July 05 2011 10:45AM
The Juice is Loose with the Canucks for five more years!
Who else did the Canucks wrangle for the upcoming season?
(Photo by Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
When your team reaches the Stanley Cup Final and gets within one game of winning, it's pretty hard to rationalize any sweeping changes to your team's roster.
A minor adjustment here... a tweak there... and hulking power forward to play along side Ryan Kesler. You know... the little things.
Well, two out of three ain't bad and we knew the third wasn't going to come easy, fast or cheap.
Free Agency Frenzy was anything but in the Canucks organization. The rest of the league, especially in the East, went Weston-Cage-levels of batsh*t insane. The Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres were spending money like they were Monty Brewster trying to collect an inheritance. All the while, GM Mike Gillis - even-keeled as always - stood pat for the most part and let capilicious terror reign supreme.
So what DID Mike Gillis and company do this week? Let's look at the tape!
Marco Sturm, Andrew Ebbett, Mark Mancari, Steve Pinizzotto
Gillis's signing of Sturm ($2.25m/1yr) is reminiscent of the Raffi Torres deal last year - a reclamation project for a player trying to get his game back on track, at seemingly low-risk/high reward. Sturm is a 7-time 20-goal scorer who's been beset by injuries lately, playing only 35 games last year and only 19 games in 08-09. He certainly has the pedigree to add some much needed scoring depth and can move up the depth chart to fill a spot due to injury. But he isn't the 2nd line winger for which the Canucks are still searching, but he will likely serve as an adequate fill-in for the injured Mason Raymond on Kesler's wing while Raymond recovers from his serious back injury.
Ebbett ($525k/1yr) is a small, quick player who likely serves a Tambellini-like role. It's hard to see him getting much ice time this year, given the way the roster is shaping up. But he's VERY versatile and can play almost any role on the team.
Mancari and Pinizotto are acquisitions for the Canucks new farm team, the Chicago Wolves, in order to fill their roster. You MIGHT see a bit of them on the fourth line this year, but I wouldn't count on either guy playing more than a couple of games with the Canucks this year.
Christian Ehrhoff, Raffi Torres, Tanner Glass, Jeff Tambellini, Guillaume Desbiens, Rick Rypien, Alex Bolduc.
Ehrhoff was basically offered the same deal that Bieksa received, and he turned it down. So off he went to Buffalo (via Long Island) and signed a TEN-YEAR, $40 MILLION deal. To which all rational Canucks fans said "Thank you Gillis!" In fact, the Ehrhoff deal was the kickoff to the free agent contract lunacy. Ehrhoff's offensive prowess will be missed, but I'm one who thinks that if Keith Ballard can get his game back on track and come to camp healthy, he's capable of 40 points, especially if he was given the sheltered minutes that Ehrhoff had this past year.
The case for keeping Raffi Torres is "Man, you can't replace that toughness!" and "The Canucks just got softer." Really? REALLY?! While I think Torres played some solid, hard minutes for the Canucks, let's remember that he was off more than he was on, scored only 7 points in 23 playoff games. As the Canucks are trying to get scoring depth, Torres isn't an aswer for that. And lest we forget everyone fuming at Torres for trying to behead Jordan Eberle and Brent Seabrook. Oh.. and also, the Canucks still have Hamhuis, Bieksa, Edler, Alberts, Lapierre, Oreskovich and will likely re-sign Hansen. They have dudes who are tough and can hit. And if the Canucks DO sign a hulking 2nd line winger, it will likely be someone who can score and hit. For the stat geeks out there, Torres was 6th in team hits during the playoffs, behind Bieksa, Lapierre, Edler, Kesler and Higgins.
Glass and Rypien were picked up as UFA's to play in Winnipeg with the newly minted Jets. Bolduc will join Torres in Phoenix and Tambellini has stated that he intends to go play in Europe this coming year. I sure like Tambellini but he just wasn't going to get ice time on the Canucks with the way he plays. As for the rest... meh. See ya.
Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo, Maxim Lapierre, Chris Higgins, Andrew Alberts, Nolan Baumgartner.
The Bieksa/Hamhuis pairing should have Canucks defensive fans salivating. I know I am. They were a formidable pairing during the playoffs, and both improved each other's game. They could very likely become a Top 5 pairing in the league this year. The Bieksa signing was, at first, a blessing. A closer look at the numbers ($4.6m/5yrs) suggest that it isn't quite the hometown discount that Juice indicated he was willing to take. That said, if you compare his cap hit last year (6.32% of team cap) to this year (7.39%), it's a marginal increase at best. Bieksa proved his worth during the regular season and playoffs. For him now, he simply must stay as healthy as possible because he and Hamhuis will be workhorses this year.
Salo ($2m/1yr) signed an ACTUAL hometown discount, taking a sizable decrease in salary to stay in Vancouver. Salo's presence solidifies the Canucks top 5 defensemen for this year.
Lapierre ($1m/2yrs) and Higgins ($1.9m/2yrs), both deadline acquisitions last year, proved to be playoff performers and valuable contributors. Lapierre will very likely be the permanent 4th line center, while Higgins will be a third line winger with the ability to move up to the 2nd line. Both good deals, as they both probably took slightly less money in order to get 2 year deals, instead of 1 year.
Alberts ($1.225m/2yrs) will still be a 6/7th defenseman, but has steadily (yet marginally) improved during his time in Vancouver. Although this does seem like a lot to play a guy who will come in and out of the lineup, given that Aaron Rome makes $750K. As for Baumgartner, he'll be with the Wolves in Chicago, guiding along the new guys trying to make their way to the Show.
Who's Left to Sign?
Jannik Hansen, Victor Oreskovich
The Canucks announced today that Hansen has filed for arbitration, a move which surprises no one. Hansen made a mere $825K last year and, as a Restricted Free Agent, received a qualifying offer from the Canucks - which would have been $866,250 at the standard 5% rate. I'm in the same boat as most folks, in that I believe that Hansen and the Canucks will strike a deal before the arbitration hearing. If I was to hazard a guess, I would say that it would be something around $1.4m for three years.
Oreskovich was also qualified by the Canucks, and will also likely re-sign with the Canucks, although there has been no announcement regarding an arbitration hearing. I suspect that Oreo will take the qualified offer and sign.
The Canucks still have all summer to sign their coveted 2nd line winger. But really, that's the only thing that the Canucks have to do. The rest of the lineup looks solid, with almost everyone returning. Hansen and Oreskovich are actually fairly important signings, as they add toughness and hitting that many folks feel the Canucks need.