Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
With Free Agency a week away and some pressing matters still not resolved with the Canucks own Free Agents, who will walk and who will stay? This of course will trigger the need to replace these players, so let’s have a look at the possibilities.
UFA’s on Defense:
Kevin Bieksasure sounds like he wants to stay and who wouldn’t want to play beside Dan Hamhuis. They both had career year in plus/minus, as Bieksa led the team with a +32 and Hamhuis was third with a +29.
With the Canucks missing a Norris Trophy candidate/winner in their line-up, these two may have to combine to be that player.
Bieksa finished with a salary of $3.75 million and he better be willing to stay for no more than Hamhuis’ $4.5 million. With Hamhuis being recognized as the number one D-man, no one should make more than him.
Coach Vigneault has always been a strong supporter of Bieksa and likes his toughness. This team definitely needs to add not subtract in that area. I believe Bieksa will stay, which is completely opposite from last year at this time.
Christian Ehrhoffwill want more than the $3.1 million he was paid last season to re-sign and if he can get more than $4.5, than I believe it will have to be with another team. I stand behind my statement that no one is worth more than Hamhuis unless it is a Shea Weber type.
I believe that there are other D-men that are tougher to play against and don’t lead their team in giveaways each season, so Ehrhoff would not be as big a loss as you may think. As far as replacing his 50 points per season, let’s not forget that if Alex Edler had not been injured, he would have led all D-men in points with around 60. So with Edler and Bieksa playing the points on the power play, they could easily replacethat production lost from Ehrhoff.
Sami Salowill be 37 next year and everyone knows how fragile he is. At times in the play-offs Mike Gillis said he was their best D-man. Finishing with a salary of $3.5 million, Salo will have to take that home town discount in order to stay.
From what Sami had to say about it after the play-offs, it sounds like he would like to be back for another shot at a Stanley Cup.
One year is all I can see for Sami and about $1.75 million may be all that’s available. Do the Canucks re-sign Salo or do they look for someone a little younger, cheaper and more physical?
I believe that will depend if Kevin Connauton or Yann Sauve have progressed enough, for the Canucks too be able to calculate their position on the depth chart.
Andrew Alberts – I like what this player brings to the club and early in the season was their best D-man for a number of weeks. This was during a period when Salo, Hamhuis and Keith Ballard were out. Here’s a D-man that plays to his strengths which is blocking shots and hitting.
Sure he’s not the fastest amongst the D-men, but he makes good first passes and if not for his wrist injury late in the season, he would have been in the top three in blocked shots. Having played in only 42 games he did finish with 49 blocked shots and had 113 hits – tops among the D-men.
Alberts proved very valuable in the play-offswhen the Canucks defense needed some physical presence, and was being whittled down by the Bruins. As I have said many times, nine D-men is not enough for the regular and play-off season. At a little over $1 million I would hope that Gillis re-signs him if he can.
Lee Sweatt, an RFA, is too small for what the Canucks should be building towards. Sweatt may be valuable as a D-man on the farm team but not as an NHL D-man. I’m sure he’s heard this throughout his career, but it is what it is.
RFA’s Maxim Lapierre and Jannik Hansen, are your prototype third line players that a team needs in the play-offs. They might not look all that exciting during the regular season but the Nucks Nations saw what they did in the play-offs.
Lapierre proved that he could fit in when he was added towards the end of the season and proved to be the ace up the sleeve when Malhotra went down. I would think that Lapierre would return to the fourth line next season and knowing that you have depth at centre, is as important as on defense and in goal. He should return.
If Manny Malhotra can return to his pre-injury form, that line with Raffi Torres should be even more effective come play-offs. Speaking of Raffi Torres, a UFA, he did finish with 14G, 15 for 29 points which was the same point total as Hansen and one less than Malhotra.
I would think that Torres will want more than the $1 million and one year contract he signed for during the off-season, but at what price?
He may want to double that salary along with the term and that will depend on what’s left after the others re-sign. Torres has been paid as much as $2.75 million (2009-10) but if he’s looking for that kind of money, I don’t think it will be in Vancouver. He may get his two year contract but I would think it would be for $1.75 million.
So if Torres gets around the amount that I suggested, Hansen must be worth close to the same. Jannik finished second in hits with 149 and with his speed was a factor in most of the play-off games up to the finals. Coaches and management are high on what he provides so I can see Hansen returning.
Chris Higgins made Gillis look like the GM of the Year that he was. After bouncing around three other teams over the last two seasons, no one was sure what they were getting.
Higgins turned out to be more physical than I had remembered him to bewhen he was with the Canadiens,and he does possess a scoring touch. Along with his speed it would be interesting to see how he would do with Ryan Kesler for a full season.
I could see Higgins returning to a 20 goal season with Kesler and he sure didn’t look out of place in the play-offs. If Higgins can settle on somewhere within the $2 to 2.25 million I think the Canucks would like him back.
This also makes sense in light of Mason Raymond’s injury, which may have him out until November.
With the Canucks needing to get bigger, tougher and add some scoring to the fourth line, I don’t see Tanner Glass or Jeff Tambellini returning. Since they already have Victor Oreskovich and if they qualify Lapierre, than they still need to add a couple other players that fit that mould.
The NHL Free Agency list is full of those types of players, it just a matter of who the Canucks want to add in place of Glass and Tambellini.
Footnotes: Next up will be some of the Free Agents I feel the Canucks should go after.
Photo Credits – AP, Getty Images, Google Images and Yahoo Sports!
To catch all the news, updates and new articles as they occur, along with the Canucks farm team, the Moose, you can follow me at http://twitter.com/nucksiceman.
Note: www.nucksiceman.com is now mobile friendly. From the web address on your iPhone, you can choose Options/Mobile formatted and the site will appear in its entire living colour for you to view. Check it out.
Filed under: Vancouver Canucks