Jul 012009
 

The Free Agent frenzy underway, Canucks fans are waiting with baited breath to see what Gillis’ next move will be. After making a small move and grabbing Aaron Rome formerly of Columbus for 550,000 for one year, Gillis is playing smart. He’s courting Free Agents that can handle waiting a day or two before signing their lives away a la Hossa to the tune of 12 years 60 million.

Gillis’ plan involves getting younger, getting faster, and as is always the case, increasing scoring. The Canucks now need to find a top 4 defenseman and top 6 forward. So what are the options that are affordable?

Gaborik is the most coveted remaining free agent and if the rumours are true he wants to don the Blue and white with green trim next season. No amount of money could have kept him in Minnesota and his ties to Demitra make Vancouver the favourite to pick him up. Based on Gaborik’s previous price tag of 7.5 million that would leave the Canucks with little cap room to work and pick up that top 4 defenceman.

Gaborik is likely to sign for less if it’s a longer termed deal, which would allow the Canucks to splash into the defense pool, but either way the Canucks are going to run close to the cap this year. When it comes to defenseman I like the look of 2 players in particular: Francois Beauchemin and Marc-Andre Bergeron.

Both players’ price tags were $1.6 million last year, and while in for perhaps a raise, they would not hinder the Canucks chances of signing that all important top 6 forward. Beachemin and Bergeron are 29 and 28 respectively so they would give back a few years to the blue line. Beauchemin also has a shot as mind blowing as Salo and Edler – having a third cannon from the point would be a huge bonus. Bergeron can skate and is a good puck moving defenseman. He’s more offensive than Ohlund, and while he comes with a few defensive flaws, that’s something that can be fixed the same way O’Brien fixed his game.

If the Canucks can’t afford Gaborik, a cheaper plan B sniper would be Maxim Afinogenov assuming Buffalo chooses to pass on him. If the Canucks can’t pick up Gaborik I would be extremely happy to see them pick up Ales Kotalik. He only played 19 games last season amounting 7 goals and 11 points, but as a third man to play with the Sedins he would be a great fit. Kotalik and Afinogenov both have speed to play with the Sedins and that would allow Burrows to play on the second line with Kesler and (hopefully) Sundin. The other thing that’s nice about Max and Alex, they’re shoot first snipers. Goes well with the Sedins cycling and passing.

The Canucks holes right now are that scoring forward and top 4 defenseman. Gillis isn’t rushing to make any signings, but he’s a smart man and he’s proved that so far. He’s yet to make his mark on this team, and the future of Mats Sundin does impact what other needs the Canucks might have, but for the time being Beauchemin would be a brilliant pick up, and any of the aforementioned forwards would be good fits with the twins.

Jul 012009
 

The Canucks made their first signing this free agent season by inking defenseman Aaron Rome to a one-year, one-way deal worth $525,000. Rome has spent the last couple of years in the Columbus Blue Jackets organization, but only played in 25 NHL games.

No doubt this is a depth move a la last year’s Rob Davison signing, though at only 25 years old, perhaps there’s potential for Rome to stick longer with the Canucks.

Here’s his Hockey Futures profile:

Rome is a self-described stay at home defenseman who can add a little offense. He is a strong skater with great positioning and solid puck-handling and passing skills. With his exceptional vision and awareness he can anticipate the play. His offensive game and shot from the point has improved as he has seen increased powerplay time. He can be physical when necessary and plays with a bit of an edge.

Jul 012009
 

With the Sedins now locked up for another 5 years with a no-movement clause – a contract term that will take them to 14 years of service with the Vancouver Canucks – it may be time to start paying attention to where they stand among the franchise’s all-time leading scorers.

CANUCKS FRANCHISE LEADER IN POINTS

[Table=31]

CANUCKS FRANCHISE LEADER IN GOALS

[Table=32]

CANUCKS FRANCHISE LEADER IN ASSISTS

[Table=33]

In fact, the Sedins only need to average 60 points per season for the next 5 seasons to catch up to Markus Naslund as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. Considering both have been almost point-per-game players since the lockout – Henrik has averaged 0.96 P/G and Daniel has averaged 0.95 P/G – that’s not much of a stretch. (*knock on wood*)

Henrik is 64 assists shy of Trevor Linden’s franchise-high 415 career assists. For what it’s worth, Henrik has averaged 64 assists/season in the last 3 seasons; it’s certainly possible for him to catch up to Trevor this season.

