Free Agency – Mattias Ohlund
The Canucks’ Blue Line has in recent years been patrolled by one of the leagues’ best defenses which boasted grit, size, hard hitting, solid two way defensive play, offense, and which for 10 seasons was the stomping ground for Pitea native Mattias Ohlund.
As July 1st approaches, Ohlund finds himself in a position he hasn’t faced since becoming a Canuck and his future as a Canuck looks grim. Mike Gillis’ tactics are past the game of hardball and since mid season when there was rumour of contract negotiation talks took place it’s been blatantly obvious Mattias Ohlund isn’t a part of the future Mike Gillis sees for this club. In all likelihood there’s a good chance that Ohlund will be reunited with Burke in Toronto and don the white and blue of a different Canadian team.
So this begs the question who should replace him? The loss of Bourdon hurts even more at this stage because as Edler moves up to lead the top four defenseman with his nice shiny new contract, Bourdon could have filled the void that Ohlund is now going to leave. The top four has three solid corner stones that provide the perfect balance in Bieksa who provides an offensive spark, Edler who is the puck-mover, and Salo who’s calm stay at home mentality breaks out of it’s shell from time to time just long enough to blast a shot from the point.
When you look at the free agent market the Canucks have been in the hunt for Jay Bouwmeester for months however at the moment he’s property of the Flames and if they ink a deal tonight it’ll stay that way through tomorrow for at least the next season. If Gillis doesn’t land J-Bo as planned, there’s a handful of players out there that could satisfy as Ohlund’s replacement: Francois Beauchemin, Michael Komisarek, Christian Backman, Marc-Andre Bergeron.
Bergeron, Beauchemin and Komisarek all come with a bit more offense and the Canucks could use Beauchemin’s shot from the point to complement Salo. Bergeron and Komisarek can skate well which would help towards Gillis’ goal for a faster, more offensive team.
The aforementioned come with a price tag that’s reasonable and also come with a little more offensive attitude than Ohlund which is something the Canucks can always use more of. If the Canucks want a familiar face they could always sign Marek Malik who’s hitting the free agent market this year at a cool 34 years of age and if they’re looking to pinch pennies I hear Chris Chelios will play for free, or near free so long as he doesn’t get shafted to 7th D man they way he did this year in Detroit. Oh yeah, and he’s 47.
Ohlund who’s been a Canuck from the day he was drafted for 770 games in a Canucks uniform, faces a tough task of uprooting his family and two kids because he doesn’t fit into the game plan of Gillis. It was clear that the issue was on his mind all season as his numbers were par at best, and for the 4th year in a row his scoring production went down. There’s no doubt Ohlund will play in the NHL next year, it’s a matter of where – and Gillis has made it clear so far that it’s not in Vancouver.