Canucks Team Needs: Secondary Scoring

Jeff Angus
June 18 2013 10:53AM

We kicked off "Team Needs" week at Canucks Army on Monday with a look at third-line centre options this offseason. That series continues today with a look at top-six forward options.

I looked at some second line options last week (including David Clarkson and Valtteri Filppula), and that analysis will be expanded upon a bit in today’s post. Let’s assume that Ryan Kesler remains at center and the Canucks find themselves in the market for a top six right winger at a bargain basement price (a very realistic scenario). Who is available in-house? How about on the trade market?

The Diagnosis

Secondary scoring has been a problem with the Canucks over the past two seasons, especially in the playoffs. David Booth was brought in to help in that department but outside of a solid stretch of play in 2011-12, he has failed to deliver in the way of tangible production. Basically David Booth drives play when he's healthy, but he doesn't drive offense.

Assuming that David Booth and Ryan Kesler are put together on the second line, and that in an ideal world Jannik Hansen and Chris Higgins hold down third line roles, what type of player do the Canucks need to best compliment them? The answer is an easy one – a playmaker. That doesn’t mean that the third player on that line has to be Henrik Sedin 2.0, though, which is good since that player doesn't really exist. Booth and Kesler are both shoot-first players, and finding a winger who sees the ice and can get both of them the puck in prime scoring areas would be the best course of action for Mike Gillis to take.

Playmakers typically play center, as the position allows them to spend more time with the puck on their stick (which is why many believe that Kesler may be best suited for the right wing with a more "typical" center). However, there are a number of elite (or very good) playmakers on the wing, including Martin St. Louis, PA Parenteau, Daniel Sedin, and Patrick Kane.

For all of his faults, Booth is still relatively young, he has a proven track record of production, and his underlying numbers have always been good. I think the eye test is just as important in Booth’s case (bad luck has been a factor, sure), and he hasn’t really looked comfortable in a Vancouver sweater. He zigs when his linemates zag. He shoots when he shouldn't, and seems to have trouble at times with even the most basic stickhandling maneuvers. He was particularly out of sorts during Vancouver’s first round defeat against Los Angeles in 2013.

We all know what to expect from a healthy Kesler. He’s one of the best two-way forwards in hockey. He’s a power play dynamo. He wins faceoffs and plays a lot. But can he maintain his aggressive style of play and avoid injury? Kesler hasn’t just had a few bumps and bruises over the past two years – torn labrums in both his hip and shoulder. Each of those is a very serious injury, procedure, and extensive recovery.

Possible In-House Solutions

Zack Kassian

In a perfect world, the Canucks use whatever limited cap space they have this summer (currently none) to find a third line center and another defenseman, and Kassian reports to camp ready to play top six minutes. Kassian is exactly what the second line of Booth and Kesler would need in a linemate – he’s not fast, but he can keep up with them in terms of skating. Kassian’s best attribute is his vision and creativity. We have seen flashes of it over the past few years, but he is still lacking in the consistency department.

An example of said vision:

The Canucks won’t be expecting Kassian to play top six minutes next season (at least they shouldn’t). However, it would be a major boon to the team if he came to camp and earned that second line spot. He has top six abilities, but they don't show through consistently. Basically he has yet to take the next step with his development. Kassian ultimately is too skilled to be just a physical third or fourth line presence, and his solid first round against the Sharks (one of only two or three Canucks who can say that) was an encouraging sign heading into the summer.

Nicklas Jensen

On paper, at least, Vancouver’s 2011 1st round pick is also a great fit for a potential Booth-Kesler line. Jensen is a big body who sees the ice very well. Like Kassian, he isn’t a speedster, but he can move around the ice just fine. Jensen has more offensive upside than Kassian, but he also has more limited NHL experience. The Canucks definitely won’t enter the offseason assuming that he is ready for top six minutes (heck, even penciling him into the lineup is a stretch), but that doesn’t mean that they can’t hope for it.

The team wants to get bigger, younger, and stronger? Jensen hits all three of those.

Jannik Hansen/Chris Higgins 

Hansen and Higgins are both “tweeners” – players who are capable of playing on a scoring line in a pinch, but much better suited for third line responsibilities on a contending team. And if you promote one of them to the second line, you create another hole on line three.

