club-elected salary arbitration, whereby a team negotiating with a restricted free agent (RFA) can ask for a neutral third party to decide on a fair salary for a player, typically to lower the cap hit below a player’s qualifying offer.

June 26 - NHL Awards

There are no Canucks up for any NHL awards this year, so the ceremony itself is unlikely to feature much Canucks content. But the full voting results come out after the awards show, with the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) publishing the votes from their members in the interests of transparency. 

That means Canucks fans can see just how close stars like Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson came to making the top three in major award categories.

June 27 - NHL General Managers’ Meeting

Just before the NHL Entry Draft, the league’s general managers meet in person to discuss the state of the game. This can lead to rule changes both on and off the ice, which may affect the Canucks in the future.

June 28-29 - NHL Entry Draft

The NHL Entry Draft is taking place in Nashville, TN this year. Round one of the draft will take place on June 28, with the Canucks currently holding the 11th-overall pick, then rounds two through seven will take place on June 29. 

This is also a prime time for major trades. Will the Canucks look to offload a problematic contract at the draft? Will they try to jump up the draft order to nab a top-tier prospect? Will they move down to acquire more picks? We'll find out at the end of June.

June 30 - Qualifying offer deadline

In order to retain the rights of an RFA, a team must give a player a qualifying offer — a one-year deal for a set amount based on their previous contract. The player can accept that offer or reject it, but the team retains their rights either way.

If a team does not give a player a qualifying offer, they become an unrestricted free agent.

The Canucks currently have seven RFAs: Nils Höglander, Ethan Bear, Travis Dermott, Vitaly Kravtsov, Akito Hirose, Jett Woo, and Carson Focht.

June 30 - Buyout period ends

If the Canucks don’t buy out Oliver Ekman-Larsson by June 30, it’s not happening this year.

July 1 - Free agency opens

This is where NHL general managers can make some of their biggest mistakes. The Canucks might not be very active on the free agent market, however, because they have limited cap space to work with, barring a buyout or trade.

This is also the deadline for the Canucks re-signing any of their pending unrestricted free agents (UFAs): Kyle Burroughs, Collin Delia, Noah Juulsen, Brady Keeper, Justin Dowling, and John Stevens. 

July 1 is also the date previously-signed contract extensions begin, which is notable for J.T. Miller, whose no-movement clause will kick in with his new contract.

July TBD - Canucks development camp

The Canucks typically hold a prospect development camp shortly after the draft. It’s an opportunity for the team to introduce their newly-drafted prospects to the organization and to check in with the development of the other prospects in the system.

The dates for the Canucks’ 2023 development camp have not been announced yet but their 2022 camp was held from July 11 to 14 at UBC. 

July 5 - Deadline for player-elected salary arbitration

Not all RFAs are eligible for salary arbitration — they need to have a certain number of years of professional experience. But if a player is eligible and doesn’t simply accept their qualifying offer, they can elect for salary arbitration, particularly if they feel the offer from the team’s side in negotiations is too low.

Bear, Dermott, Kravtsov, and Focht are all eligible for arbitration but only Bear seems likely to use that option. Coming off a concussion, Dermott is just looking for a contract, Kravtsov is signing in Russia, and Focht might not even get qualified and definitely wouldn’t have a case for arbitration. 

July 6 - Deadline for second club-elected salary arbitration window

If a player doesn’t file for salary arbitration by the July 5 deadline, there’s a second window where the team can file for salary arbitration. 

Even if a player or the team elects for salary arbitration, that doesn’t mean the two sides will actually have a hearing with a neutral third party. Frequently, the team and player come to an agreement on a new contract before their hearing.

July 20-August 4 - Arbitration hearings

If a player or the Canucks elect for salary arbitration and can’t come to an agreement on a new contract, then an arbitration hearing will have to take place at some point between July 20 and August 4, with arbitration decisions due August 6.

September 15-18 - Young Stars Classic

The annual prospect tournament will return to Penticton in 2023 and will feature the Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Winnipeg Jets. 

The event is expected to run from September 15 to 18.

September 21-25 - Training camp

After the prospects come to camp and take part in the Young Stars Classic, the rest of the Canucks will then report to training camp in Victoria.

Practices in Victoria will be open to the public.

Late September/Early October - Preseason

Details of the preseason schedule for next season have yet to be released.

October - Start of the 2023-24 season

This season will be different. Definitely.

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