Nov 242010

It’s probably not a surprise that the Canucks made a couple of roster moves yesterday and shuffled their lineup in advance of tonight’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.

After attending training camp on a tryout basis and then beating the odds and making the team’s opening night lineup, Peter Schaefer was placed on waivers yesterday. This morning, the Canucks assigned him to the Manitoba Moose though CKNW is reporting that he may simply retire rather than go to Winnipeg.

In the meantime, Jeff Tambellini, who was starting to hit his stride with the Sedins before the numbers game and waiver rules forced the Canucks to send him to Manitoba, has been recalled. In 7 games with the Moose, he has 7 points (5 goals – 2 assists).

The Canucks are also shuffling their forward lines to hopefully inject some life into what has been a brutal stretch of listless games. Burrows will re-join the Sedins, Tambellini will join Kesler and Raymond, Samuelsson has been demoted to the third line with Malhotra and Torres, and Hansen has been placed on the fourth line with Perrault and Glass.

Perhaps more disappointing than the Canucks’ 4-game losing streak itself is how, overall, they’ve played for two weeks now. When the Canucks had their 6-game winning streak, they were tough to play against. In the last two weeks, they’ve played softer than Kyle Wellwood on a pizza diet.

I think it’s safe to say that, a quarter of the way into the season, we’ve seen the best and the worst of the Canucks.

Is it time to panic?

Maybe not. As Tony Gallagher pointed out this morning, we’ve seen this story before.

Maybe these latest moves up front, along with Vigneault’s (long due) decision to stick with the same defensive pairings for a while and let them build chemistry, will serve as a wake-up call.

Oct 252010
  • Finally the offence really shined. Hank and Danny got on the score sheet again but so did almost everyone else! Bellini looked confident playing with the Sedins and scored a goal. Manny Malhotra scored 2 goals and had an assist (bad ass). Jannik Hansen had 2 assists and was noticeable every time he was on the ice. The 2nd line finally gelled and had a goal and an assist. Even Andrew Alberts and Cory Schneider had a point!
  • Alex Edler and Christian Ehrhoff were very solid. Ehrhoff was a +5! And he didn’t have one point! He’s not called the Hoff for nothing. The Bieksa and Parent pairing only had me wincing a couple of times. Alberts is a completely different defenceman this year. I guess that’s what happens when you get comfortable with a new team and city.
  • Raffi Torres scored his 100th point and I got to sing Baby Beluga
  • Cory Schneider was very solid again. I really enjoy watching him in net. He’s so damn mellow and I don’t freak out when he goes to play the puck. His stats are quite sparkling. There are going to be whispers of ‘Goalie Controversy’ on the wind which is silly. I’m not totally sold on Luongo but he’s the Canucks stallion for better or worse. TWELVE YEARS is a marriage. Schneider is the scrappy young colt that you trade at auction for several other young colts. Sorry, I got a little too caught up in my horse analogy there.
  • The Wild have a player named Stoner. And he was born in BC. Was there ever a more perfect player for Vancouver? Trade ya, Minnesota!
Oct 062010

I’ll say this about Mike Gillis and Laurence Gilman, they know their way around the CBA and the salary cap.

If you remember, they signed Joel Perrault and Jeff Tambellini as free agents this summer and then placed on waivers earlier this week. Both cleared waivers – Perrault yesterday and Tambellini this morning. (New Canuck Ryan Parent cleared too.) Perrault has since been assigned to the Manitoba Moose.

Because both are considered veteran minor leaguers according to section 50.9(g) of the CBA – meaning they’ve played in 320 or more games in North America (NHL, AHL and ECHL), and not played in more than 40 games in the NHL in the previous season – they are exempt from re-entry waivers. (That is, assuming Tambellini gets assigned to the Moose too.)

And according to section 13.2(b) of the CBA, because no team placed a waiver claim on either player, they don’t have to go through waivers again as long as they don’t play in 10 or more NHL games or spend more than 30 days on the Canucks’ roster.

This may seem like a minor point, but what it does it give the Canucks additional options in case they need to call someone up from the farm.

