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Tucker Poolman's camp absence clarifies Canucks cap picture

The 30-year-old defenceman hasn't played for the Canucks since October 18, 2022.
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Tucker Poolman is not expected to be back for the start of training camp for the 2023-24 season.

As members of the Vancouver Canucks stream back into town ahead of training camp later this month, one player won't be hitting the ice.

It's not exactly surprising, but Tucker Poolman won't be at training camp according to a report from ChekTV's Rick Dhaliwal during the Donnie and Dhali show on Tuesday morning.

"I checked in on Tucker Poolman this morning. I was told that he's not going to be at camp," said Dhaliwal, clarifying that "it's not a concussion" but a different diagnosis. "It's not enough progress for him. You've got to feel for the guy."

Poolman hasn't played a game for the Canucks since October 18, 2022, one of just three games Poolman played in last season. That was after missing half of the 2021-22 season with migraine headaches.

While out of the lineup, Poolman continued to work with doctors and spent a lot of time with Travis Dermott, who missed most of the season recovering from a concussion.

"He was a great friend for me,” said Dermott at the end of last season. “He was going through kind of the same stuff. We could bounce symptoms off each other, see how each other were feeling each day. A lot of the days we were doing the same workouts, so we could kind of see what bugged each other and bugged one and not the other — kind of be our own scientists that way, because we both weren't getting the answers that we were looking for. 

“He has such a great personality that he was easy to be around and definitely made you feel more comfortable about the shit that you were going through.”

Poolman's issues with migraines date back to the 2019-20 season with the Winnipeg Jets, where a migraine kept him off the ice for just two days. After missing all of last season and presumably missing the start of the coming season, this is clearly much more severe and raises questions about whether he'll ever play again.

The big issue with migraines is that the exact cause still isn't known, though it's thought to be genetic. It's a neurological disorder with multiple debilitating symptoms that vary in severity, with the most common being throbbing headaches, but also nausea, vomiting, and light and sound sensitivity.

There are certain common triggers for migraines, including stress, fatigue, and certain foods. Identifying and avoiding those triggers is key to dealing with migraines. It's possible that Poolman's triggers simply can't be avoided while playing hockey at the NHL level.

It's a brutal situation for Poolman but one that the Canucks have known about and prepared for. The Canucks would not have made the same roster decisions if there was a possibility that Poolman could return to start the season as it would have put them in a serious salary cap conundrum.

As it is, Poolman and his $2.5 million cap hit will start the season on Long-Term Injured Reserve or LTIR. That gives the Canucks enough room to get under the salary cap, even if Tanner Pearson is not on LTIR, as it seems he will be healthy enough for the start of training camp.

Barring a trade to free up cap space or an injury during the preseason that puts another player on LTIR, the most likely scenario for the Canucks involves starting the season with a 22-man roster instead of a full 23-man roster. That doesn't give the Canucks much wiggle room in the case of short-term injuries but it's workable.