Gillis made clear upon his arrival to the franchise that he was a mover and a shaker, while I got the impression some of the things he said were almost a show for the media, other things he said, he’s stuck by.
Gillis has struggled to put his mark on the team, to make that one move that marks the Canucks as Gillis’ Canucks – yet. After suggesting to the media and the fans that he was coming in with a revolving door policy, he’s stayed quiet relative to what we’d come to expect, and now facing the restructuring of contracts, and architecture of the team round a salary cap, he’s handcuffing himself by trying to build a franchise around too many pieces.
In the salary cap era, the team’s that succeed are built around one super star. Gillis is trying to build a Canucks team around Luongo and the Sedins, something that financially is a stepping stone in the road to disappointment and disaster. While the Sedins are not labeled as superstars, they are amongst the league’s top tier of players, and well Luongo has a 30 foot posterization of himself at the NHL store, so I think that speaks for his superstar status.
Gillis has locked up the Sedins for 13 million dollars, and Luongo commands 7.5 in the last year of his contract, their total combined salary is 36% of the Canucks cap space. Gillis needs to pick who he want’s to build the franchise around. There’s no way he can build a contending team with 64% of the cap to spend on 20 players. He’s trying, and it’s left us in a situation that doesn’t have a bright side. We’re lacking a top 6 forward, and a top 4 defenseman, something you can’t do with only ~1.5 million dollars of cap space, after locking up 3 players to over a third of your allotted spending money.
If the Burrows experiment continues to be a success, Kesler picks up where he left off last year, Demitra actually earns his 4 million dollars, and Hodgson steps up like he’s expected to, and so do the rest of the bottom 6, the Canucks could have a shot at this. Oh yeah, and it also banks on Luongo not letting in 7 goals in the most important game of his career. There are a lot of intangibles going into this season that could, can and will define this year’s edition of the Vancouver Canucks. Gillis has one year to make this “work”. If it does “work”, then next year he’s in deep. If Hodgson pans out, Hodgson’s rookie bonuses will count towards a larger cap hit and with 3 players chewing up nearly 40% of the salary, Gillis better hope for a miracle if he wants to keep Ryan Kesler and Willie Mitchell around.
You can’t build a franchise around more than one star. When it comes down to the money it’s not possible to bring in a solid supporting cast on the budget he’s left himself. Gillis now has his hands tied because the Sedins have been inked for 5 years, and if he gives Luongo what Luongo wants he’s likely to command as much as he’s making this year if not more. He deserves it, he’s the best goalie in the league, but in a salary cap era, there’s no way you can afford the right supplementary and complementary players when you blow the bank on 3 guys. Gillis is banking on Luongo being a rock and playing year round, and in the playoffs the way he did against Dallas in his first playoff run, and he’s banking on the Sedins and Burrows to be godsend. I’m not buying it yet. I’ll believe it when I see it, but Gillis’ lack of action around signing Free Agents because he’s invested too much money in too many players has hindered the team in the long run. Gillis is is taking a gamble by banking on a young team built on a lot of ‘ifs’.