Canucks GM Patrik Allvin Q&A: ‘We’ll see if there’s a match, or a potential commerce’
Over the course of the Penticton Young Stars tournament this weekend, The Athletic plans to conduct one-on-one interviews with the four general managers from the Western Canadian teams.
On Friday afternoon by the lake, ahead of the tournament opener at the South Okanagan Event Centre, we took some time to talk to Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin.
During a wide-ranging, on-the-record conversation, Allvin touched on navigating the club’s touch-and-go salary cap situation this offseason, Bo Horvat contract talks, the competitive environment he wants to see at Canucks training camp next week and his hope of reducing the games played burden on Vancouver’s star netminder Thatcher Demko this upcoming season.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and readability.
What can you get from this tournament as a hockey operations group, both from an evaluation and a team building perspective?
First and foremost it’s great for those players to get an opportunity to showcase themselves and be part of the Vancouver Canucks. They get to see what we have to offer as a club, and they a chance to make an impression.
We also get to evaluate our prospects against other teams’ prospects too.
I think this is a great way to start every year. You get your staff together, you get the NHL coaches, the American League coaches and get hockey ops together here. This is where we have workshops for amateur staff and development staff and get a chance to interact and talk about ideas and different things, about how we want to run the club and what our expectations and standards are for off-ice personnel.
I think it’s great, it’s a great environment to be in.
Cole Perfetti, Jakob Pelletier, Linus Karlsson, Dylan Holloway and 6 other players to keep an eye on at the Penticton Young Stars tournament this weekend.
(Note for fans interested: the games will be live streamed and available to watch at team websites): https://t.co/ZGkz2oscgt
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) September 16, 2022
Do you expect, based on your conversations with your counterparts, that this is going to continue to be an annual thing?
I definitely hope so! Even Seattle, Ron Francis, is going to come up here and take a look and see if they want to try to get in. I’m not sure if we’ll let him in or not, but it’s good that he’s here.
Has there been discussion between the general managers about including a playoff format at the tournament?
I don’t know if that’s needed or not. Obviously I’m new to this format here, but I think four teams is perfect. Three games with a day off, that’s a really good format.
You can see just from practice that Nils Åman has more professional seasoning than most of your prospect group. What sort of impression can he make this weekend?
For him, obviously, everything is new: the surroundings, how you prepare yourself, the details.
So for someone that has played at the level that he has, it could be a little bit of a harder tournament — because it’s almost like a mixed junior/pro-level of hockey. The age difference (at the tournament) goes from ’98 birthdates to 2004 birthdates. You have guys that just went through the draft who are here, but you also have a guy like him who is here and he’s really preparing for next week.
That said, you want to see him taking shots, see how he’s prepared himself this summer and you want to see him show you that he’s come in here and is prepared to compete next week.
What sort of opportunity is there for him next week?
We want to create an environment where there’s a healthy competition for jobs.
You can look at it and say you have so many one-way contracts, and those are all locks. I don’t see it that way though.
I hope from day one in Whistler that we’ll have a really competitive camp. I want to see guys push, maybe not for an opening night roster spot, but I want to see them push to make it hard for the coaching staff and myself to get down to the opening night roster there.
With Bruce Boudreau and working with him over the course of the summer, what are you hoping to see at camp in terms of structure and practice habits and some of the items you’d cited last year?
I know that the coaching staff have been together here in Vancouver for the past two weeks. Seems to be great energy.
Bruce is super excited about the additions. It was important for him to get Mike Yeo and we supported him in that decision.
He’s excited about running his own training camp and setting his style of play in right away here. I’m aware that he took his time and evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of our game this summer. I can feel the excitement there.
Everyone that’s worked with you always talks about your preparation. What does preparation look like for you in advance of your first full season as an NHL general manager?
I think you can never be too prepared.
Players are going to go through stretches where they’re not winning games, or you might be in a losing stretch, and you want to make sure you trust your system of play, so that when you’re getting out of that, you know you were playing the right way.
I mean, it’s hard. Nobody wins 82 games. Some nights you might be off, but you can still rely on the structure and your teammates doing the right thing.
That’s on the ice, but for me, the big thing is to spend time finding competitive advantages off of the ice. It’s about what we can do as a staff better than other teams in order to be better than them. To find better players, find … everything. Better medical staff. Better habits.
So I like to be prepared, I want to trust my scouting staff and my development staff. And I also want to hold them accountable. It’s about getting the structure in place and following what you’ve decided to follow.
You’ve returned mostly the same defence corps that you had last season. Why were you comfortable returning most of that group and was the decision to prioritize forward additions opportunistic — based on the market — or was it a judgement about where this team is at and what you needed more?
The only unrestricted free agent we had on our back-end was Brad Hunt. All the other guys had contracts.
So the flexibility of adding players through free agency was very limited cap-wise as well.
We weren’t healthy last year. Tucker Poolman hardly played for me. I think by the time I came in, he maybe played a period of hockey.
So there were some restrictions, and also, in general, the market around the league this summer was tough. And I assume it’s going to be tough for the next two years with the flat cap too.
I wasn’t willing to pay, at this point, to open up cap space. We could see the market, and you can too. You can see how much teams had to pay to create cap space.
So in that regards, we tried to improve our team in all areas. It just ended up that we — with Ilya Mikheyev — we felt that we needed to get faster.
