Jul 042013
 

Michael Ryder

Photo credit: Vancouver Province

Still yet to re-sign Chris Tanev and already short on salary cap space, don’t expect the Vancouver Canucks to make any splashes tomorrow morning.

This won’t be like free agent frenzies of the past, meaning anyone expecting to sign players of the Dan Hamhuis or Jason Garrison ilk can keep dreaming. That means you can write off Jarome Iginla, Nathan Horton, and Mike Ribeiro.

Instead, Mike Gillis and the management team would be best served finding diamonds in the rough; players who come at a low salary and term and be excellent stop gaps while the Canucks rejuvenated prospect cupboard continues to grow.

Below are ten names Vancouver could (and maybe should) be targeting.

Michael Ryder, 33 – RW – 2013 Salary: $3.5M – Ryder has played for three teams (Boston, Dallas, Montreal) in the last three years, but that hasn’t prevented him from still being an effective player. He scored a career-high 35 goals for the Stars two years ago and 16 in this shortened season, showing that even at 33 years old he can still pot a few. The Canucks, if interested, won’t be offering more than the $3.5M he earned last season.

Damien Brunner, 27, RW – 2013 Salary: $1.35M – Brunner may yet still re-up with the Detroit Red Wings, but he’s likely looking for a little more money and a little more term than the one-year deal he signed with Detroit. The Swiss rookie (at age 27, mind you) posted 12 goals this past season and added another five during the Red Wings’ run to the second round in the playoffs. At just 5’11″, he would certainly go against the whole “get bigger” philosophy though.

Boyd Gordon, 29, C – 2013 Salary: $1.325M – After being drafted in the first round of 2002, Gordon has settled nicely into a fourth-line centre role, being a faceoff specialist and a penalty killing pro. The Canucks can use a player to replace the outgoing Manny Malhotra and Max Lapierre and therefore allow Ryan Kesler to settle back into a scoring role.

Matt Hendricks, 32, LW/RW – 2013 Salary: $.825M – Hendricks showed a couple years ago he was capable of being more than just a fourth line enforcer, posting a career-high 25 points. But maybe those days are long gone. Either way, he would add some much needed grit for the Canucks and would likely be a better option than having a Steve Pinnizotto on your fourth line.

Peter Mueller, 25, RW – 2013 Salary: $1.725M – Two years ago his future in the NHL was in question after being sidelined with concussion issues, but Mueller had a decent bounce back season with the Panthers last year, with 17 points in the shortened season. Can Mueller build on the first relatively healthy season in a while? Half the key to getting back to your old level of play is the confidence to play, and maybe Mueller has his groove back and is looking for a chance.

Viktor Stalberg, 27, LW/RW – 2013 Salary: $.875M – Was Stalberg an inconsistent player in Chicago, or was he buried behind a wealth of talent up front? You can make a case for either, but Stalberg still has the tools to be an impact player considering it was only a year ago he put up 22 goals and 43 points. If the Canucks are saying goodbye to Mason Raymond, Stalberg could be a replacement that may reap rewards or be even more maddeningly hard to watch.

Ty Wishart, 25, D – 2013 Salary: $.843M - Like Gordon, Wishart never really got off the ground since his 2006 draft at 16th overall from San Jose. But as a fringe NHL defenceman, he would be a cheap replacement for Andrew Alberts (and would use his 6’4″ frame more effectively, too). Plus, he’s not Cam Barker.

Jonathan Blum, 24, D – 2013 Salary: $.650M – If any potential signing seems like a lock, it would be Blum. He was (shockingly) not qualified by Nashville and became a free agent, and despite that, still has plenty of time to develop into an NHL defenceman. The former Vancouver Giant favourite has already expressed interest in coming back to Vancouver… plus, did I mention he’s not Cam Barker?

Yannick Weber, 24, D – 2013 Salary: $.850M - He’s not Cam Barker. Okay, that’s the last one. But in all seriousness, Weber is still at the stage of his career where he’s young enough that it would be unwise for a team to suddenly label him as an NHL bust. The former 3rd round pick demonstrated an ability to quarterback a powerplay a year ago with the Habs and his cannon of a point shot would be welcome on a Canucks powerplay unit that needs another right handed shooter.

Jason LaBarbera, 33, G – 2013 Salary: $1.25M – If the Canucks don’t think Eddie Lack is ready for primetime, they need another solid veteran backup to play second fiddle to whoever is manning their net on a regular basis. Reuniting the old Luongo – LaBarbera tandem would be just like old times. He won’t rock the boat, that’s for sure.