Daniel has his work cut out for him to catch up to Markus Naslund’s franchise-high 346 career goals. He’s 165 goals back, and thus would need to average 33 goals in each of the next 5 seasons to catch to him during the term of this contract. What is probably more within reach is the franchise-lead in powerplay goals scored (Daniel has 67 PPG, Markus’ franchise mark is 114), game-winning goals (Daniel has 36 GWG, Markus’ franchise mark is 49), and overtime goals (Daniel has 7 OT goals, Brendan Morrison’s franchise mark is 9).

Rightly or wrongly, I know Canucks fans have had a hard time accepting the Sedins as elite-level players. I wonder if this changes if they catch up to – and surpass – Markus’, Trevor’s and the Steamer’s franchise records.

Jul 012009
 

In what has been an up and down drama all week Canucks fans can rest easy for the rest of the day. The tough work is done for now. After the Sedin’s accepted a 5 year 30.5 million dollar offer to come back as Canucks the collective remainder of Canuck nation heaved a giant sigh heard echoing through downtown.

The Sedins had originally wanted a 12 year deal and it looks like Gillis won on that front getting them to stick to a 5 year deal. The cost was a larger cap hit which borders my comfort level with what I thought they should have gotten, but the bottom line is that without them the Canucks would have had a harder time replacing them.

This means the rebuild is still a few years away. Gillis has managed to keep the core intact at a relatively cost effective cap hit. The Sedins can only get better and if they improve upon their 82 point seasons and break the 90 point barrier, this deal is going to look genius. Gillis has already started to put a stamp on this team and I have a feeling we’re one big dip into free agency away from seeing what the Mike Gillis Canucks really look like.

What this all means is the Canucks now have approximately $9.5 million dollars in cap space to play around, based on the assumption Corey Schneider and his 1.084 million in the last year of his contract. The Canucks still need a top 6 forward and a top 4 defenseman at the top of their list. Burrows was a great triplet for the Twins next year, but they need someone else, and the void left by Ohlund is a bit bigger than anyone thinks.

Jun 302009
 

The new compensation levels for signing restricted free agents (RFA) are in. Via HF Boards:

$994,433 or below – No compensation
Over $994,433 to $1,506,717 – 3rd round pick
Over $1,506,717 to $3,013,433 – 2nd round pick
Over $3,013,433 to $4,520,150 – 1st round pick and 3rd round pick
Over $4,520,150 to $6,026,867 – 1st round pick, 2nd round pick and 3rd round pick
Over $6,026,867 to $7,533,584 – Two 1st round picks, 2nd round pick and 3rd round pick
Over $7,533,584 – Four 1st round picks

Because these compensation levels are based on average player salaries, unlike the salary cap which is based on league revenues, they can move from year-to-year even if revenues (and thus, the cap) stay flat.

Before Canucks fans start salivating at the thought of sending an offer sheet to Cam Barker, Phil Kessel, Jiri Hudler and Ryan Clowe – all of whom play for teams that are close to the cap – I should mention now that the Canucks don’t have their 2nd round pick for next season. They traded it to Buffalo (along with a 2009 3rd round pick) for Steve Bernier. What this means is that unless the offer sheet for these players is under $1,506,717 or greater than $3,013,433, then it’s simply not possible to acquire them. I doubt they sign for under the lower amount; and if they sign for the higher amount then the compensation starts to include multiple draft picks (and even multiple 1st round draft picks). Dollar-wise, these players may well be worth what they get; but are they worth losing draft picks as well?

Jun 302009
 

If Jack Bauer can save the world in 24 hours, surely Mike Gillis and the Sedins can compromise on a contract extension in the same time frame.

Right?

Some of the negotiation details that were leaked out in the past week are sketchy, but I’ll try my best to sift through them and determine where Gillis and the Sedins can compromise.

So what does this all mean?

Assuming the first 5 years of the Sedins’ contract proposal is evenly distributed, this works out to $8.6 million per season during the first part of that contract. Because of the way the current CBA works, the contract amounts cannot be lowered by more than $4.3 million from year to year. With $21 million due in the last 7 years of the contract, it’s possible it was structured so that the Sedins are due $5 million in year 6, $3 million in years 7 to 11, and $1 million in year 12. If they intend to retire by, say, age 36 (year 7 of the contract), then perhaps they are in actuality looking at a contract worth around $50 million over 7 years – an annual salary close to their market value and at a term that will take them to retirement (with the remaining years tacked on to get to Gillis’ ideal cap hit). From here, it’s easier to see the difference between the Sedins and Gillis’ original position of $27.5 million over 5 years ($5.5 million per season).