The Open Market

I highlighted several UFA options last week. Among the players profiled – David Clarkson, Nathan Horton, and Jarome Iginla. Clarkson isn’t a playmaker in the slightest, but he is a possession monster who plays with an edge and makes his living in and around the opposition’s crease. He’d be the ideal signing for many teams this summer, Vancouver included. However, because of his unique attributes, he is very likely to command upwards of $5 million per season.

Here are a few other UFA options to fill the right wing position on line two:

Michael Ryder

Ryder has defied the typical production path of most offensive players, hitting career numbers in his early 30’s. He’s more scorer than playmaker, and he doesn’t bring a lot else to the table other than that beauty wrister. But offense is exactly what has let the Canucks down in recent years. Ryder had 21 points in 27 games with Montreal after coming over from Dallas last season, and he scored 35 goals with the Stars in 2011-12.

Montreal won’t be bringing him back, and the Canucks previously took a look at Ryder during Gillis’ first summer on the job in 2008 (Ryder turned down Vancouver’s three-year $12 million offer to sign an identical one with the Boston Bruins).

At the end of the day, Ryder has five 25+ goal seasons in the NHL. He can put the puck in the net. He turned 33 this summer, and something in the two-year range would be an ideal fit for Vancouver.

Damien Brunner

Brunner had a very solid North American debut with the Wings in 2012-13 – 26 points in 44 games, and five goals and nine points in 14 postseason contests. Although he isn’t big or particularly fleet of foot, he’s a skilled offensive player and is only 27 years old.

The Canucks got a sampling of what he can do back in late February:

Brunner only scored two goals in his final 25 regular season games, though. Was it other teams figuring him out, or did he hit a bit of a wall after scoring 10 in his first 19? Brunner played 91 games this season, combining his time in Switzerland during the lockout with his NHL rookie campaign. That is a lot of hockey for someone used to 40 or 50 games a season.

Brad Boyes

Boyes went to the Islanders on a cheap one-year deal and rebuilt his offensive game (and subsequently his value as a free agent). It was a calculated risk, and one that will likely pay off for him come July 5th. Playing with John Tavares and Matt Moulson will be his meal ticket to a big contract. He’s a solid player, and he has scored 40 goals before (although that was a while ago). Is he the right fit for the second line? Probably not, but he won’t cost as much as Clarkson or Horton.

Clarke MacArthur

Clarke MacArthur has failed to "eye test" for many Leafs fans, and also for headcoach Randy Carlyle. But he's been immensely productive in the recent past, is an under-rated playmaker, and drives play. Moreover, because he struggled last season in a severely limited role, he'll come an awful lot cheaper than the likes of Horton and Clarkson - players he's ultimately very comparable too. MacArthur might be one of the best potential value players on the market this summer.

Danny Briere

With the addition of Mark Streit, the writing is on the wall of Danny Briere in Philadelphia. Forty-eight hours after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final, Briere will be bought out and free to sign a standard player contract with the other 29 teams in the league. Briere's value has likely atrophied as a result of his diminished production the past couple of seasons, though as Cam Charron pointed out over at TheLeafsNation at least some of that is percentage and luck based. Briere has spent time playing the wing during his career, and certainly qualifies as a "playmaker" of the sort that we're talking about.

It is tough to speculate who the Canucks could pursue this summer, as they have zero cap space right now. There will be a lot of moving parts leading up to July 5th, though.

The Trade Market

For speculation’s sake, we looked at who the Canucks could target if they were to trade Alex Edler this summer (including Loui Eriksson, TJ Oshie, and Sean “every team wants to trade for me” Couturier. After seeing some of the contracts paid out to defensemen over the past week or so (Sergei Gonchar, Mark Streit, and Roman Josi), I think we can safely say that trading Edler (short of a monumental return) would be a significant mistake, even for a team relatively rich in defensemen.

If Edler is off the table, there really isn’t much in the Canucks organization that could be dangled to land a second line forward. The team won’t move Jensen, Kassian, or Brendan Gaunce. Maybe Chris Tanev if the team and him can't come to terms?

Conclusion

Assuming that Ryan Kesler and David Booth can remain healthy next season, a huge if, there are a few unproven options within the organization who might fill out the second line. Options outside of the organization, meanwhile, are more proven but likely too expensive.