Jun 292011
 

Have you ever wondered why “armchair GM” is spoken with sneers one might reserve for a villain in a cartoon?

It isn’t because thinking up potential deals your favorite team might make is a bad thing. Actually, it’s a fun way for us fans to keep ourselves entertained during the off-season when there’s no sports on TV…just games like baseball, golf and the occasional monster truck rally on Sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY. It’s only natural to want your team to improve in the way that you want it to. But the reason armchair GM is sort of derogatory is because the vast majority of people think up absolutely ludicrous trades and deals, ones that other GMs would laugh at Mike Gillis straight in his face for. Oh, let’s trade Tanner Glass’ rights for Ovechkin! Maybe not that crazy but some of you are coming close.

This isn’t isolated to the Canucks fans but after coming oh-so-close to the Stanley Cup, I’m going to chalk all the ridiculous suggestions up to hockey withdrawal and temporary insanity.

Yes, who wouldn’t want Sidney Crosby on the Canucks but there isn’t an ice cream cone’s chance in hell that we could get him. At least not a deal that would work for the Canucks. This is important when playing armchair GM. Keep in mind if you want a deal to go through, there has to be a good reason for the other team to make that trade. Ray Shero isn’t going to give Crosby away because he thinks he can improve the Canucks. We’d have to probably offer both Sedins, Kesler and five consecutive 1st round picks to pry that guy away from the Penguins. Why on earth would the Pens trade him otherwise?

You might be thinking this is a stretch but what some of you are suggesting is just as silly, especially with the current crop of top quality restricted free agents out there.

“We lost Ehrhoff’s salary…now let’s send an offer sheet to Shea Weber/Drew Doughty/Steven Stamkos/etc! They’d be a great fit on the Canucks and they’ll want to play on a Cup contender!”

There are reasons only a few NHL restricted free agents have been successfully signed away via offer sheet. One, because the compensation that goes back the other way is so absurd and two, because the amount of money you’d have to offer is twice as absurd.

Take Shea Weber, for example, since so many of you have been talking about Weber recently. For simplicity’s sake, I’m just going to list the reasons why this will never happen and if it did, why we should all be gathering around Mike Gillis’ place with torches and pitchforks.

  1. The Nashville Predators have filed for salary arbitration so it is impossible for the Canucks to tender an offer sheet.
  2. …but even if he wasn’t…the amount of money the Canucks would have to offer would be insanity. Lots of you are thinking “Weber should make something similar to Chara or Lidstrom money since he’s a Norris candidate.” and you’d be right. Weber will probably get something like $6 million a year for many years and yes, that would be a fantastic deal for the Canucks. But you’re not thinking here. A $6m deal would be a great one for the Predators so they would match it right away, thanking us for making them such a great deal for Weber. No, if the Canucks were to tender an offer sheet, it would be closer to $8.5-9m for there to be a chance the Predators don’t match. Are you willing to stack $9m for Weber? Especially with the salary cap and Edler, Burrows, Manny’s deals up in two years?
  3. An offer sheet exceeding $6,539,062 a year will cost the team making the offer FOUR first round picks. Granted that the Canucks have one of the weakest draft records in the NHL…that might not seem like a terrible deal but consider that Weber himself was a 2nd round pick. The Canucks are likely to draft at the late end of the first round but still, there are four potential stars you’re giving away for an established one. It’s a gamble and not a very good one.

The same goes for any of the high-profile RFAs “available” in 2011. The money we’d have to offer would be insane and absolutely destroy the culture of “take less money to play for a team that will stop at nothing to win” the Canucks have created in the past few years. Weber is a great player…one of the best in the league…but the ramifications of signing him with an offer sheet are just too ridiculous. Look at Kevin Lowe. He still gets ribbed I’m sure for his insane offers for Dustin Penner and Thomas Vanek.

The RFA offer sheet is a move of desperation and 100% of the time, the team making the offer is not the one dealing from a position of power as no matter what they do, they will lose something big. It’s putting a lot of eggs into a basket and then shipping them off for a single player you now have to pay almost twice as much as anyone else on the team…and no matter how you look at it, it isn’t a smart move either in the short or long term.

So just stop and think about the trades and deals you’re proposing. Ones like this just make us look silly.

…and no, we can’t trade Schneider for Weber either.

Jun 272011
 

Don’t let anyone ever tell you there aren’t trades to be made in a salary-capped NHL.

