Ahhhhh the first day of summer has come and gone and here in Vancouver the sun finally poked its head out to say hello after weeks of June-uary rain. Naturally the first obvious summer ritual here in Vancouver is to talk about the Canucks. The first order of business is the upcoming NHL draft on Friday. The Canucks historically have been awful on draft day and this year they have the 26th overall pick. With a pick this low the prospect they pick will likely not be of immediate help to the team and it will likely be 3 or so years before we hear about the kid again. However, the draft isn’t what’s on the mind of Canucks fans. As always it’s the goaltending situation that’s at the forefront.
We all know the Luongo era is nearing its end; however, before Mike Gillis can ship off the franchise’s best ever goalie (statistically anyway) he needs to sign Cory Schneider. Schneider is a restricted free agent so if another team was bold enough to put up an offer the Canucks have the right to match the offer which they will do should any GM get frisky. Gillis has been steadfast in the media saying he’s not rushing to do anything with his goalies, but we all know he wants to get this sorted out quickly so the team can rid itself of this heavy distraction. Will it happen by the draft tomorrow so we can see a gangster draft day deal? Likely not, but I’m predicting it’s going to go down before July 1.
Once Schneider’s signing is out of the way the Luongo trade watch begins. The Tampa Bay Lightning, one of the potential suitors for Lu, seem to have taken themselves out of the race with their deal to acquire Nashville back-up Anders Lindback. The lead destination seems to be Toronto, with less likely destinations of Chicago and Columbus also being rumoured. Not really a comfortable situation for Gillis in having to deal with an ornery former Canucks GM Brian Burke. With the line of suitors being apparently thin, will Gillis be able to get fair value from Burke or will he take the shaft and basically just perform a salary dump? I just can’t see Burke willingly letting go of any of his prized prospects or young players knowing Gillis’ options are few. I overhead people at slow pitch tonight saying they’re expecting Nazim Kadri and Luke Schenn for Luongo…in your dreams people. If Gillis somehow wriggles the likes of Luke Schenn or Jake Gardiner away from the Leafs I would be utterly shocked. I do think it will be Toronto though in the end for good ol’ Lu. The Leafs need to make the playoffs this year and they need a proven goalie to get them there.
The goaltending situation is just the tip of the iceberg for the Canucks. There are needs and holes at multiple positions. Starting on defence, the Canucks top 3 are under contract (Bieksa, Hamhuis and Edler), but the bottom 3 is far from settled. Aaron Rome and Sami Salo are UFA’s and Marc-Andre Gragnani is a RFA. Others still under contract include Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and Chris Tanev. It’s highly doubtful the solid, but injury prone Salo will be back. So it’s clear the Canucks are in need of some blue line help, especially a top 4 quality type defender. Looking at the current list of UFA defencemen the cream of the crop is clearly Ryan Suter. It’s going to take a boat load of $$$ for a team to land the prized defenceman. He would look studly in Canucks blue, but he seems destined for a team like Detroit. The remaining notable UFA’s on the list are Greg Zanon, Joe Corvo, Jaroslav Spacek, Bryan Allen, Sheldon Souray, Hal Gill, Pavel Kubina, Matt Carle, Brett Clark, Carlo Colaiacovo, Adrian Aucoin, Dennis Wideman and Jason Garrison. There’s some solid d-men in the above list, but I’m sure most would agree no real prize possessions or game changers are on that list.
Up the middle the Canucks will need some help with Ryan Kesler being shelved for the first few months of the season due to off-season surgery and with Sami Pahlsson heading back to Europe. Here are the more notable names on the UFA list: Olli Jokinen, Jarret Stoll, Daymond Langkow, Jason Arnott, Scott Nichol, Torrey Mitchell, Paul Gaustad and Jelf Halpern. Again there are some solid checking line type centres on this list and I am especially fond of Gaustad, Nichol and Arnott’s grittiness. However, a 2nd line centre to fill in for Kesler will be tougher to find.
On the wings there is a plethora of mean, angry players…should the Canucks decide to get their goon on: George Parros, Tom Kostopoulos, Jordin Tootoo, Brandon Prust, Arron Asham, Cam Janssen, Brad Staubitz and Brian Mcgrattan. I personally would love to see Tootoo or Parros in a Canucks uniform. They can play a little bit, hit a ton and drop the gloves with anyone should they mess around with the twins. Parros’ moustache alone would be a hit here in Vancouver. The Canucks can also use some players who can put the puck in the net. The dream would be Zach Parise, but he is the dream of every GM in the league this off-season. Here are some others that might tickle your fancy: Brad Boyes, David Moss, Andrei Kostitsyn, P-A Parenteau, Shane Doan, Alex Semin and this would never happen…Jaromir Jagr. I would take Parenteau or Semin in a heartbeat, those guys can put the points up in a hurry. I love Shane Doan, but I can’t see him going anywhere but Phoenix or Winnipeg. This we know for sure, the Canucks will address secondary scoring this offseason, if it’s not with the guys above then via the trade route for sure.
In my opinion the Canucks are at a crossroads. They’re a team that is trying to figure out their identity. Are they going to be an offensive juggernaut? Or how about a big bruising team? Or maybe a boring defensive trap like team? They need to figure it out sooner than later because the Sedin winning window won’t be open forever. The Canucks have pieces to build a championship team around…it will be up to Mike Gillis and his staff in their most challenging offseason yet, to find the right pieces to finally push this team to the top of the hockey world.