Free Agents: Last Minute Additions – Defense
The Canucks summer wish list had two big things on it: A top 4 Defenceman, and a top 6 forward. So far neither of those have come true, but that’s less so because of a lack of proactive thinking by Gillis, and more so a result of a lack of cap space to go after the desired names. (On top of which, there is the likely factor that as fans we neglect to consider which is that there is the possibility that a player we want, doesn’t actually want to play on the Canucks. I know, it seems absurd that a player wouldn’t want to play on the Canucks, right?)
I would prioritize a top four defenceman over a top 6 forward because Ohlund has left a larger hole than people think. When Salo went down, Ohlund was able to step up and fill that void. With Ohlund now in Tampa, it looks like that’s now a responsibility that will likely fall to Shane O’Brien.
With the remaining cap space the Canucks are going to have to try and strike a deal for a player that’s willing to take a pay cut. Going after an extra player will also push the Canucks to their cap limit.
Two players in the Canucks price range are Martin Skoula and Marc-Andre Bergeron. They have their pro’s and cons and while Bergeron is known to struggle in his own zone, with some player shuffling Gillis might be able to work up the cap space to afford him. His shot would be a great addition to the second PP unit, and in anticipation of Salo going down, it would still give the Canucks that big blast from the point which they structure their offense around.
Skoula is a work horse that can chew up minutes. He has a Stanley Cup ring and at 29 fits Gillis’ model for age. He’s solid defensively and while he doesn’t bring a lot to the table offensively, he can play a shut down minute eater, and for someone playing in a pairing with O’Brien, or below O’Brien, offense isn’t an expectation. Let’s face it, there’s no hiding SOB’s scoring prowess.
I would like to see Bergeron’s shot because offense is something the Canucks have never had too much of. But if it came down to numbers I think Skoula would be the more affordable option. The other player I’d be inclined to go after would be Christian Backman. He’s young and a change of scenery could do wonders for him. Skoula is hardly a top 4 defenseman, but he’d be a reliable role filler the way Davison and Vaananen were. Vaananen for the money he would have commanded would have been a good number 6 had Gillis tried to keep him. He’s still a Free Agent, and he’s still someone I’d have in my top 6 than Baumgartner or Nycholat.
Unfortunately if the Canucks want a defenseman with an offensive side it’s unlikely they’re going to have the budget for it. To fit the cap they’re likely going to have to go after a minute muncher like Skoula, hope the rookies take giant steps, and players like Samuelsson pan out for better.