When we first had our pro scouting meetings in May, he was a guy we talked about, but I was under the assumption that he was going to the United States. When they got back to us there on July 13, I thought, looking at the big picture, and looking forward with his age and where he could fit and what he brought, we thought at that money that he was a piece we wanted to pick up there.
The other guys — Andrei Kuzmenko on an entry-level deal, and then Curtis Lazar and Dakota Joshua were less than $1 million — we were able to get despite not having much cap space.
One commonality of those four forwards is their age: 27, 27, 26, 26. They’re all in that same age group. Does that suggest that perhaps these moves weren’t necessarily about this year, but that your priorities were maybe a bit more forward looking than we’d be used to thinking when a team signs unrestricted free agents?
Yeah, we had seven one-way contracts on defence — and even eight, with Brady Keeper — and Kyle Burroughs, who played NHL games as well. So by adding a defenceman without subtracting from our group, it made it more complicated.
I thought we had more openings up front, and with that age group — all of them being 26 or 27 — and we believe that Mikheyev’s game is going to permit him to take another step. And with better quality minutes a bit higher up the lineup.
One thing you did this summer, which you don’t see a lot of teams do, is that you signed multiple guys — Åman and also Filip Johansson — who had their rights as drafted players expire. Are there other opportunities before the season begins — whether it’s PTOs, a free agent still on the market, or perhaps that Thanksgiving waiver deadline — where we could see a similar approach to adding talent to your club?
Could be. We still have some cap space, and roster spots, and contract slots open.
This is where being prepared here matters. We’re asking our pro staff to get out there and watch the other rookie tournaments and early exhibition games. We have kind of an idea of other teams’ situations and players (who) could potentially be on waivers.
So we’ll see if there’s a fit, or if there’s another potential trade or something that comes up. We’re open, I think, always, to improving our team.
With the mechanics of Micheal Ferland going on LTI and having to maximize that capture, do you project that you may face some tough decisions in terms of how to get to opening night from a cap perspective?
There could be. I think that’s where Emily Castonguay and I are making sure that we have different scenarios for different cases laid out. We’ll make sure we have a plan to be cap compliant for opening night. I believe we’ll find a way to get there.
The twins have been the first coaches on the ice at your sessions up here. I understand that you’ve developed a fairly close relationship with them over your first few months on the job. What has that been like and what are you hoping to get from them in their new roles?
We’re extremely fortunate to have two Hall of Famers and diehard former Canucks players that want to continue to work for the success of the team.
It’s not about them. They’re team-first mentality people.
When we started talking in the spring about where they’d see themselves and my vision of this team and where we were going, they felt strongly about being more involved with the players more individually on and off the ice. They’ll be helping them, they’ll be a bridge between the Abbotsford and Vancouver Canucks, and they’ll be more of a resource for the coaching staff.
I’ve seen it in the past coming from Pittsburgh, having these types of players around the young players, sometimes it’s easier for a player to talk with a former player like Henrik or Daniel rather than talking to your coach, if you’re dealing with something. Or if you wants tips for face-offs or wall play, whatever it is.
So that’s (how) I’m hoping to utilize them the most. And it’s also about the standard and the culture, and making sure that continues to be where it needs to be for us to take that next step and be, well, more of a playoff contender first. Which is where we need to be.
And that’s a mindset. It’s about what you need to do every day. There’s no better role models for young players, and I think they like to be with the coaching staff too.
With the J.T. Miller situation, it was all this market talked about for about 10 months. Now we’re talking about Bo Horvat, but it feels different for whatever reason. We all know your club prioritizes him, we all know he wants to be here. Why do you think there’s such a different dynamic in how Horvat’s situation is perceived?
It’s tough, (with) deals like this it usually takes a bit longer to figure out all the smaller details.
I think in our case, I want to make sure that we’re aware of our cap situation moving forward. That’s the focus of a lot of our internal conversations that we have and how we’re building our team for down the road here. We have Elias Pettersson coming up in a couple of years and we just got Brock Boeser signed here as well, then you have to be mindful of the aging factor too.
Bo has been a really good player, a really good leader and a really good person. I don’t think we have a timeframe on it. We’ll just continue to talk to his agent.
Do the comments you had around the deadline last year — that your club couldn’t afford to lose pending unrestricted free agent players for nothing — still govern your outlook when that pending unrestricted free agent is a high-profile, hard-to-replace centreman like Bo?
Yeah, it sure does.
Unfortunately if you end up having key players walk away for nothing, it just sets your team back. I definitely don’t want to be in that position.
We all know that the strength of your team is in net, but 19 goalies played 50 or more games last year and almost everyone except Andrei Vasilevskiy or Igor Sheshterkin ended up either fading in the playoffs or getting hurt late in the year. How are you thinking about goalie rest and approaching your split in net this upcoming season?
That’s something we talked about, and it’s up to the coaching staff obviously to decide how to do it.
Spencer Martin played really well for us last year and I would imagine that we’re hopefully able to manage Thatcher Demko’s workload a bit better. The second half we were chasing wins all the time and that’s probably why he ended up playing so many games.
I feel very comfortable coming into the season with Spencer Martin, Colin Delia, Arturs Silovs and Mike DiPietro. We have good depth in net. Hopefully we can manage that better.