June 11 2013 10:27AM
Unless you're a fan of one of the two teams set to compete for the 2013 Stanley Cup, you're probably spending your time these days trying to figure out ways in which your team can improve their chances of competing for the title next season. This is probably most true for fans of the Vancouver Canucks, whose past run-ins with this year's finalists have them hoping that there's some scenario in which both teams lose and the Cup gets rolled over to next season.
At this point, most of the contrived schemes for improving the Canucks are just harmless speculation and banter, since this period serves as the calm before the storm. While there has been the odd noteworthy move here and there - i.e. Sergei Gonchar being traded to the Stars, Roman Josi receiving an extension from the Predators - things will really only begin to heat up once a champion has been crowned.
When that happens, though, expect all hell to break loose. In case you had forgotten, everything about this NHL season was thrown out of whack due to the lockout; a condensed 48-game scheduled, followed by an entry draft on June 30th (with all 7 rounds taking place during one hectic day), and a free agency period which has been pushed back to July 5th.
Beyond the draft and free-agency, one way to improve a team is on the trade market. It's easy (and quite fun) to sit at home and concoct outlandish trades that would only ever really happen in a fantasy league. But we'll leave that sort of stuff to the message boards. For a deal to actually happen, there usually needs to be at least two willing parties that benefit from said trade (if only in their minds). Sometimes it can be rather difficult to find a natural fit between two teams, but for the Canucks, there might just be a suitable trade partner in the Philadelphia Flyers.
Read on Past the Jump for More.
I should preface this all by pointing out that the Flyers, and their GM Paul Holmgren, have shown in recent years that they're sort of a wild card. For NHL franchises, they're as close as it gets to the Tyson Zone. At this point there very few headlines regarding the Flyers that would cause me to double-take. They're capable of pulling anything off, as far as I'm concerned. So trying to predict what they will or will not do is kind of foolish in a sense...
The Flyers are a flawed team, no doubt, with their big holes being on the back-end (stop giggling!), and in net. They finished 23rd in the league in goals against/game (2.90), and things got so bad with Ilya Bryzgalov towards the end of the season that the Flyers legitimately began to talk themselves into the idea that Steve Mason could be the solution.
If you'll recall, they inked the man affectionately referred to as "Breezy" to a $51 million deal in 2011, spanning 9 years. However, his time in Philly could be up, according to Bob McKenzie:
It's not carved in stone, but in spite of what has been said in past, I expect PHI is likely to use compliance buyout on Ilya Bryzgalov.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 8, 2013
Buying out Bryzgalov would be a tough pill to swallow for the Flyers, given the committment they made to the most interesting man alive just two years ago. But it's also a move that would give them the cap flexibility to do a whole host of other things. According to CapGeek, the buyout would cost them $23 million spread over the next 14 seasons. In case you were wondering, the buying out of one Roberto Luongo's contract comes to just north of $27 million spread over 18 years.
We need to keep in mind that when they went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, their goaltending tandem was the deadly duo of Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher. Given that fact, and the unmitigated disaster that was their experience with Bryzgalov, they may be reluctant to dish out the money for another high-priced goaltender. Their hesitance would be understandable, but it's undeniable that Luongo would be able to cover up some of the warts that they have along the blue-line.
Speaking of: if you want to stump people at the bar this weekend with some random hockey trivia, just ask them to name the defensemen that suited up for the Flyers this past season. It's quite a comical list, actually.
In order of games played: Luke Schenn (47), Kimmo Timonen (45), Bruno Gervais (37), Braydon Coburn (33), Nicklas Grossman (30), Erik Gustafsson (27), Kurtis Foster (23), Mike Jones (21), Oliver Lauridsen (15), Andrej Meszaros (11), Kent Huskins (8), Seymour Butts (7), Brandon Manning (6), Andreas Lilja (4), Matthew Konan (2).
I only made two of those names up, I swear.
But that's not even really the most depressing part. For this coming season, the Flyers are set to dish out $33.1 million (including signing bonuses) to the likes of Schenn, Timonen, Coburn, Meszaros, Grossman, and Pronger (who is on LTIR).