Philadelphia got the NHL summer silly-season underway with a stunning move that sent Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to Los Angeles and Columbus, respectively. Then they signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year deal.

Not quite sure how this makes the Flyers better for the 2011-12 season, but the Kings and Blue Jackets certainly are.

Other deals over the weekend came fast and furious:

  • The Buffalo Sabres signaled they’ve got cash by acquiring Robyn Regehr for a bag of pucks.
  • The San Jose Sharks signaled they know why they lost to the Canucks in the playoffs, trading for Minnesota’s Brent Burns and upgrading their defense big time.
  • The Ottawa Senators signaled desperation by acquiring Nikita Filatov.
  • The Capitals signaled they want to get tougher, acquiring rugged winger Troy Brouwer from the Blackhawks.
  • The Florida Panthers signaled they’re in the market for bad contracts to reach the salary cap floor ($48.3 million), trading with Chicago for the high-priced, much maligned Brian Campbell.
  • The Edmonton Oilers signaled they’re actually interested in drafting something other than first overall, trading with Los Angeles for notorious weeper Ryan Smyth.

In the spirit of all this movement, here now is one man’s opinion on the best* moves each NHL team could make during the rest of the off-season.

(*: At times in this article “best” may also serve as a synonym for “most interesting,” “easiest” or “most controversial.”)

Anaheim Ducks

Their move: Sign UFAs Teemu Selanne and Jussi Jokinen
Why: The team has money and some solid prospects, but at this very moment they need scoring depth. Selanne has one more year left in him, and adding Jokinen would give the Ducks an all-Finnish second line. That just sounds fun.

Boston Bruins
Their move: Sign UFA Christian Ehrhoff
Why: These are the Stanley Cup champions, and yet, they’re still underrated by many around the league. A full season from Rich Peverley and improved play from Tyler Seguin should easily replace the offense lost from Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder. What the team really needs is an offensive defenseman. Ehrhoff is the best one on the market and is young enough to be a core member of a contending team for years to come. While Boston has to get Brad Marchand under contract, they should still have enough room under the salary cap to give Ehroff $5-6 million a season. This is the financial flexibility afforded by Marc Savard’s long-term injury.

Buffalo Sabres

Their move: Sign UFAs Brooks Laich, Raffi Torres and Zenon Konopka
Why: Buffalo, fast and skilled, is also one of the smaller teams in the NHL. With new money to spend, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them very active on the UFA front. Robyn Regehr is a start on the size-issue, and adding additional grit and toughness in Torres and Konopka (who’s also great on faceoffs) would help make dynamic players like Nathan Gerbe and Derek Roy play a little taller. Laich could slide into a top-six scoring role.

Calgary Flames and Washington Capitals
Their move: Trade Jarome Iginla to Washington for Alex Semin and conditional draft picks.
Why: Crazy and controversial, but explainable. First off, the Capitals need to shake-up their core – a core that has led to post-season disappointments in back-to-back playoffs. Semin is an enigma with 50-goal potential, but he’s been brutal come playoff time. In Iginla, the Capitals would get a player who represents all the qualities they seem to lack, and puts them on the fast-track to win now. Meanwhile, the Flames have nowhere to go but down in the standings. Jay Feaster is resisting a rebuild, but the core of this team is aging faster than Renee Zellweger. It would be a very unpopular move, since Iginla has so many intangibles Semin seems to lack. But Semin’s offensive ceiling is much higher than Iginla’s. In fact Semin could be the most offensively-talented Flame since Kent Nilsson or Hakaan Loob in the 1980s. And in today’s NHL, you pay big money for scoring, but can always find character in the bargain bin. The conditional draft picks would be related to the Flames resigning Semin (who’s a UFA after this year), and how far the Capitals get in the post-season.

Carolina Hurricanes
Their move: Sign UFA Andrew Brunette
Why: Brunette might be the slowest skater in the NHL, but he’s terrific in front of the net on the powerplay. He’d add some complimentary scoring, along with some veteran experience, to Carolina’s top-six. This is important, since the Hurricanes currently look like they’re ready to ice a group of forwards whose average age could qualify them for the World Junior Hockey Championships.

Chicago Blackhawks
Their move: Sign UFA Erik Cole
Why: Cole has terrific size and speed to go with a decent scoring touch. He’s won a Cup before, and his style of play would easily replace Troy Brouwer in the Chicago lineup.