The same sections of the CBA apply to Andrew Peters. As you know, the Canucks traded Darcy Hordichuk to the Florida Panthers this morning and received tough guy Peters in return.

First, a couple of things on Peters: 1) he’s not a very good hockey player, but 2) he’s as big and scary a loose cannon as you’ll ever see in the NHL.

Now there’s been considerable debate on whether or not teams still need an enforcer in their lineup. My personal opinion is that teams don’t need to dress a Hordichuk or a Peters every game, but for certain games, they should probably dress one to deter opposing teams from taking cheap runs at, say, the Sedins and Roberto Luongo.

And that’s the beauty of the Hordichuk-for-Peters trade. Peters already cleared waivers earlier so the Canucks don’t need to place him on waivers again to send him to Manitoba. But also, he’s considered a veteran minor leaguer – he has 402 career NHL and AHL games played and played in only 29 NHL games last season (57 in the last two seasons) – and is thus exempt from re-entry waivers. His two-way contract also helps; the Canucks will pay Peters $75K to play in Manitoba and would have had to pay Hordichuk $800K to do the same.

From Hordichuk’s perspective, this trade allows him to stay in the NHL and return to the Sunshine State where he played from 2002 to 2004.

It’s a win-win trade.

(Note: I’ve been thinking about these sections of the CBA the last couple of days. If any CBA experts are reading this, please feel free to chime in in case I’ve misunderstood any of it.)

Oct 012010

With just one preseason game left tonight against the Anaheim Ducks, the Vancouver Canucks still have several personnel decisions to make about their opening night lineup.

From Jason Botchford (Vancouver Province):

The preseason means nothing. But it’s a lot easier to take when it’s about something.

If not winning games, then winning jobs. If not answering questions, then narrowing them. At the least, you hope for unexpected moments or look for unheralded players. You want to see them force difficult decisions. But not because there’s an abundance of safe, mundane, low-rish play. You want gusto and accomplishment. Reach for the brass ring, and who knows, maybe you’ll grab a second-line winger’s spot. Goodness knows, no one else has.

And when the Canucks finally do make their decisions after tonight, expect the salary cap to have played a major role.

And where do the Canucks stack against the salary cap?

First, a primer:

  • The salary cap for the 2010/2011 season is $59.4 million.
  • A team’s salary cap hit is calculated on a daily basis. This season, there are 186 days in the regular season.
  • That means that each team has a daily cap allowance of $319,354.84 (or $59.4 million divided by 186).
  • Placing a player on LTIR does not give teams more cap space. The LTIR player’s cap hit still counts against the team’s cap; however, teams are given some relief (i.e. exemption) and are allowed to go over the cap by a similar amount when replacing him on the roster.
  • The LTIR exemption cannot be banked – the amount not used on any given day doesn’t carry over for use the next day.

Here are the Canucks’ current cap numbers, including the players who I think, for all intents and purposes, are guaranteed to make the team.

PlayerAnnual Average SalaryDaily Cap Hit
Henrik Sedin$6,100,000.00$32,795.70
Daniel Sedin$6,100,000.00$32,795.70
Mikael Samuelsson$2,500,000.00$13,440.86
Alex Burrows$2,000,000.00$10,752.69
Ryan Kesler$5,000,000.00$26,881.72
Mason Raymond$2,550,000.00$13,709.68
Manny Malhotra$2,500,000.00$13,440.86
Raffi Torres$1,000,000.00$5,376.34
Jannik Hansen$825,000.00$4,435.48
Rick Rypien$550,000.00$2,956.99
Sami Salo$3,500,000.00$18,817.20
Dan Hamhuis$4,500,000.00$24,193.55
Keith Ballard$4,200,000.00$22,580.65
Alex Edler$3,250,000.00$17,473.12
Christian Ehrhoff$3,100,000.00$16,666.67
Kevin Bieksa$3,750,000.00$20,161.29
Shane O'Brien$1,600,000.00$8,602.15
Andrew Alberts$1,050,000.00$5,645.16
Aaron Rome$750,000.00$4,032.26
Roberto Luongo$5,333,333.00$28,673.83
Cory Schneider$900,000.00$4,838.71

As you can see, the Canucks already have $61,148,333.00 ($328,754.48 per day) committed to 10 forwards (including Burrows), 9 defensemen (including Salo) and the goaltenders. Assuming that they want to start the season carrying 13 forwards, 8 defensemen, and Alex Burrows and Sami Salo on LTIR, that means they still have to add 4 forwards.

