Photo credit: PNG
In 2009/2010, his 2nd full season with the Vancouver Canucks, Mason Raymond scored 25 goals and 53 points.
In 2010/2011, he was on pace for almost 50 points had he not been sidelined for 10 games by a hand injury.
And then in the Stanley Cup Finals, as we all know by now, the Boston Bruins’ Johnny Boychuk gave him the ol’ can opener early in Game 6 and pushed him into the boards with enough force to break his back.
A lot of Canucks fans, myself included, had written May Ray off after that and with good reason. There was a time that he himself wasn’t sure he’d be able to play in the NHL again.
But in December last year, May Ray came back, scored 3 goals and 7 points in his first 9 games, and it looked like his career was back on track. Unfortunately, he would just score 7 goals and 13 points in his last 46 games, and just like that, his stock among Canucks fans fell faster than, well, Mason Raymond at the blueline.
So when the Canucks elected to take May Ray to arbitration, a move that essentially maintains his RFA status and allows the Canucks to retain his rights, reaction was divided. One segment of Canucks Nation would much rather have seen him not qualified and off to unrestricted free agency. Another segment sees him for what he his – an asset. An undervalued asset, but an asset nonetheless.
The Canucks filed for rarely used cut-down arbitration on the lightning fast winger, with the intention of reducing the $2.6 million in salary he made last season on a new one-year deal.
The move allows the club to take Raymond off the market on July 1 when he was due to become a restricted free agent. They can ask an arbitrator to cut Raymond’s salary in his new contract by as much as 15 per cent, to $2.21 million.
Whether we want to believe it or not, May Ray is a legit NHL player. His 53 points in 2009/2010 ranked him among the top 80 scorers in the NHL. Had he hit 50 points in 2010/2011, he would have been among the top 100 scorers in the league. (And that’s not counting all the little things he does but we don’t see.) Mike Gillis and Laurence Gilman see this and won’t give him up for nothing.
Now, it’s obvious May Ray’s play regressed this past season. But is that because, at 26, he’s peaked as a player? Or is it because he was recovering from what was almost a career-ending injury? Just as much as there’s a chance his hockey career is fading, there’s also a chance he’ll bounce back.
More importantly, do the Canucks still see a role for him on this team? The Canucks don’t want to pay $2.6 million to find out, but rolling the dice may be more palatable at closer to $2.2 million. And not just more palatable for the Canucks, maybe other teams as well, should the Canucks later decide to take their roster in another direction.