Colorado Avalanche
Their move: Sign Tomas Vokun
Why: The team needs a goaltender desperately, particularly since they prefer to play an offense-first, fast-paced style. Vokun would probably prefer to go to a contender, but most of them are set between the pipes. With the salary cap floor issue staring them in the face, let’s not forget the Avalanche have a lot of money to offer.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Their move: Sign UFA Cory Stillman
Why: The Blue Jackets probably need a defenseman more, but I can’t see them winning the sweepstakes for any of the top free agent blueliners available. A playmaking winger to go with shooters Jeff Carter and Rick Nash sounds like a more affordable shopping excursion, and low-and-behold Cory Stillman is available. Columbus has some room to make sure salary dollars aren’t an issue for Stillman either.

Dallas Stars
Their move: Sign UFA Tim Connolly
Why: Let’s keep in mind that the Stars are trying to be sold, so they’re operating under a budget, and can’t spend to the cap. They have to spend to the floor though, and Tim Connolly’s playmaking skills are Richards-esque.

Detroit Red Wings
Their move: Sign Tomas Kaberle
Why: A cerebral, smooth-passing defenseman, it’s easy to see Kaberle fitting into the Red Wings puck-control offense very well. With Brian Rafalski retiring, Kaberle is the next best thing.

Edmonton Oilers
Their move: Trade for Ryan Smyth and sign UFA Scott Hannan
Why: The Oilers can use all the intangibles Smyth brings, while serving as an offensive bridge while the youngsters continue to develop. Hannan has lost a ton of footspeed, but the Oilers could use a veteran, defensive presence on the back-end.

Florida Panthers
Their move: Sign Pascal Leclaire
Why: It’s a stop-gap measure until Jacob Markstrom is ready, but Leclaire at one-point showed the talent to be a top-10 NHL goalie. Injuries and inconsistency have prevented that from happening, but with the Panthers he’d get a second chance. As stated elsewhere, the Panthers have a lot of work to do this off-season to reach the salary-cap floor.

Los Angeles Kings
Their move: Sign UFA Simon Gagne
Why: With all due respect to Anze Kopitar, he can’t do it alone, and Mike Richards gives the team elite depth down the middle (Richards, Kopitar, Jarrett Stoll). Add to that a plethora of young wingers in the pipeline, two elite defensemen on the back-end in Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty, and solid goaltending from Jonathan Quick, and suddenly the Kings are Stanley Cup contenders. With Richards signed, Simmonds gone and Smyth on the way out, the Kings could use another veteran shooter. Gagne had a very strong second half, has played with Richards before, wants to win and would fit comfortably under the salary cap.

Minnesota Wild
Their move: Sign UFA Anton Babchuk
Why: The Wild need to replace Brent Burns. Babchuk is less expensive than other two-way options on the market, and is young enough that he still has upside.

Montreal Canadiens
Their move: Trade Scott Gomez to the Florida Panthers for Shawn Matthias
Why: The urgency of reaching the salary cap floor is an opportunity for the Canadiens to unload Gomez, whose $7 million salary really handicaps Montreal’s payroll flexibility. In Gomez, the Panthers get a Stanley Cup winning veteran with strong leadership qualities, whose playmaking skills could fit nicely with youngsters Jack Skille, Evgeny Dadonov and Niclas Bergfors. Matthias is young, with good size which Montreal lacks. The former top prospect has had a tough time putting it together at the NHL level, and a change in scenery may help.

Nashville Predators
Their move: Sign Nikolai Zherdev
Why: Sure he isn’t exactly interested in many things beyond Nikolai Zherdev, but he did score 16 goals in limited time with Philadelphia. In a thin year for unrestricted free agents, Zherdev might have some of the best offensive tools available. It’s high-risk, but the reward could be high too, especially when you consider a) what Zherdev might cost and b) the Predators budget. Besides, if anyone can keep him in line, it’s coach Barry Trotz.

New Jersey Devils
Their move: Trade Darius Zubrus to Colorado Avalanche for Ryan Stoa, sign UFA James Wisniewski
Why: Zubrus is a big veteran who is defensively sound and can play all three forward positions. The size of the contract would help the Avalanche reach the salary cap floor. Meanwhile, the Devils gain some cap flexibility, and in Stoa they get a cheaper player who has similar size and strength. Wisniewski fills an offensive need on back-end.

