Free Agency – The Smaller Name Players
There are several smaller name players in the Canucks game who have equal importance to the team. This season the Canucks had depth they haven’t had before which proved beneficial in the long run and something that they should attempt to maintain, if the price is right.
In particular there are RFAs Wellwood, O’Brien, Hansen, and UFAs Davison, Baumgartner, Vaananen, and Jaffray. Wellwood knows which side his bread is buttered and I don’t think he’s the type of player to hold out and make a scene, and if he was Gillis would drive him to the airport. Hansen provides a 3rd/4th line depth which is badly needed, and will likely see a lot more time on the ice this and less time in the box since Pyatt is headed out the door.
O’Brien was a smart pickup by Gillis. I like the kid. He’s learned a lot, and has a lot more to learn, but his development as a player took leaps and bounds and that was clear just in the noticeable difference in his play from the first half to the end of the second half. He’s a solid #5 defenceman, and much better than Lukas Krajicek. He’s young, he’s developed a lot and can only get better, and heck he even got a goal (albeit in the post season leaving his regular season total at zero). I see him re-signing for the same money he made last year 1.025 million, no reason to let him walk.
Of the UFAs perhaps the most important to keep outside of the Sedins in the aforementioned is Jason Jaffray. He was a key player in the Moose’s post season run this past off season and I have a feeling he’s ready to make the jump to the NHL. He’s a good prospect and letting him walk would be a bigger loss than you’d think. Jaffray would be a cheap signing and provides that extra depth should the Canucks need a 3rd or 4th liner at any point in the season.
Davison, Baumgartner, and Vaananen are the depth our blue line needs. With Salo who’s always likely to go down, and Bieksa who’s had injuries flare up, the Canucks could use a little blue line insurance. I’d say if at all possible signing at least 2 of the 3 would be a priority just for some piece of mind when we lose Salo unexpectedly for 6 weeks at a time.
Other free agents of note are Labarbera and Sanford. Sanford will likely walk after being given the shaft in favour of Labarbera which begs the question of whether Labarbera is willing to play second fiddle to Luongo to the tune of approximately 12-15 games during the year. Labarbera was given a starters position in LA and if he’s not willing to sit quietly at the end of the bench the Canucks might have to look to bringing in another goalie, or using Schneider in the last year of his pro contract as the back up.
Either way, tomorrow is going to be the busiest day of the NHL season to date and is sure to boast big news and a few shocks.