I'd say they could use some help on that front, wouldn't you?
The Canucks find themselves in a favourable position as it relates to their defensive corps. Over the next three season, they have their current top-4 locked up at a combined cap hit of $18.7 million. While the money that was thrown at Roman Josi has to have made people in Vancouver uneasy, I'd still like to believe that the team will be able to retain Chris Tanev's services at a reasonable price. Especially since the negiotations will be between Tanev himself, and the wizard known as Laurence Gilman.
Keith Ballard will more than likely be bought out or traded, and Frank(ie) Corrado will surely be given a chance on the team's 3rd pairing given he acquitted himself quite well while being thrust into a less than ideal situation at the end of the season.
Exactly a month ago, Jason Botchford wrote an article in which he suggested that the only way for the team to properly re-tool its roster would be through an Edler trade:
"An Edler deal also leads to more Jason Garrison. This, is a good thing. He was their best player in the first round and criminally under-utilized."
"The L.A. Kings won a Stanley Cup by trading defenceman Jack Johnson for Jeff Carter. The Penguins got James Neal for their puck-mover Alex Goligoski. The Blues reshaped their organization by trading Erik Johnson for Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk."
"Edler is better than them all. His no-trade clause doesn’t kick in until July, giving the Canucks opportunity to create a market, which should include the desperate Philadelphia Flyers and the Anaheim Ducks. How would a Sean Couturier change the Canucks dynamics? A Wayne Simmonds?"
I'm personally a big Alex Edler fan. Thanks to the market he plays in, his play is examined under a microscope, which doesn't exactly lend itself ideally to the type of player that he is. When he's "on", he's a fantastic player, and one that really is difficult to replace. Unfortunately, he's also prone to stretches of play where he disappears, and that rubs many fans the wrong way.
Given his age (27), his cap hit ($5 million), and his production in recent years (146 points in 254 games since 2009), I'm well aware of his value to the team. But it's also the reason he would net the biggest return, and by trading him, the Canucks would be dealing from a position of strength in an attempt to shore up a major hole on their team up-front.
Jeff Angus just finished a 3-part series in which he looked at potential returns for Edler, with one of them being Sean Couturier. It has been thought that he was a guy that the Flyers, rightfully, weren't willing to part with, despite their clear needs on defense. However, McKenzie followed up his Bryzgalov tweet (from above) with another:
Also, PHI is in market for D and may be willing to move one of their young centres - B Schenn or Couturier - for the right deal.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 8, 2013
While I agree with Jeff for the most part, I would say that I'm more bullish on Couturier. In fact, I'd prefer him over him his teammate, given not only what he has done thus far but how his game projects. As crazy as it sounds, the Canucks may still be able to get in on the ground floor with him. He's a 20-year old center - listed at 6'4'', for all of you out there that get off on size - that has already shown the ability to handle the tough minutes at the NHL level.
While his production hasn't been there yet, I feel confident that it'll come as soon as he stops being buried (while being matched up with absolute scrubs on his wings). He had 192 points in 126 games spanning his final two seasons in the Q, and registered 28 points in 31 games in the AHL during the lockout.
Friend of the blog, Corey Pronman, listed him as the 24th best player under 23 years old in the NHL, and put him above Brayden Schenn, noting that he believes Couturier has "a ton of offensive potential". For what it's worth, Couturier has one year left on his ELC at $1.375, while Schenn is slated to make $3.11. That means that both guys will be RFAs next summer.
Fans of the team have been clamouring for a major shake-up for quite some time now, yet Gillis has held his ground. He stubbornly, if not wisely, refused to trade Roberto Luongo unless his terms were met despite the writing being on the wall for months. But then came the sweep in the first round, and the firing of the most successful coach in the franchise's history. In his press conference to end the season, his tone seemed to suggest that changes (legitimate ones, and not just tinkering) were coming.
If anyone really is capable of getting Mike Gillis and the Canucks involved in a #boldmove, I'd think it would be the Philadelphia
Loose Cannons Flyers.