Finding the right fit for the second line depends on that lines actual makeup (I could see Booth playing a third-line role next year, for example) and how that line will be utilized. What's clear is that, cap-crunch aside, the Canucks need additional secondary scoring depth. How much cap space the Canucks can create between the end of the finals and July 5th, however, will ultimately determine what sorts of players the Canucks can target.

2013 Team Needs:

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Jeff shares his Canuck-related thoughts with the Army a few times per week. His work can also be found over at DobberHockey.com, as well as his personal blog, AngusCertified.com. Give him a follow on Twitter @anguscertified.
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#1 EricCantona
June 18 2013, 11:53AM
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I actually agree with you wholeheartedly on your suggestion that Booth and Kesler are shoot-first forwards....

And i really like the suggestion of Danny Briere. Although he is injured proned and older, he's a helluva player... and is a great playmaker....also a clutch playoff performer.

I originally thought about this lineup:

Sedin / Sedin / Burrows Booth / Briere / Kesler

But then I thought about it.. Despite Briere quite may be the gel/solution to connect Booth and Kesler... The line of Sedins and Burrows together again is just the same formula that went to no success in the 2013 season.

So I want to suggest this lineup..

Sedin / Sedin / Kesler Burrows / Briere / Kassian

The top 6 is based on Kesler being able to bring that mojo to the Sedin line that seems to be lacking mojo when it counts... Also, this is based on the fact that Booth gets healthy enough for us to dump his ass.... Or if we cant.. i would not mind to give him a chance on the top 6... Booth / Briere / Kassian... and then we trade Burrows (*although he's my favorite player.. and i know its unthinkable and unbearable for me to see Burr in another team)... but these are desperate times and that calls for desperate measures. Trade Burrows for prospects and/or bottom 6 forwards or Faceoff specialists...

Also, Kassian along with Burrows and Briere would be good for him too... Kassian needs TIME to gel... Coach V was dumping him up and down... into 1st line, 2nd line, 4th line... GIVE THE FKER SOME TIME TO GEL AND GET SOME CHEMISTRY.... fk.... We need a more patient coach and...

...this is why I also prefer John Stevens than John Tortorella due to what i perceived as a more patient mentorship... but then from a team morale point of view, I like Tortorella because he's a straight up guy that tells u ur playing like sh(t if you are... Picking Stevens will be like keeping the status quo.... Picking Torts really means we're serious about correcting the "toxicity" and "accountability" of the dressing room...

Because at the end of the day, all these somomab*tches on Canucks were the same guys telling us... "No we got this.." ... "Oh this is the best team that I've been on heading into the playoffs.".... "Oh maybe the shortened season will allow us to go further."... RESULT: 4-0 Playoff Sweep in the 1st Round... Maybe Tortorella can be the scapegoat to take the Vancouver media for the players... and the players may benefit from that?... I dont know...

BUT DAMNIT.. SIGN DANNY BRIERE to a 2 yr $8m deal... Pavol Demitra (RIP Pavol) money.. but obviously I think Danny would be better than what Pavol offered in those 2 years.

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#2 EricCantona
June 18 2013, 12:22PM
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OR.....

Why not trade to get #2 pick overall in 2013 NHL Draft.....

Edler, Luongo and Canucks' 1st Round pick

to Florida

for:

Florida's 1st Rd Pick (#2 Overall), and George Parros / Marcel Goc / Sean Bergenheim...

Lines would be verrrry solid:

Sedin / Sedin / Kesler; Burrows / Mackinnon / Jensen; Booth / Gaunce / Kassian Higgins / Goc / Sestito (Weise/Hansen/Lapierre)

Hamhuis / Bieksa Garrison / Corrado Ballard / Tanev

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#3 Mantastic
June 18 2013, 12:57PM
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@EricCantona

stop smoking so much drugs.

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#4 EricCantona
June 18 2013, 01:14PM
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@Mantastic.. well that's a careful and elaborate response.

It's a forum. Just posting ideas. If you don't like reading it, don't.

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#5 NM00
June 18 2013, 01:40PM
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While I doubt it's plan A, the most likely scenario involves Kassian, Jensen and possibly Schroeder battling for that 2nd line spot with Higgins and Hansen as fallback options.

"I think we can safely say that trading Edler (short of a monumental return) would be a significant mistake, even for a team relatively rich in defensemen."

THANK YOU!

