|Posted by Mac D on June 30, 2010 at 5:10 PM|
Part three of three in my series dealing with the Canucks Season and Playoffs in review as well looking at their Offseason and was has happened and could happen.
With another disappointing end to the playoffs for the Vancouver Canucks losing again to the Blackhawks in the second round left the fans with an unsatisfactory feeling and a “what could have been” thought if the defence was not so badly injured. No one will know what could have been ever and only look forward to the next season.
The bitter taste was removed some what when the NHL hosted its awards ceremony in Las Vegas this June. This brought back memories of what a great season the Canucks had. The high scoring, great saves, record wins brought back a good feeling which was capped off with Henrik Sedin receiving his Art Ross Trophy and Hart Memorial Trophy.
Going into the draft and offseason GM Mike Gillis knew he needed to address his defence and bottom six (6) forwards. Before the draft even started he made a trade with the Florida Panthers receiving Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich in exchange for Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner and a 2010 1st round draft pick.
Many will look at this as giving up to much but that was the price to pay to get a player of Ballard’s calibre. As the saying goes you need to give up something to get something. Keith Ballard is a top 4 defencemen and is exactly what the Canucks needed. He is a puck moving defencemen and on the small side at 5’11 but do not let that fool you as he is one of the best hip checkers in the league and will greatly upgrade the back end. Victor Oreskovich is a big body who likes to hit along the boards which was lacking from the Canucks. He has some offensive upside playing well in Junior and above average in the AHL and the Canucks will see if he can bring that to the NHL along with his toughness. Steve Bernier was brought in two years ago to play along side the Sedin’s and give them a net presence. This did not pan out which made him expendable. Including Michael Grabner made people angry as he is a top goal scoring prospect with amazing speed. From that standpoint yes it was too much but where was he going to play with the Canucks? After being selected in the first round in 2006 he was sent back to Junior the following year where he scored 39 goals in 55 games. The next year saw him move up to Manitoba in the AHL where he continued his scoring success but was given three years there and never made it to the NHL until late this year. With a top 6 core set and no place to put him as well as Cody Hodgson, Jordan Schroeder, Anton Rodin and Sergei Shirokov all moving closer to being ready to make the jump to the NHL (all 4 are younger to) made him expendable as well.
With trading away their first (1st) round pick in the Ballard trade the Canucks did not have a pick until the 4th round. Patrick McNally D (4th), Adam Polasek D (5th), Alex Friesen D (6th), Jonathan Iilahti G (6th) and Sawyer Hannay D (6th). All picks are deemed projects but their selection of defenceman Patrick McNally in the 4th round was a steal as many teams passed up on him due to him wanting to go to school first as he is attending Harvard. In two to three years he will be looking to crack the line-up.
Free Agency starts 9pm PST on July 1st and the Canucks will be buyers to fill out their line-up as well as retaining players that are restricted free agents (RFA).
The Canucks will be looking to add another defencemen . The choices on defence include Anton Volchenkov, Dan Hamhuis, Paul Martin, Willie Mitchell and Zbynek Michalek.
Anton Volchenkov; he is one of the premier shutdown defencemen in the league blocking shots and playing top minutes. He has no offensive upside but his defence is so coveted that teams will be willing to pay him top dollar (5+ miilion per season). Though he fits what the Canucks are looking for in a shutdown tough defencemen his price will be too high to pursue. - Signed with the Devils
Dan Hamhuis; being overshadowed, from what media attention the Nashville Predators get by Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, Hamhuis is wanting to play somewhere, where he can be noticed. He plays a tough rugged role in front of his net and has offensive upside that wasn’t shown in a defensive type team in Nashville. His rights were traded to the Philadelphia Flyers and then in-turn traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins a week later. It seems a contract will not be reached between Hamhuis and Pittsburgh making him a free agent. He is from Smithers B.C. and would like to play in his home province. He seems to be the most logical and perfect fit to come to the Canucks as his asking price would be around 4-5 million annually. He has stated he wants to be a top 4 defencemen and have a key role with the team he signs with and that would fit in Vancouver. - Signed with the Canucks
Paul Martin; he is not a household name but the New Jersey Devils have had a steady defensive player since he has been there. He missed over three quarters of the season this year with an arm injury but he is still a valuable asset which was shown by Brian Burke keeping him on the US Olympic roster as long as possible hoping he would return from injury. His asking price will be around 4-5 million and be a player who teams will go after that missed out on Sergei Gonchar, Volchenkov and Hamhuis. - Signed with the Penguins
Willie Mitchell; the Canucks and their fans would love to have Willie Mitchell back. He is one of the best shutdown defencemen in the league and plays against the top teams line night in and night out. He is not paid for his offence it is his defence. That being said he was knocked out with a concussion that did not allow him to play from February onwards and is still not able to skate. This will scare teams away. If he can prove he is healthy to come back and have no post concussion problems then teams will be calling but the Canucks will not be able to wait that long and the days of Willie Mitchell in a Canucks uniform are over. Signed with the Kings
Zbynek Michalek; he will be the player teams turn to who were unable to land the previous 4 as well as Gonchar. Having played in Phoenix he does not receive the exposure that a player would in a hockey town. He is a steady player with more of a defensive mind set. Michalek does not possess the skill set of the other five (5) but would be a nice plan B or C for a team looking for a defencemen who logs lots of minutes. - Signed with the Penguins
The Canucks will be big pushers for Hamhuis as he is the player they are looking for and works financially. If they were to strike out on the home grown boy they would turn their attention to Martin and then Michalek. Any of those three (3) would help the Canucks defence and making it a tough one to play against every game. With a signing of one of those players Kevin Bieksa will be moved as a cap casualty.
