Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
Now that the 2011 NHL Entry Draft has concluded, the Canucks now get down to business with Free Agency, which is only three days away.
A few of the UFA (Kevin Bieksa) and RFA (Maxim Lapierre) players have been re-signed or have received qualifying offers (Jannik Hansen and Victor Oreskovich). Bieksa’s cap hit ($4.6 million) was where I figured it would be, although I thought it would the same money as Dan Hamhuis received ($4.5 million), but what’s a $100,000 in the grand scheme of things.
As mentioned previously, I don’t feel that Christian Ehrhoff will re-sign for the Bieksa money and will test the Free Agent market. If you have followed this site before, then you already know my feelings about Ehrhoff, and the Canucks will be better without him.
One thing is for certain, he’s not a better player than Hamhuis and Bieksa, so giving him more money doesn’t make sense. I’m not going to go into the remaining Canucks Free Agents because I covered that in a previous article.
What I would like to speak about is what’s left in the Free Agent market and what the Canucks might do with their remaining $13 million of cap space.
Some forwards that would have helped the Canucks have been re-signed like Capitals Brooks Laich or had their rights traded to another team, as the Hawks shipped Tomas Kopecky’s rights to the Panthers for a seventh round pick.
A number of UFA forwards that are available are out of the Canucks price range, such as Brad Richards, and Simon Gagne, or are past their prime but still want the big money. Players like Alexei Kovalev, Jason Arnott, Teemu Selanne and Michal Handzus come to mind in that category.
I do think that Arnott, even at 36, could help the Canucks if they could get him at around the $3 to 3.5 million ranges. He’s a leader, been a Captain with Nashville, and here’s the type of player the Canucks needed desperately in the play-offs.
Arnott goes 6’3”, 220 lbs. and plays centre, a position the Canucks were very thin on. Boston in the meantime, had seven centres and most of them were better in the face-off circle than the Canucks and tougher to play against.
Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler were playing injured, Manny Malhotra did not return until the second game of the finals, Maxim Lapierre did his best filling in for Malhotra and scoring a couple of goals, Cody Hodgson was not ready for prime time (will he ever be) and Alex Bolduc couldn’t beat out Hodgson.
To put it politely, the Canucks did not have any depth at centre and still don’t on their farm team, which is now the Chicago Wolves. Prospects at centre are still Cody Hodgson and Jordan Schroeder and Schroder is too small and Hodgson – does anyone realistically think he can beat out Sedin, Kesler, Malhotra or Lapierre at centre.
With the Canucks attempting to add some size, Schroeder looks destined to be a minor leaguer forever. Think about it, can you image Schroeder playing against Joe Thornton or any of the other NHL teams that have big, strong centres?
Joel Ward, a name you may remember from the Nashville series, is affordable if Nashville doesn’t re-sign him and his size (6’1″, 218 lbs.) is what the Canucks are looking for. In 2008-09 he did score 17 goals along with 18 assists and played a feisty game in the play-offs.
I still like Tomas Kopecky, his size (6’, 3”, 205), scoring (15G, 27A, 60PIM – 2010-11), and could be had for about the same money as Raffi Torres if he doesn’t re-sign. Kopecky’s game as a Hawk, caught my eye the first time I saw him play against the Canucks in the play-offs. He’s big; he bangs and can stand up for himself.
One final player that I also think could fit in with the Canucks and replace someone like Tanner Glass, is Aaron Asham. I remember him when he played with the Flyers in the play-offs and Stanley Cup finals in 2009-10.
He’s not tall at 5’11” but his 205 lbs. and his physical play is definitely obvious. In his last season with the Flyers his stats were 10G, 14A, 126PIM which is a whole lot better than Tanner Glass or anyone else on the fourth line.
Here’s a player that could also play on the third line in place of Torres. I mentionedAsham last year at this time of the off-season and was hoping the Canucks would take a hard look at him. Maybe this time around they’ll consider him since they’re looking for some size, grit and talent.
Who knows if the Canucks will be active on July 1, but surely over the last three play-offs, GM Mike Gillis has seen enough to know that they need some more size, grit, talent, and depth at centre, to win the Stanley Cup.
Footnotes: I noticed that D-man Cam Barker was put on waivers. Now that would be an interesting addition for the Canucks. Apparently the Canucks are trying to shop Ehrhoff’s rights before July 1.
Photo Credits – AP, Getty Images, Google Images and Yahoo Sports!
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Filed under: Vancouver Canucks