New York Islanders
Their move: Sign UFA Joni Pitkanen
Why: There’s no guarantee Marek Streit returns after his shoulder injury at the top of his game, and Pitkanen would add another strong puck-moving defenseman to the roster. Granted, we are talking about GM Garth Snow and Owner Charles Wang, so doing the “best” or “right” thing isn’t necessarily a priority for the organization.

New York Rangers
Their move: Trade Wade Redden to any team with salary floor issues for a conditional draft pick.
Why: The salary cap floor is a gift from heaven for GM Glen Sather, who has a few teams (16 teams are currently under the salary cap floor) looking to add dollars.

Ottawa Senators and St. Louis Blues
Their move: Trade Daniel Alfredsson to St. Louis for Jayden Schwartz and draft picks.
Why: Daniel Alfredsson has been the good soldier, but the clock is about to strike midnight on his career (and has already struck midnight on his deteriorating back). In St. Louis he could take a veteran leadership role, mentoring the young Swede Patrick Berglund and playing on what should be a strong playoff team for the rest of his days. Contrary to what Bryan Murray may have you believe, the Senators as currently constituted are a mess. The team lacks scoring depth up front, and the team’s best prospects (David Rundbald, Jared Cowen) are defensemen. The collegiate Schwartz is a potential second-line, playmaking centre, and is expendable since the Blues already have some good young forwards in the mix.

Philadelphia Flyers
Their move: Not trading away Jeff Carter and Mike Richards
Why: As good as Ilya Bryzgalov is, his contract with the Flyers (roughly $5.3 million per season) didn’t necessitate trading both Richards and Carter. It’s rumoured off-ice or dressing room issues with Chris Pronger was the reason Richards was dealt, but who would you rather have – a 26-year old, perennial Selke Trophy candidate who can score 30-goals, or a 37-year old injury prone, once dominant defenseman who is signed until he’s 42? Meanwhile, Jakub Voracek has not played up to his potential in any season since joining the Blue Jackets, and Wayne Simmonds looks at-best to be a 25-goal guy. Add to that, Brayden Schenn now faces the daunting task of replacing Mike Richards in Flyers fans hearts and minds. Philadelphia, Stanley Cup finalists a year ago, have definitely taken an interim step back.

But since we can’t go back in time, their best move is re-signing Ville Leino.

Phoenix Coyotes
Their move: Sign UFA Ray Emery
Why: Ilya Bryzgalov was the biggest reason the Coyotes made the playoffs in the last two seasons. With Tomas Vokun likely looking elsewhere for more money, the Kings likely unwilling to trade Jonathan Bernier inside their own division, and the Canucks unlikely to trade Cory Schneider with Roberto Luongo’s demons, this is the next best goaltending option.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Their move: Signing UFA Tomas Fleischmann
Why: Fleischmann is certainly an injury risk, but he has high offensive-IQ and would look very good on the wings of either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. It’s a cheap, high-risk, high-reward investment that could have a 60-70 point payoff. You know, exactly what they were hoping to get last year from Mr. Hilary Duff, Mike Comrie.

Jaromir Jagr would be a really fun fit in Pittsburgh as well, as long as you consider a) he would be the league’s slowest player and b) if he struggles at all he could become a dressing room distraction.

San Jose Sharks
Their move: Sign UFAs Jan Hejda and Scott Upshall
Why: Defense is clearly the team’s glaring weakness, even with the acquisition of Burns. Hejda is an underrated shutdown defenseman, and adding him to the Sharks blueline would give San Jose some nice depth. Meanwhile, if they can find a way to afford him, Upshall would replace Setoguchi as a nice complimentary scorer on a team that’s going for the Stanley Cup in 2011-12.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Their move: Sign UFAs Marty Reasoner and Ian White
Why: The signing of Eric Brewer really was the best thing the Lightning could do in the off-season. He is an underrated defenseman who shone in the playoffs. Marty Reasoner doesn’t have the quickest wheels, but he’s an effective third-line player. Ian White would be an upgrade on Marc-Andre Bergeron, and would improve the Lightning powerplay cheaply.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Their move: Sign UFA Brad Richards
Why: Unless you’ve been living in a cave, Brian Burke has made it clear the team needs a number one centre. Richards will go to whoever can pay him the most. The Leafs have a lot of money to offer. Unless Richards takes less to sign in a) New York or b) with a contender, it seems like a lock he’ll be wearing blue and white next year. When you add John-Michael Liles to the mix, these moves would seemingly make the Leafs a playoff team.