After dealing with the defence the Canucks will move their focus to a 4th line centre that will play a big role on the penalty kill and take key defensive face-offs. The options include; Manny Malholtra, Eric Belanger, John Madden and Ryan Johnson.
Manny Maltholtra; with the San Jose Sharks last year Malholtra won an astounding 62.5% of his face-offs as well as tallying 33 points. He fits the role in Vancouver where he would be the number one penalty kill forward and taking key defensive zone face-offs late in a game. He proved his value in the playoffs winning face-offs and facing the other teams’ top line. Last year he made $700,000 and could fetch 1-1.5 million which fits well in the cap space available.- Signed with the Canucks
Eric Belanger; he plays with an edge and isn’t afraid to go to the net. Face-offs are his specialty and plays a defensive game. He is more of a third liner as he has an offensive side scoring on average 15 goals a year. If he was to take a line demotion but still be used as the go to face-off man and penalty kill he would be an option in Vancouver. - Signed with the Coyotes
John Madden; the man that seems to be on winning teams and is that piece you can not win without. He has won in New Jersey and now Chicago. Madden plays the penalty kill, takes key face-offs and plays defence first from a forward position. As well he brings vast playoff experience which is what Gillis wants. The only thing is he will want 2.5+ million a year and with the Canucks signing a defenceman do not have the money to sign him to that contract. - Signed with the Wild
Ryan Johnson; is a player who will sacrifice his body for the team which is evident with the amount of times he was out injured from blocking shots. If Johnson was on the ice and was between the net and puck he would throw his body in front of it no questions asked. A great player that does the small things that go unnoticed or over looked on the stat sheet (blocked shots and faceoff percentage). However this ‘team first’ style of play played him out of the line-up and onto IR (injured reserve) making the Canucks not likely to bring him back. - Signed with the Blackhawks
Malholtra is the perfect fit and should be offered a contract. If Gillis is unable to sign him then look for Belanger to be targeted.
The other position of need maybe will be a third line winger with some toughness and potential to score the odd goal. The options are Raffi Torres, Arron Asham and Pavol Demitra.
Raffi Torres; he plays with grit and determination. He is an enforcer on the fore check and someone who wants to put the opposing player through the glass. That fits what the Canucks are looking for as well he scored 19 goals last year and with a playmaking centre he could reach 20+. At a 2.5+ million a year asking price the Canucks would only be able to sign him if they missed out on one of the high end defencemen. - Signed with the Canucks
Arron Asham; tough as nails and a nasty guy to play against that coaches love. He will hit, fight and even score a few goals to help his team win. He proved how valuable he is during the playoffs and the Canucks would love to have a proven tough player in their line-up. With a playmaking centre he will produce double digit goal totals. With an asking price around 700,000 to 1 million he fits financially as well. - Signed with the Penguins
Pavol Demitra; is an offensive minded person with great hands and speed but injuries have plagued his career and the two years he spent in Vancouver were not something to remember. With his salary at 4 million there is no way the Canucks will retain him no matter how good his offensive side is as injuries and being in the doghouse have pushed his welcome in Vancouver to far.- Signed in the KHL
If the Canucks do not want to push Schroeder or Shirokov into the starting line-up then a run at Asham will seem likely.
The Canucks as well have four (4) RFA’s to either sign or not, Mason Raymond, Jannik Hansen, Tanner Glass and Shane O’Brien
Mason Raymond; speedy winger that has grown over his two seasons with the Canucks. Raymond broke out scoring 25 goals and having a career year. He is a top 6 and player the Canucks will definitely resign which would be around 2-3 million annually. - Signed a two year deal
Jannik Hansen; is a high energy player that does not shy away from crowds and looks to hit. He started the year injured but came back to have 15 points in a shortened season. He likes to play the body and has the speed and offensive upside to be valuable to the team. He had many opportunities to score goals and needs to work on his finishing. The Canucks will retain him as his salary would be under a million. - Signed a one year deal
Tanner Glass; he will not wow you with his offensive output but shows his coaches, teammates and fans he works hard and does his part. He isn’t a full time starter but a nice piece to have to fill in for an injury or when someone needs a night off. He is for depth and his future is uncertain. - Signed a one year deal
Shane O’Brien; he brings heart to every game and wears it on his sleeve. He may take unnecessary penalties and had some off ice issues with partying but he has developed into a good not great player. With the injuries he was forced into playing big minutes and held his own for being classified as a 5th to 7th defenceman. He is a great player for depth and filling out the defence as long as a free agent player is signed. - Traded to the Predators
The Canucks have their core and most of their roster set for next season and just need to add a few pieces. This started with the Ballard and Oreskovich trade and should continue into free agency. With the right players signed the Canucks should continue with their regular season success and improve in the playoffs.
After the free agency period has quieted down I will review what happened. Thanks for reading.
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