I'm okay with trading anyone. But these proposals centred around wingers and young centres like Couturier have always seemed too light.

St Louis traded Erik Johnson for Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk.

If Edler is traded, it should be for something like that.

I think Edler would receive a 7 year $49 million contract at minimum if he had hit the open market. Top pairing defenseman with the tools to be #1 defenseman do not grow on trees.

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#6 Mantastic
June 18 2013, 02:27PM
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@EricCantona

how can i unread something that i've already read? you can't like or not like a post until you've read it. you're statement is invalid.

what's the point of posting a crazy idea that would never happen and is clearly crazy?

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#7 Mantastic
June 18 2013, 02:31PM
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@NM00

shattenkirk was an unproven rookie with upside at that point of time and Erik Johnson had his draft pedegree that still hasn't been realized (so they thought). it was really just a Chris Stewart + an A prospect for a past #1 overall d-man.

an Edler trade compared to Johnson trade now isn't the right comparison to use at all. Edler is a know quantity that has probably hit his ceiling, which isn't a #1 d-man because he's been sheltered

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#8 72minutes
June 18 2013, 02:54PM
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here's another comparison...

LA Kings traded Jack Johnson (who isn't nearly as good as Edler) and a late 1st round pick for a legitimate sniper in Jeff Carter.

So if Edler is traded, we should expect - at the bare minimum - a player of that caliber in return.

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#9 Mantastic
June 18 2013, 03:02PM
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@72minutes

this is a better comparision but still has different factors which isn't a perfect comparison. Carter didn't fit in CBJ and wanted out bad so his value lowered. but both trades involved subpar GMs giving up more for high pedegree D-men, which edler is not, to no fault of his own.

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#10 NM00
June 18 2013, 03:07PM
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Mantastic wrote:

shattenkirk was an unproven rookie with upside at that point of time and Erik Johnson had his draft pedegree that still hasn't been realized (so they thought). it was really just a Chris Stewart + an A prospect for a past #1 overall d-man.

an Edler trade compared to Johnson trade now isn't the right comparison to use at all. Edler is a know quantity that has probably hit his ceiling, which isn't a #1 d-man because he's been sheltered

Johnson was nearly 23 when the trade went down. Yes he was a 1st overall pick. But that was nearly 5 years prior to the trade. I'd argue his star had dimmed a bit at that point.

Are you suggesting Johnson then was worth significantly more than Edler now? Not sure I agree with that espescially considering Edler is controlled on a team friendly contract for 6 years.

"an Edler trade compared to Johnson trade now isn't the right comparison to use at all. Edler is a know quantity that has probably hit his ceiling, which isn't a #1 d-man because he's been sheltered"

Can you think of a defenceman like Edler with a similar contract that has been traded in the recent past?

I can't. Of course the Johnson trade comparison is imperfect. Top pairing defenseman in their primes on good contracts almost never get traded.

That fact alone is why a team should have to pay a ton for Edler. Or keep him.

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#11 Mantastic
June 18 2013, 03:23PM
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@NM00

Edler isn't a top pairing d-man here and that's why i can't see him being a top pairing d-man on a good team or even calling him a top pairing d-man.

like i said Edler is more of a known quantity at this point of time, pretty much the ceiling of his career. (i can totally be wrong in the future but this is how i see it right now)

Johnsson at the time still had a little potential of improving. younger than Edler is now

i'm not saying that it was a good trade, as i mentioned before the trades featured 2 sub-par GMs and 2 high draft pedegree d-men, you can make the same comparision as Cam Barker for Leddy+ at the time and that's why the trade comparison isn't comparable.

best comparasion is Ballard trade IMO, but Edler has worse adjusted corsi than Ballard for their respective teams before being traded. so 1st rounder, A prospect, and middle six roster player.

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#12 canucks92
June 18 2013, 03:23PM
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Has had injury problems and apparently may not be ready for the start of the season, but I wonder how easily we could acquire Kris Versteeg in a deal for Luo. Could see him being a great fit on the second line with Kesler and Kassian. Also like the idea of Briere. Almost every option we have at this point is a pretty big risk it seems.

Praying that we hire John Stevens over Tortorella. Look at what he did in charge of the Kings D, for the development of Voynov, Muzzin and even Doughty. He seems like the guy who could finally get through to Edler. Also when Stevens was coach in Philly he brought them to 5th in the league in offence from around 23rd.