Vancouver Canucks
Their move: Sign UFAs Kevin Bieksa and Michael Ryder
Why: Bieksa is a swiss army knife defenseman, doing all things reasonably well. His play in 2010-11 demonstrated he can be a strong #2 defenseman. Ryder provides complimentary scoring depth on a team that really lacks it. He’s Alex Burrows 2.0 without the biting.

Winnipeg Jets
Their move: Trade Ron Hainsey and Patrice Cormier to the Phoenix Coyotes for Shane Doan
Why: On first blush this is a sentimental trade, bringing back the only remaining Winnipeg Jet not named Teemu Selanne. Yet Doan would bring consistency and commitment to a team that was lacking both last year, along with 20-goal hands. Meanwhile the Coyotes, in losing Ilya Bryzgalov, are not a playoff team this year. Cormier has power-forward potential and would join an assortment of young Coyote prospects. Hainsey is a solid two-way defenseman that has become somewhat expendable in Winnipeg with the emergence of Dustin Byfuglien and Johhny Oduya.

Jul 152009
 

According to a Danish website, the Vancouver Canucks have offered Jannik Hansen a new two-way contract; however, Hansen is looking for a one-way deal.

Hansen was one of only 4 Canucks given a qualifying offer – O’Brien (since signed to a 1-year, $1.6 million deal), Wellwood (going arbitration) and McIver are the others – is obviously a sign that the team wants him back. The above-mentioned piece even provides a quote from Canucks GM Mike Gillis (rough translation from Google):

There’s no limit to how far Jannik Hansen can go. With his quick skating and ability to go straight to the net, he has the potential to be a top player in the NHL. His own work will determine how far he goes.

The piece sounds rosy and all, though I’m not sure Hansen has cemented a spot on the Canucks roster enough to think that this deal will be done. At least not with the Canucks anyway.

Hansen doesn’t have much leverage. He had a good start to last season (31 GP, 4G-13A-17P before Christmas), but frequently found himself in the press box near the end of it (24 GP, 2G-2A-4P after Christmas). In the process, Kyle Wellwood and Rick Rypien passed him on the depth chart. With Cody Hodgson, Michael Grabner, and perhaps to a lesser extent, Jordan Schroeder also making a push to make the team next season, Hansen’s contract talks with Gillis may very much come down to a numbers game. Unfortunately for Hansen, the numbers don’t stack well in his favor. I doubt Hansen is the kind of guy Aquilini would want to be paying NHL bucks to play in the AHL – as would be the case on a one-way deal – and without arbitration rights, he may well have to bite the bullet or realize his potential for another organization.

Jul 062009
 

In the Canucks busiest day of free agency, if you can call it that, the Canucks have inked a new backup to sit with Luongo – former Colorado Avalanche goalie Andrew Raycroft.

Raycroft after having a terrible season with a struggling Avalanche team gives the Canucks a solid backup behind Roberto. Raycroft who cannot be a starter would make a solid backup for the Canucks and as it is it’s hard to find a goalie that wants to play second fiddle to a superstar when they’re likely only going to see 12 games a year. His deal is for $500,000 which saves us 350k off of Labarbera’s salary, and a former Calder winner at a league minimum salary, as a back up, is hard to complain about. Even if he is terrible, how badly can you screw up 10 games?

The Canucks also signed rugged blueliner Shane O’Brien for what has to be Mike Gillis’ first mistake. Amidst all the struggles to fit inside the cap SOB has signed a one year 1.6 million dollar contract which is about a 600k increase from what he made last year. He had 0 Goals and 10 Assists last year’s regular season and in the playoffs, Canucks fans around BC could be heard rejoicing when he got his first ever goal in a Canucks uniform. O’Brien developed a lot as a player, but I really don’t think he’s worth a 1.6 cap hit. The signing for such a short term, and at 1.6 leads me to believe that Gillis really isn’t going to go after that top 4 defenseman, and the cap space is slowly running out.

Today Kyle Wellwood also elected to slap the Canucks with salary arbitration after rejecting their qualifying offer. This throws a wrench in Mike Gillis’ plans to sign players for cheap and lock up next year’s lineup, but I think Wellwood just bought his ticket out of Vancouver and will probably get a thank you card from Hodgson for freeing up a third line center spot for the Canucks rookie.

Jul 042009
 

Mike Gillis took another dip into the free agent market to pick up a supposed-to-be RFA who became a UFA due to fumbled paper work on the Panther’s part. Tanner Glass a former Florida Panther signed a 2 way deal for 500,000 and is a physical, energetic, two-way forward that occasionally drops the gloves and is the first to protect his team mates.

