September 04 2009 02:30PM
There was some worry around Vancouver over the length of new contract extension signed by Roberto Luongo. Some said that it was too long, and that the Canucks were married to Luongo for better or worse with no ability to move him. However, we learn now that there are clauses in Luongo's contract that benefit both him and the Canucks and give both parties a way out.
This creates only one thing - a specific window of opportunity for the Vancouver Canucks to be a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup.
So, can they do it?
Jason Botchford reports in the Vancouver Province that Roberto Luongo's contract has two specific and meaningful clauses. If Luongo does not like the direction or progress that the Canucks have taken, he can ask out of Vancouver after the fifth year of the contract (after the 2015-16 season). Likewise, the Canucks have the same option two years later (after the 2017-18 season).
So the question is: "Can the Canucks make a real go at the Stanley Cup in the next six years?".
This year, the Canucks are arguably the deepest team in the NHL from the blueline back. They have eight NHL-caliber defencemen, an all-world goalie, and a goalie prospect who is seemingly ready to make his break into the league. They have also secured the Sedins, who are both point-a-game players, for the next five years. They have blossoming prospects in Cody Hodgson and Michael Grabner, as well as couple of defensive prospects who will likely make the leap to the big leagues in the next 2-3 years.
All of the question marks for the Canucks and their ability to become a true contender for the Cup lie in get another top 6 forward, preferably a pure goal scorer. The Canucks currently have a decent lineup up front, with the Sedins, Mikael Samuelsson, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Steve Bernier, Kyle Wellwood, and others. Pavol Demitra has seen better days and will certainly not play a full season. Kesler and Burrows, while they have improved dramatically over the past two years, shouldn't be relied upon for your sole secondary scoring. Mikael Samuelsson is a great addition to the club, but it's unlikely that he'll pot more than 25 goals this year.
Mike Gillis must therefore acquire a real top 6 scoring forward, and soon. He has the horses to trade away from defence right now, so he's in a good position to make the right deal. He also has a goalie prospect in Cory Schneider who will garner interest from many teams.
Will that goal-scoring forward be enough to get the Canucks close, if not all the way, to the Stanley Cup in the next six years? Are they only one missing piece away from completing this puzzle? I believe so. The Canucks were a top 8 team last year, both in terms of their standing in the regular season and their finish in the post-season. Many believed before the start of the Chicago series that the Canucks should have won, but were beaten by a faster, younger Blackhawks squad. The Canucks have addressed their concerns on defence, getting talent that is younger and faster, and has a much better ability to make that first pass out of the defensive zone.
Gillis and Canucks management has done what's necessary to fix the blueline. Now he needs to finish off the forward lines and bring in a sniper. If Gillis can do that, the Canucks will be a real contender for the Stanley Cup in the next two years, let alone the next six.
Who knows? They may even win it! Well, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.