@Mantastic Edler still has a lot of room to improve. Any team trading for him would believe that.

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#13 NM00
June 18 2013, 03:50PM
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@Mantastic

Unlike Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson & Cam Barker, Alex Edler has yet to be traded and he is 27.

I agree those 3 guys had theoretical upside.

But there was also a reason all 3 were available in trade.

I also agree with you that Edler is more of a known commodity and may very well have hit his ceiling. He is not that young anymore, after all.

Edler, as far as we know, is not available in trade. The Canucks just extended him, in fact.

Ballard was a contract dump by Tallon. He was a new GM and Vancouver is Ballard's 3rd team.

And we could argue Ballard was acquired by a subpar GM as well.

There aren't any perfect comparables obviously.

But I personally feel the Canucks should only move Edler if a team makes them an offer they can't refuse.

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#14 Mantastic
June 18 2013, 03:57PM
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@NM00

i completely agree, that you should only move him for any over pay or when you are getting very good perceived value.

i just disagreed with the comparason used.

some GMs will over value Edler, others will under value him. you just need the perfect dance partner to pull off a heist of a trade, which i don't think Gillis has the ability to do.

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#15 Mantastic
June 18 2013, 03:59PM
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@canucks92

acquiring Versteeg will not help the canucks cap problem.

LA Kings also has D prospects like Teubert and Hickey... Stevens isn't reason for Muzzin, Voynov and Doughty, good drafting is.

Edler improving a lot is a stretch... he's 27

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#16 EricCantona
June 18 2013, 04:47PM
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Besides Edler, there really is no one of significant trade value on the Canucks.

Technically, he can still be traded before July 1st before his new contract begins.

If 2nd pick is available, why not build the team around Mackinnon and Kesler? It would be sick.

Also, on a side note, I don't get why Mike Gillis signs on these garbage UFAs and just dump them after... i.e. Oreskovich, Pinizotto... but why do they give Weise soooo many chances?

Oreskovich sucks.. okay.. i get it... Pinizotto had some glimpses of good checking and decent hockey... He was injured for so long but still made a small impact.... and now they're not going to re-sign him?... Why not give time to these bit pieces to get used to the system and its not like their salaries are expensive..

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#17 Mantastic
June 18 2013, 04:53PM
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@EricCantona

you can't get the 2nd overall pick with Edler and the 24th pick. Tallon will only move down as far as 4th and would still require an additional large assest for him to do it.

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#18 NM00
June 18 2013, 06:10PM
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@Mantastic

You're right the Erik Johnson comparable isn't very good.

Heck, the more I think about it the Ballard trade, while still imperfect, is more comparable. Which is scary!

I guess my hope is that, despite his age, teams still see more upside in Edler and that any potential trade would be with a dance partner who is willing to "overpay".

But, sadly, that really isn't something we should be banking on.

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#19 JCDavies
June 18 2013, 07:51PM
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How did you guys end up with Ballard as Edler's best comparable?

The market for Edler would easily be bigger than the market for Ballard in 2010.

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#20 Mantastic
June 19 2013, 12:04AM
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@JCDavies

how would it be easily? everyone knows Van is in a bind for cap space (leverage), Edler isn't a top pairing D-man.

Edler is either bringing back something via a hockey trade roster player (top 6 winger/ middle 6 center) or an A level prospect and pick package.

look at ballard before the trade, pretty much the same place edler is in

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#21 JCDavies
June 19 2013, 01:09AM
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@Mantastic

Edler has more size and has more offensive upside than Ballard. Right or wrong, GMs pay extra for both.

Edler already has two 10+ goal seasons and two 40+ point seasons. Ballard has neither. Ballard's career high for goals over 82 games is 8; Edler scored 8 goals in 45 games last season - almost double Ballard's best. In 2011-12 Edler finished 7th in the league in scoring amongst defensmen. Ballard has never had the track record that Edler has already accomplished.

I am also not convinced that Edler's struggles aren't, in some part at least, related to coaching and I believe that some GMs will believe that also.

Ballard was (is) an undersized (by NHL standards) defenseman with some offensive potential but he was never likely to put up the numbers that Edler has already put up.

"everyone knows Van is in a bind for cap space (leverage), "

When it comes to good players (yes, Edler is a good player) with more than one team bidding for their services (there would be more than one team), the bind for cap space doesn't mean anything. The price is set by supply and demand.