The Canucks also released their Prospects Camp Roster yesterday. The annual prospects camp begins next week and takes the rookies through a variety of activities from on ice practices to dryland workouts and a race up the Grouse Grind. This year’s invitees and players in attendance are:

    Defencemen


Peter Andersson
Kevin Connauton
Ryan Donald*
Taylor Ellington
Kris Fredheim
Evan Oberg
Jody Pederson*
Jeremy Price
Travis Ramsey*
Yann Sauve


    Forwards:

Steven Anthony
Matt Butcher
Mats Froshaug
Dan Gendur
Cody Hodgson
Taylor Matson
Tyler McNeely*
Matt Pope
Prab Rai
Anton Rodin
Jordan Schroeder
Kellan Tochkin*
Eric Walsky
Patrick White

    Goaltenders:

Joe Cannata
Morgan Clark
Brian Stewart*

*Players have not been signed by the Canucks

College prospects Kris Fredheim, Matt Butcher, Taylor Matson, and Patrick White who are attending, as per NCAA rules, cannot have their pro team pay for their travel expenses. Instead they will have to pay for themselves to keep their NCAA eligibility.

Jul 042009
 

As free agency rolls along, as last year, Mats is is no hurry whatsoever to get a deal. This time around though it plays into the Canucks favour, for the time being at least, as it allows Gillis to focus his efforts on signing other key UFAs and RFAs before dealing with the veteran Swede. I wrote in an earlier post that I thought Mats was worth only 2 million a year for another year in a Canucks uniform and it seems a lot of people think I’m absolutely crazy for thinking he’ll even consider that kind of money. Other fans playing arm chair GM are willing to spend as much as 4 million on the guy, so here’s my take on things.

Sundin has a value and a roll that is intangible. It’s a roll that was once played by Trevor Linden. Now before I offend anyone, know that I’m not trying to compare the two, or suggest that Sundin is a replacement for Linden, but his role and expectation from the team and the fans – should he come back – is one of leadership, clutch play, and mentorship.

Having a big center like him who can elevate his play when needed (as he showed in the series against the Blackhawks) is lacking from this Canucks team that is a few pieces away from being contenders. With the liklihood of Hodgson coming up next year having a veteran center like Sundin is even more important. But, Sundin is 38, and it’s no secret that he struggled to get back in shape and keep up with a game and a team that is moving towards faster and purer hockey.

If I have Sundin back I don’t want him to play all 82 games. I don’t think he can play all 82 games. He has the potential for groin injury and his importance and presence is needed more in the second half of the season than the first. If Sundin comes back, I want him to play the way Linden did, scratched every few games, rested every few nights, but down the stretch playing and contributing to winning 2 points every night.

Sundin wants to play here again. Gillis wants him back. He last year was originally offered a two year contract so the pieces in play all line up. Mats wants to play for a contender and there are no other teams with cap space to offer him the contract he got last year, or teams that want to take a gamble on a 38 year old injury prone center. I have this feeling that Sudin likes what’s going on with this team and he’d take a pay cut to allow Gillis to make the right moves and to stay on a team that has a legitimate chance to win every night.

If you’re willing to give Sundin 4 million dollars for the season, because that’s the going rate for centers of his calibre, that’s centers playing 82 games. I don’t expect him to play all 82, I’d be happy with 41. If he’s playing half a season, he’s only worth 2 million dollars against the cap so that Gillis can afford to fill the other gaps and bring in the one or two players needed to take this team and it’s offense to the next level. If you give Sundin 4 million dollars, he has to play all 82 games, and he wont. He can’t.

Jul 032009
 

As per TSN’s article the Canucks have signed former Red Wing Mikael Samuelsson to a 3 year deal. The cap hit is expected to be about 2.5 million dollars which still leaves Gillis some room to play around with signing the likes of Sundin (rumours of his return to the Canucks have resurfaced again) and to go out and sign a free agent like Beauchemin, or absorb the cap hit of a player by the name of Kaberle who’s rumoured to be on his way to Vancouver.

Samuelsson is a great pick up by Gillis for a number of reasons, all almost as important as the fact that he doesn’t break the bank. He brings size to what will probably be the third line at 6-foot-2 210 pounds. Last season he had 40 points in the regular season and followed up with another 10 in the post season through the 23 game trip he and the Red Wings made to the Stanley Cup Final.