Here are the players fighting for those 4 forward spots.

PlayerAnnual Average SalaryDaily Cap Hit
Jeff Tambellini$500,000.00$2,688.17
Tanner Glass$625,000.00$3,360.22
Victor Oreskovich$575,000.00$3,091.40
Brendan Morrison*$750,000.00$4,032.26
Peter Schaeffer*$750,000.00$4,032.26
Joel Perrault$510,000.00$2,741.94
Guillame Desbiens$550,000.00$2,956.99
Alex Bolduc$500,000.00$2,688.17
Darcy Hordichuk$775,000.00$4,166.67

The Canucks will get some (temporary) cap relief by placing Burrows and Salo on LTIR. By doing so, they can exceed their daily cap amount by $29,569.89 (Burrows’ $10,752.69 + Salo’s $18,817.20) each day both are on LTIR. This means that, at least to start the season, the Canucks can spend $348,924.73 per day in player salaries.

The good news is, any combination of 4 bubble players won’t push the Canucks past their daily cap allowance. Even assuming Brendan Morrison and/or Peter Schaeffer are willing to sign for close to what Eric Belanger signed for in Phoenix ($750,000) – if either or both make the team – the Canucks can keep everyone on the roster and won’t spend more than $348,924.73 in daily salaries.

What does complicate things, however, is that, unless there are further changes to the roster (i.e. trades), the Canucks will most certainly exceed the daily cap allowance of $319,354.84 before the LTIR exemptions. This is important because if the Canucks want flexibility during the season – whether it’s to replace injured players or adding players at the trade deadline – they need to be under this amount and “save” cap space. The cumulative amount they save every day – i.e. the total amounts under $319,354.84 that they don’t use on any given day – is the amount in cap savings they can spend later in the season.

As an example, if the Canucks want to acquire a $2 million player at the trade deadline, they need to either get rid of a player making a similar amount from their roster, or have accumulated roughly $500,000 in cap savings. The latter requires them to have saved approximately $3,700 per day – i.e. they need to have only spent an average of $315,600 of their daily cap allowance – from the start of the regular season to the trade deadline. If you do the math, the Canucks need to shave about $28,000 in daily salaries from their current roster to get there. And if you look at the numbers, Kevin Bieksa’s and Shane O’Brien’s salaries add up pretty darn close to this amount.

Two points on this:

1) This is exactly why Salo’s injury sucks. While his LTIR status helps the Canucks get temporary cap relief, his salary still counts against the cap. If Salo was healthy, the Canucks could’ve iced a bottom-pairing with one of Salo or Keith Ballard on one side and one of Andrew Alberts or Aaron Rome on the other. What is more likely now – or certainly what may make more sense given their cap situation – is that the bottom pair will have one of O’Brien or Alberts on one side and Rome on the other.

2) Given point no. 1, the bigger decision for the Canucks will be on defense. There may be more roster spots up for grabs up front, but regardless of which forwards end up filling those spots, their cumulative impact on the salary cap is minimal. (In fact, I don’t see any salary cap impediment to signing Morrison to a contract.) If the Canucks want some cap flexibility during the season, the bigger moves to be made are on the back end where the big salaries are.

To put these points into context, it’s worth noting that the Canucks entered the last postseason with O’Brien, Alberts and Rome as their no. 5 to 7 defensemen; with Salo injured to start the season and Bieksa and O’Brien possibly on the trading block, the Canucks could enter this season with Alberts, Rome and Lee Sweatt in those depth positions. (Which then begs the question as to whether or not the Canucks actually have a deeper defense this year.)

Now, it’s possible that Mike Gillis and Laurence Gilman feel comfortable operating over the salary cap and the Canucks don’t end up making any moves before the start of the season other than to send the bubble players to Winnipeg. Certainly, they can keep the depth they have now, though in the process they’ll have to sacrifice some flexibility during the season.

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