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#22 Mantastic
June 19 2013, 01:18AM
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@JCDavies

you can also blame coaching for his counting stats, favourable zone starts, playing with other players that hit their career highs as well. he has hit these numbers because of the position the coaching staff has put him in.

again like i said before some people will over value him, others won't. i don't think you will get a randsom for Edler's return because there isn't many trades you could compare it to that prove otherwise. the only reason you get rid of Edler is because of cap issues or someone is over paying, the return on either scenerios differ by a wide margin.

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#23 JCDavies
June 19 2013, 01:57AM
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@Mantastic

And you could blame injuries for some of his struggles the past few months ... this could go back and forth forever. The point is that he has qualities that we know GMs value because they pay for them all the time when they sign FAs (restricted and unrestricted) and he definitely has more value than Ballard did.

" i don't think you will get a randsom for Edler's return because there isn't many trades you could compare it to that prove otherwise."

There is a reason why there aren't more trades to compare - teams don't like to willingly part with good young offensive defensemen.

I didn't say ransom, I said he had more value in the market than Ballard and that they weren't great comparables.

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#24 Mantastic
June 19 2013, 11:15AM
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@JCDavies

signing FA's is completely different then making trades. signing FA's all you're losing is money and cap space. Trading assests is a completely different animal.

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#25 NM00
June 19 2013, 11:44AM
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@Mantastic

I somewhat agree with both you and JCDavies.

If all Edler yields is a Ballard-like package, Gillis simply won't move him.

I can't imagine Edler being available unless a team pays a premium for all the tools JCDavies mentions.

Does that mean Edler can bring back a Stewart/Shattenkirk or Carter package? Unlikely. But all it takes is one team.

If the significant return isn't there the Canucks certainly don't have to move Edler.

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#26 JCDavies
June 19 2013, 12:27PM
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@Mantastic

Value is value; Edler is worth more in both markets.

@NM00

"If all Edler yields is a Ballard-like package, Gillis simply won't move him."

Exactly. If Ballard was a good comparable a deal could easily happen but he's not. A Ballard-like return won't be good enough.

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#27 Mantastic
June 19 2013, 04:35PM
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@JCDavies

that's ridiculous to think like that. if someone was willing to sign Edler to 6m a year they would not trade 6m worth of assets (prospects/roster players/picks) to the canucks to aquire him because those assets are valued higher to that team, like how you value Edler...

i don't know how you are putting a firm value on Edler saying he's worth more when you can't prove that he is, besides just saying that he is.

you just don't want anyone comparing edler to ballard because of in hindsight the canucks got swindled and ballard is awful.

and please don't kid yourself if you think edler is some kind of elite player because he isn't, he's a flawed player.

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#28 JCDavies
June 19 2013, 05:24PM
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@Mantastic

" if someone was willing to sign Edler to 6m a year they would not trade 6m worth of assets (prospects/roster players/picks) "

I don't even know what this means or where I said anything like this.

Also, I didn't claim that Edler was an elite player or that he didn't have flaws.

If I can't convince you that Edler, as a 27 year old defenseman, has more value than Ballard at 27 years, then this is a lost cause.

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#29 Mantastic
June 20 2013, 11:09AM
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@JCDavies

you said value is value and that he's worth more in both markets... how else am i suppose to read that?

he's worth more in the open market but on trading market the value should roughly be the same if he getting traded for prospects and picks.

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#30 Jimmy Crack Corn
June 21 2013, 04:28PM
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Gillis does not have the balls to tamper with the core. Add to that the fact many have no trade clauses and it limits what you can do. Higgy, Edler and Burr have their NTCs kicking in this summer. I say you have to deal all three otherwise you're looking at a long period with players you can't move.

Edler should get you a lot and is signed to a bargain deal (especially after some of the recent signings). He should get you a young, top line player.

Burrows is still good but he is older and the contract isn't that much of a bargain. You could try for a blue chip prospect along the lines.

Higgy is good and he'd be a good guy to keep but I am not a fan of yet another NTC on the team. Take a gamble and try to land a prospect that may become a solid NHL player.

Our core has some offence. Most of it doesn't show up come playoffs. Maybe Gillis was right when he first came here...maybe we can't win with the Sedins as our feature players.

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