The newest Swede addition to the team also has several ties to Canucks players from his play in other organizations. He played with Luongo and Hordichuk in Florida, but more importantly he played with the Sedins on a line on team Sweden. I doubt that means he’s going to play on the first line with them next season, but should Alain Vigneault not waste a second and start line juggling, that might be a mix and match line made in heaven.

One of the most important things Samuelsson brings to the team is playoff experience. But not the type of playoff experience Sundin has, or the type that the Sedins have racked up. In the 4 seasons Samuelsson played with the Red Wings he only failed to make the Conference Finals once and that was in 05-06 when they were ousted by the Oilers in the first round. He’s been to the Cup Finals in back to back years, and has a Stanley Cup ring to his name after the Red Wings won in 07-08.

He becomes the 6th Swede to join the team and in 466 career NHL games, he has 208 points and 244 penalty minutes. He has also produced a career total of 35 points in 69 postseason games.

Gillis has been quiet so far at the deadline, but he’s not an impulse buyer the way Burke is. Gillis is smart, and has so far made calculated moves. This is just the first step in the Mike Gillis era, the first of many.

Jul 022009
 

“The Backup” sounds like a bad parody of the movie “The Hangover” but it’s the tag that belongs to whoever rides the pine behind Luongo. That being said, it’s not a tag many goaltenders want to bear because that tag comes with the expectation of probably as few as 10 games during the regular season and the unfortunate expectation of being a benchwarmer.

Jason Labarbera has already left via free agency and is now a member of the Coyotes, and Sanford is not likely to sign with the Canucks. In the event that Luongo signs a contract extension the smart thing would be to package Schneider away in a deal for a top 6 forward, or anything, so long as his value isn’t waste down on the farm. Barring Luongo playing all 82 games, the Canucks are going to need a backup.

This year’s draft crop of goalies was week, and it looks like the free agent pool of affordable, potential back up netminders is nearly just as dry. With that being said though, there are some interesting possibilities out there for the Canucks to explore which might be better than either Sanford or Labarbera. The short list of backups on my free agent wish list is: Antero Niittymaki, Marc Denis, Kevin Weekes, and Stephen Valiquette.

The likelihood of Niitymaki taking a backseat to Luongo is slim, but as a free agent available for backup he would be my first choice if the Canucks played a goalie that didnt shoulder a 70+ game load. Between Denis and Valiquette I’m sure the Canucks can find a solid back up. Kevin Weekes’ performance in relief of Brodeur will likely warrant him a large pay increase which puts him out of the price range the Canucks will be looking in.

Denis proved in Columbus that he was able to be the starter and if called upon to play only 15 games I think he would shine. His price tag is low and the Canucks can use all the cap space they can get towards defence and offence. Valiquette is another possible option for the Canucks. He’s at the younger end of the goalies in this year’s free agent pool and at 6 foot 5 he’s a big body to fill the net.

Both Valiquette and Denis come in the same price bracket as Sanford/Labarbera so as a substitute they would make great replacements and fit in with the Canucks cap space. With all that in mind, the goalie issue is probably about 6 months premature though as it all hinges on Luongo and his decision on the future.

Jul 022009
 

The more I absorb the contracts handed out to this year’s group of unrestricted free agents, the more I appreciate the Sedins’ new contract. Committing a combined $61 million over the next 5 years to Henrik and Daniel isn’t peanuts, except when compared to some of the massive terms handed out to lesser players.

I’m glad Mike Gillis got this deal done. If the Sedins had walked, Gillis would have been faced with a complete rebuild of the Canucks’ top line. If it had come to that, his options would have been limited – he either has to anoint the likes of Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Steve Bernier, Cody Hodgson and Michael Grabner as top line forwards, or dole out bigger money, bigger-term contracts to unrestricted free agents.

To be sure, look at some of the contracts handed out to potential Sedin replacements (all numbers via TSN): Michael Cammalleri – 5 years/$30 million, Brian Gionta – 5 years/$25 million, Marian Gaborik – 5 years/$37.5 million, Marian Hossa – 12 years/$62 million and Martin Havlat – 6 years/$30 million and Nik Antropov – 4 years/$16 million. These guys are good, but whether it’s their durability or consistency, each one has a question mark attached to them; on the other hand, the Sedins have proven since the lockout that they are both.

In the end, Gillis chose to dance with the devils he knew. Seeing now how much it would have cost him otherwise, it looks like he made the right choice.

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