I know I used a lot of assumptions in this post, but the logic would remain the same regadless. If the gap between the two parties is $22.5 million in real dollars and an extra 2 years in term, can they bridge it before tomorrow? Are they willing to split the difference? Is $40 million over 7 years enough to get it done?

The clock is ticking.

Jun 292009
 

The Canucks who have traditionally been rather passive when it comes to major deadlines like the trade deadline, and free agency, were the center of attention last year as they pursued the most coveted free agent of the 2008 summer – Mats Sundin. This year he’s a free agent again, less coveted and hyped, but equally as important to the Canucks now that he has had a chance to play on the team and prove his value.

Now I know I was one of his hardest critics, but one thing people told me all through his season’s ups and downs was that if I waited till the playoffs I would really see the worth of Mats Sundin. To all those that had faith in him I commend you because I certainly didn’t believe in him at first, and it took a while but after the way he stepped up in the series against Chicago, and the way he impacted the team intangibly during the regular season, he’s on my list of Canucks Free Agents to give a second look and try and resign if the price is right.

At the beginning of last season there was a 2 year deal on the table for Mats. He waited until December to decide to come back, and he took a one year deal for 7 million dollars. He’s indicated he wants to play another year and Gillis has implied that he would like to have Sundin back.

Last season Sundin did something no one has been able to do for the Canucks and that is open up the ice for the Sedins. His presence and ability on the ice has given Vancouver enough depth to roll 4 lines and have at least two different lines that pose a threat. He opens up the ice for whomever he’s with which is the reason we saw career numbers from Kesler and better play from Demitra. When playing on the power play with the Sedins he draws opposing players away from the Sedins and is the big presence in front of the net we had hoped would have been Pyatt but which has been missing since Bertuzzi patrolled the opposition’s crease.

While he might not be at a physically ideal level, his hockey sense and vision is still amongst the best, and when it comes to clutch, he’s still got it. (Just have to work on keeping him out of the penalty box).

Is he worth 7 million? Certainly not. The Canucks had cap room, all it cost them was cash, it was a lure. It worked, and now Sundin has found a team he thinks is a legitimate contender and a few right moves away from the cup (pending the X-Factor Sedins). Should Sundin be back? Certainly. His intangible benefit is similar to that of what the Sedins have. He seems to have clicked with Kesler and skates well with Demitra. On top of that, if Hodgson joins the big leagues next year Sundin would be an excellent veteran to teach him the way of the game.

Sundin is the big body center we need and on a year to year basis I think he’s a steal. While he has his stretches of inconsistency on the score sheet, he’s solid in the face-off dot. The reason he took the first half of the season off was because he didn’t think he could handle the grind of travel, and it’s not something I expect of him because if we want a healthy, clutch Sundin down the stretch, we will have to make sacrifices. I would like to see the Canucks bring back Sundin in the role they had for Trevor Linden in his last year. Linden was a healthy scratch many nights (although for different reasons) but when it mattered most he was leading the Canucks on the score sheet. Sundin won’t last 82 games, and I don’t expect him to. If he’d like to prove me wrong I would be ecstatic.

Sign him for 2 million dollars MAX for one year (preferably less – 1.5). Have him center a solid second and mentor a future superstar. Give him another shot (which may be his last) at a cup.

Jun 262009
 

With the NHL Entry draft only a few hours away, the rumor mill is running rampant.

Have the Canucks re-signed Roberto Luongo to a long-term extension? According to John Buccigross, he has; according to others, not quite but close.

Have the Canucks acquired the negotiating rights to Jay Bouwmeester? As much as they’d like to, Mike Gillis isn’t too keen at the price.

Are the Canucks moving up to draft Team Canada defenseman, Ryan Ellis? Talk is that they’re interested.

Are the Canucks close to acquiring Dany Heatley? Well, the Canucks may be on Heatley’s wish list but the latest word is that the Senators haven’t received any formal offers yet.

Has Marian Gaborik moved in his new digs yet? Well, of course not, but we’ll see on July 1st.

Should be a fun day.

Jun 122009
 

In talking about the Sedins’ contract extension talks this morning, Jason Botchford (Vancouver Province) mentioned something interesting:

The Canucks’ bargaining strategy hinges on two things: The belief the twins were honest when they said they are willing to take less to stay in Vancouver, and the fact Gillis is willing to walk away.

