Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning says no one wants Brock Boeser at training camp more than he does.
But with players set to hit the ice on Friday and the right-winger still without a new deal, it appears as though Benning — and many others around the club — will be disappointed when camp opens in Victoria.
“We’ll continue to work at it and we hope we can get something figured out,” the GM told reporters on Thursday.
“I think it’s important that he’s at camp. We’ve got a lot of new players this year. The first three days of camp, I think, are very important.”
It’s hard to simulate various practice and game situations without all of the key players on the ice, added Canucks coach Travis Green.
“From a coaching standpoint, I want my players to do well. I want them to make as much money as they can make,” he said. “But I also want them at camp. We miss Brock. I want him here.”
Boeser, 22, is one of several restricted free agents missing in action as NHL camps open this week. Notably, the Maple Leafs are without Mitch Marner, Brayden Point has yet to reach a deal with Tampa Bay, and Matthew Tkachuk wasn’t with the Calgary Flames for media day on Thursday.
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Benning declined to discuss specifics of the negotiations, but said that the Canucks have discussed both long- and short-term deals with Boeser, who’s reportedly looking for a four-year contract worth an average of US$7 million per season.
“We’re just trying to find some common ground for both of us so that we can get a deal done,” Benning said.
Hailing from Burnsville, Minn., Boeser was picked 23rd overall by Vancouver in the 2015 draft. He was the club’s third-leading scorer last season, tallying 26 goals and 30 assists in 69 games.
He also struggled with injury after his stellar rookie campaign in 2017-18 was cut short by a broken back. The six-foot-one, 208-pound forward missed 13 games with a groin issue last year.
When he was healthy, Boeser skated alongside Canucks star rookie Elias Pettersson, who admitted to missing his linemate on Thursday.
“I want him here. I can’t lie about that,” Pettersson said, adding that things would be a lot easier if the pair could start their work at training camp.
Still, the Swedish centre said he’s ready to line up with someone new if he has to.
“I can play hockey without him, even though I like to play with him,” Pettersson said. “I hope he’s here as quickly as possible or else I’ll play with some other good players on our team.”
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Canucks defenceman Troy Stecher played college hockey with Boeser at the University of North Dakota and said he’s been talking to his buddy daily over the summer.
“It’s no surprise we want him here, especially with the expectations that our group’s put on ourselves heading into this season. He’s obviously a big piece of that,” Stecher said.
“At the same time, we’re just going to control what we can control, staying focused on what we can control. And when he comes, he’s obviously going to be a big piece to our puzzle and help us out greatly.”