It's that dreaded time of the year when the excitement of the draft is over and the anticipation of July 1st for Free Agency day is just starting to kick in.
It should be a day of even more nervousness for Canucks fans, as it could be the end of an era here in Vancouver should the Sedin twins hit the open market and sign with another team. It's suspected that long-time blueliner Mattias Ohlund will not return to Vancouver, and this speculation is further fueled by the fact that his house in Vancouver is now up for sale.
In the case that the Sedin Twins do indeed leave Vancouver, let's make a few things clear:
- It's not that the Canucks organization didn't want them, their contract demands were just not what the management felt was best for the team.
- The Canucks will still have over 20 million in cap to pursue other hot agents such as Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik, Mike Cammalleri and others to compensate for their departure, and
- Roberto Luongo's contract extension might be a little bit more insecure than we originally thought.
Any organization that signs any player to 12 years must be 200% sure in their investment. And that's what it is; an investment, and the stock markets haven't exactly been the friendliest things nowadays. But the fact that the Sedins both want 12 years @ 63 million dollars is not just one, but two major investments that could very well sink the Canucks franchise as much as it could push them over the top.
Is there any question that the Sedins are top-line players? Certainly not, but to hold them in the Vincent Lecavalier, Henrik Zetterberg, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby-like contract lengths is a reach for any organization- Especially when you consider Daniel and Henrik's highest career totals in the regular season are 84 and 82 points respectively. Not exactly franchise-like numbers.
But despite not having eye-popping statistics, it's evident that these two are the go-to guys for the Vancouver Canucks, and have been for the past 4 years.. But should they be for the next 12? I don't think so. We know of their obvious weaknesses when it comes to physical games, and I think I speak for all Vancouver fans when I say they need to learn to shoot the puck more- and I haven't really seen them take the lead when it comes to a shootout, so there are still some major flaws to their game. With that said, I think Gillis would be wise in letting the Sedins test the market and see just how much they go for.. I'm sure there are some teams willing to bite on such a contract demand, but it won't be the Vancouver Canucks.
But just what should a Canuck fan expect when it comes to July 1st? For my part, I think we can expect 2 trades and solid offers to a top-line forward and an offensive defenseman.
As it is, the Vancouver Canucks have too many forwards under contract for next year:
- Ryan Kesler
- Alex Burrows
- Steve Bernier
- Mason Raymond
- Ryan Johnson
- Rick Rypien
- Darcy Hordichuk
- Cody Hodgson
- Michael Grabner
*Indicates AHL players from 2008/2009
If Cody Hodgson continues to work hard this summer and gain a few more pounds, I think there is absolutely no doubt that "CoHo" will find himself playing under the bright lights of GM Place come October.
Michael Grabner could also be a potential roster player after an exhilarating AHL Calder Cup playoffs in which he scored a team-high 10 goals. His speed, offensive awareness and instincts as well as his tendency to shoot-first would be a valuable asset on the team.
After solid career years for both Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows, it's expected that these two are going to be given every opportunity come training camp to solidify themselves as top-6 players.
So the "odd one out" seems to be Mason Raymond (If you take into account that Steve Bernier was re-signed almost days after the Canucks were eliminated from the playoffs, indicating that management would like to see him develop) who struggled to find a consistent role on the team last year.
There are a lot of good assets to Raymond's game. Speed, versatility, youth.. But he hasn't found the toolbox to put it all together. A fresh start in another team that could really put some emphasis on his speed and offense could be the change he needs. I'm sorry to see Mason being the odd man out, because he's been a great character guy, but his return could be important to the Canucks in this year's off-season. Take into consideration that Mason Raymond could round-out to be a player in Matthew Lombardi's role-- a pivotal, speedy forward that provides excellent offensive versatility, but also phenomenal defensive awareness and a danger on the Penalty Kill.
If Mason Raymond is to be traded, and Roberto Luongo is extended, that also makes it possible for AHL goalie-of-the-year Cory Schneider to leave the organization as well. His return would be considerably more than Mason Raymond's, and his stock is exceptionally high right now.
So, to bring it all back, I expect the Canucks to be busy in trades involving the two aforementioned players, but also to be very key players in this year's Free Agency. Marian Gaborik has indeed purchased a home in Vancouver, and I suspect he's had enough of Kesler checking him down everytime Minnesota and the Canucks had to play.
Finally, Gillis hasn't given Canucks fans a reason to doubt his motives or actions yet.. So why start now?