Without a deal nearing the middle of June, it’s clear Gillis believes life can go on without the twins. He wouldn’t have let it go this long if he didn’t believe he can reload without the Sedins.

It’s neither ideal nor his first choice. Both the trade market and the free-agent market are rife with landmines — bloated contracts and question marks. Yet Gillis is willing to take a calculated risk he can quickly rebuild this team without the twins.

It’s a strategy which has worked in another sport. In New England, the NFL’s Patriots have established themselves as the most successful team in sports since the advent of the salary cap. They’ve done it because they were willing to say goodbye to stars when the money didn’t make sense. When the demands got too much they kissed-off key players like Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Deion Branch, Adam Vinatieri and Ben Coates. The Pats didn’t miss a beat.

This is something that’s briefly crossed my mind before – letting marquee free agents walk away for nothing – though to be honest, it’s not anything I’ve given any serious thought to. Especially for a team like the Canucks, whose prospect pool is limited, letting assets leave – especially two of their best ones – without getting anything in return can be crippling.

Mike Gillis took a big gamble with the Sedins this year by not trading them at the trade deadline even without having an extension for them already in place. If he had, however, then what message does it send to Canucks fans? Or to Luongo, who’ll be in the same position next season? Gillis felt – as did most of us – that his team had its best chance to win with the Sedins in the lineup instead of, say, a couple of young players and a couple of draft picks for next year. It’s the same gamble St. Louis took by hanging on to Keith Tkachuk. Ditto Minnesota and Marian Gaborik, Montreal and Saku Koivu, and Anaheim and Scott Niedermayer. The hope, of course, is that these players all re-sign and their respective teams retain their assets.

Botchford’s piece made me think about this differently. In a salary cap world, cap space is as much an asset as players, prospects and draft picks. Much like the Red Wings let Mathieu Schneider walk away a few years ago, and then signed Brian Rafalski. Closer to home, it’s like letting Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison walk away last season, and using then using the cap space to sign Pavol Demitra and Mats Sundin.

It’s true that free agency is a gamble and I’d never aim to build my team by bidding on players. But given the choice of overpaying players or using cap space more effectively and wisely, I’d opt for the latter. The Sedins may be good value at, say, $6 million per season (combined $12 million), but if they insist on $7 million ($14 million combined), are the Canucks overpaying them and can they spend that $14 million more effectively somewhere else? To put it another way, is $14 million better spent on Henrik and Daniel, or Mike Cammalleri and Marian Hossa, or Hossa and Marian Gaborik, or Hossa and Jay Bouwmeester, or… well, you get the drift.

It’s not good to lose your best players to free agency – and I’m not suggesting the Canucks should let the Sedins go – but if the alternative is to hand out bad, big contracts and handicap your team for years to come, maybe it’s not so bad after all.

May 162009
 

Gillis made clear yesterday in a press conference that amongst his priorities of inking Kesler and Luongo to long term deals before they hit free agency, and re-signing the entire coachign staff, one of his foremost concerns (and rightly so) was re-signing the Sedins.

There’s been talk that the Sedins are not worth re-signing and the Canucks should let them go. They’re asking for about 7 million dollars each, basically double what they earned per year under their old contract and while that may be warranted by the way their stats look, with the cap headed down, not this season but the next, it just not might be financially possible, or responsible to sign them for that much while being able to re-sign others and maintain this core group of players.

When you look at the way they play, there are no two players so consistantly dominating as the Sedins. They’ve been point per game players for the last two seasons, and they proved this playoffs that they can play in the post season. They can hardly be faulted for the second round exit the Canucks experienced this season. They seem to have found a third man to play with in Alex Burrows, and since he didn’t have Anson-Carter-Ego-Syndrome, he actually re-signed with the Canucks. To replace them for the money they’re asking, or slightly less would be impossible without taking a larger cap hit. The fact that they need to be together brings down their price a little and that might help us out a little more in the long run.

At the end of the day, the Sedins want to win a cup. All players do. They also want to play on a contender, and they don’t want to be split up. I think the only teams willing to take a chance on them and their salary, if they were to test the free agency waters, would be the non contenders. The LAs, the Phoenixes, the Floridas, and I don’t think the Sedin’s are willing to do that. I have a feeling at the end of the day Gillis is going to work his magic and the Sedins will take the home town discount because if they don’t there is absolutely no way this team can function properly if 21 million dollars of a 54 million dollar cap is going to 3 players.

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