With the recent report that another Vancouver Canucks defenseman (Kevin Bieksa) has been placed on the injured list (five to date), this now allows management to view the three young rookies – Chris Tanev, Yann Sauve and Evan Oberg’s – play under NHL game conditions. Granted, the Canucks were not expecting to have to go 13 deep into the depth chart, but hey, it is what it is.
I realize that the off-season is still two to four months ahead but that doesn’t stop the possible negotiations of the following players that will become UFA’s at the end of this season. They are: Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo, Christian Ehrhoff and Andrew Alberts. That is $11.4 million worth of contracts that the Canucks must decide on who they can afford to resign.
What will help in this decision making will be who among the young Manitoba Moose D-men will be ready to step into the NHL next season? Chris Tanev’s NHL contract is worth $900,000 per season and he does not become an RFA until 2013-14. From the 13 games that he has played in so far, Tanev looks like he could rank somewhere between number seven to nine on the D-depth chart next season.
Obviously this depends on who the Canucks decide to resign. Word has it that Ehrhoff is looking for Dan Hamhis/Keith Ballard type of money and the Canucks cannot have all their top five D-men making an average of $4 million per season. The Canucks presently are spending the most ($62.7 M) amongst all the NHL teams.
If it were not for their LTIR players, they would have had to trade one of their starting eight D-men months ago. The Canucks are also so crunched by the salary cap, that they have no space to add an impact player at the trade deadline, unless they shed some current salary. But I digress.
During the next two to three weeks, while the five of the starting seven D-men are on the injured list, Yann Sauve and Evan Oberg will be thoroughly put to the test. How they stand up to this evaluation will aid the decision making on possibly more than one of the UFA D-men not returning.
Let’s not forget that Manitoba still has another young D-man that the Canucks feel will be part of their future, and that is Kevin Connauton. The Nucks have always liked his size 6’1, 200 lbs. and especially that booming point shot that he possesses. I thought he and Tanev were the best D-men in the Young Stars Tournament that took place before training camp.
From the first time that I watched Evan Oberg live in training camp two seasons ago, I have never been sold on him. At that time he was listed at 6’0 and 165 lbs. and he looked it. Although he has decent skills, how could he possibly match up with some of the NHL forwards, who would outweigh him by a minimum of 30 to 50 pounds? It’s no coincidence that he is only playing around ten minutes with the Canucks.
That training camp was also my first look at Yann Sauve and I must admit he has progressed since then. I liked his size at 6’3”, 220 lbs. but his mobility and defensive play at that time were behind all the other rookies. That is why he was sent back to his junior club that year.
If not for the concussion that Sauve suffered before this season’s training camp, which kept him from playing for three months, he may have been even further ahead than he is currently. Here is another good prospect.
The way the salary cap is working these days, it is not uncommon to have a couple of rookies in an NHL lineup which would help immensely. If the Canucks felt that they could make do without Salo’s $3.5 million and Ehrhoff’s $3.1 million or more that he would be looking for, than Sauve’s $875,000 per season salary, which runs to 2013-14 and Tanev’s amount ($900,000), would save them $4.8 million alone.
This would then allow the Canucks to resign Bieksa and Alberts and maybe another number six or seven experienced NHL D-man.
Anyway you look at it, the Canucks are going to have to make some salary cap decisions on the back-end, and although the team may suffer short term during these current injuries with the rookie mistakes, the benefit is long term.
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Filed under: Vancouver Canucks