Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
In about a month to month and a half, Canucks GM Mike Gillis will have his toughest decision to make since he joined the management ranks. Hey, isn’t this why he gets paid the big bucks?
This has to do with the return of D-man Sami Salo and how to get under the salary cap.
The Canucks are currently at $63.1 million with $3.8M of that carried by the LTIR (source – capgeek.com) of Sami Salo. Ah yes the LTIR. This is my understanding about the LTIR.
The LTIR of $3.8 million which counts towards the cap, plus the salaries ($59.3), equals the current $63.1. Now this LTIR amount, from what I understand, is more than Salo’s salary, since it occupies only $3.5 million of the $3.8. That leaves another $346,796 to shed also, but I’ll deal with that later.
Before Salo’s injury all fingers pointed to Kevin Bieksa’s $3.75 million, as the player that would most likely be traded, but with Bieksa playing his best hockey since 2006-07 this is not a foregone conclusion. Bieksa may not reach the point totals of that season (42) or the 43 points from 2008-09 but his defensive play without the puck has been very good recently (+2) along with his reads.
Bieksa’s feistiness has really been prevalent lately with a couple of scraps where he scored a decision over his opponent. His most loyal supporter Coach Alain Vigneault, has always favoured Bieksa since their days together in Manitoba, would surely press Gillis to keep him if at all possible.
Also, Gillis would not be inclined to trade Bieksa to a Western Conference opponent that could end up coming back to bite him in the butt. So that would mean trading him to an Eastern Conference team in order to shed the salary. This is a very similar predicament that the Boston Bruins are in with Marco Sturm but that’s their problem.
The Canucks cannot trade Sami Salo due to his no trade clause nor do I see them moving Alex Edler, or the two D-man they acquired in the off-season, Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard. So that leaves only Christian Ehrhoff, who is a UFA at the end of this season and his $3.1 million contract.
Problem here is, how do you justify trading Ehrhoff that is second in points with 14 (4G,10A) amongst the defensive core, leads the team in +/- with a plus 6, tops among the D-man in power play goals (3), second behind Alex Edler in power play assists (8) and ice time (609:25) and has half the amount of giveaways (12) than Bieksa’s team leading 24?
I don’t think you do unless you feel that Bieksa’s tougher demeanour and the possibility of him getting back to a 42 point season, is worth more than the above Ehrhoff stats. In other words, who brings the most all around value to the team?
Even if they trade either one, the Canucks would still be left with $500 to $700,000 to clear. This would mean moving a couple of fourth line types of contracts ($500 to 625,000) or Jannik Hansen’s $825,000 but that part is the least of the Gillis dilemma. He could just place whoever on waivers.
By having to shed a D-man this also weakens the depth, which was one of the Canucks priorities in the off-season that they attempted to fill, for a long run into the play-offs. I have watched on “Moose TV” and I don’t see anybody down in Manitoba that could fill a bottom rung spot on the depth chart.
Let’s all not forget that Salo has a history of injuries and will he make it through the season? Because if not the Canucks would really be in a jam with no depth.
All this must be keeping Gillis up at nights wondering how he’s going to solve this cap issue.
I don’t see any forward that they would move because all that would do is defeat the purpose that they worked on in the off-season, which was to create some balance in the scoring from all three lines.
Ryan Kesler and the Sedins aren’t going anywhere and even if the Canucks thought they could move someone else, it would take two players to make up the salary cap difference of $3.8 million. So with that, it leads me back to Ehrhoff or Bieksa.
Does management feel that their current depth with Aaron Rome, Albert Andrews and possibly Ryan Parent, is sufficient to dump the salaries of Ehrhoff or Bieksa? Therein probably lays the answer.
However this turns out, it is going to be the toughest decision that Mike Gillis has made to date in his tenure as the GM and I don’t see it helping the Canucks towards their ultimate goal. Stay tuned as this date draws nearer and the development unfolds.
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Filed under: Vancouver Canucks