June 20 2013 09:24AM
Will Alberts be retained? If not who replaces him?
Image via wikimedia commons.
You can go ahead and forget about the so called "instant classic" that was Game 6 of the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat, or the high-scoring shootout that was Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. Indellible games are one thing, but years from now when people look back on mid-June of 2013, this week will be remembered as the one in which Canucks Army ran their annual "team needs" series.
Fortunately for us - or unfortunately for the team, and its fans, depending on the point of view you take - there's more meat to the list of needs this time around. While the Canucks were a good team last season (and will continue to be for the foreseeable future), there are far more questions surrounding the team's roster composition heading into this offseason compared with offseasons past.
We've already taken a look at the hole down the middle on the third line, the team's desperate need for secondary scoring, and the luxury of having defensive depth to fall back on. Now let's take a closer look at the team's the blue-line, with a particular emphasis on the third pairing.
Read on Past the Jump for More.
It's fairly obvious that the team's strength lies in its defence, and its goaltending. As things stand at the moment, the Canucks currently have 5 defencemen locked up for $22.9 million (with the salary cap dropping to $64.3 million next season). Obviously the "at the moment" part of that last sentence is the key one, since the roster is still a work in progress.
With the ongoing Roberto Luongo saga, and the team's desperate need to upgrade its forward group, I expect we'll see some rather impactful moves in the coming weeks/months. Surely those moves will affect Vancouver's salary cap outlook. All of which is essentially an admission that it's difficult to pinpoint just how much money Mike Gillis will have to work with in filling out the top 6, but it's probably not all that much.
One such move will be the seemingly inevitable departure of Keith Ballard, who's a prime candidate to have his contract bought out. Another, will (hopefully) be the re-signing of Chris Tanev, who is currently a Restricted Free Agent. While he took somewhat of a step back - or maybe better put, didn't take another step forward - this past season, there's still a lot to like about Tanev. He makes very few mistakes, is as defensively responsible as it gets, and has already shown an ability to drive play against tertiary competition.
I'd be more worried about Taenv's future with the team were it not for two facts: a) he has just 10 points in 92 career NHL games, which sadly enough leads me to believe keeps him off of many a team's radar, and b) he's going into negotiations with the club without an agent, instead choosing to represent himself. Against Laurence Gilman. He'll be back, at a very reasonable figure. That's the assumption I'm working under, which is why he won't be mentioned below, despite not *currently* being under contract.
So, with Ballard bought out and Chris Tanev re-signed, the Vancouver Canucks have themselves 5 bona fide NHL defensemen on the roster. Who are the potential options in filling out the group?
Possible In-House Solutions
Frank Corrado is an impressive cat via CanucksTV.
In his bit on depth, as it relates to the back-end, Drance postulated that while Corrado may have an opportunity to stick with the big club, he'd rather see him log heavy minutes with the
Manitoba Moose Chicago Wolves Utica Comets. I can't say that I disagree with that sentiment, to be frank.
Corrado looked the part in his 7-game stint with the Canucks when Tanev got hurt, and it's quite possible that he could perform relatively well as a 6th defenceman at the NHL level next season. But there's no need to rush him.
He's still just a 20-year old who has yet to really go through the grind of competing against grown men for any extended period of time. I don't think the 12-14 minutes a game he'd get with the Canucks is enough to justify needlessly rushing his development. The situation isn't that dire. Not yet, at least.
Ha ha, I'm just kidding. He gone.
Andrew Alberts (*)
(*) Alberts is an Unrestricted Free Agent, but I figured I'd discuss his case here rather than classifying him as a member of the open market (though he technically is, or will be come July fifth).
Despite the fact that most people who follow the team make it seem like it's a foregone conclusion that Alberts is gone, I'm not so sure. He has been in Vancouver for 4 years now, and I don't think too many teams across the league are making it a priority to throw money at the big blueliner this summer. After all, nobody is coming to the rink to see Andrew Alberts play hockey.
But ideally, for this particular position, you want a player who won't really hurt the team or take too much off of the table. And we know that Alberts can fill that role, at least somewhat effectively even if he's not particualrly good at zone-exits. He's the prototypical stop-gap. If he'd like to sign back on for a year or two at just over a million a season, I wouldn't be throwing my hands up in outrage.
Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know, right?
The Open Market
The Canucks, as most of us, could use some more of the Clit.
A few days ago, Scott Cullen put together an interesting potential off-season game plan for the Canucks. One of the names he mentioned was Clitsome, who caught my eye for reasons beyond the spectacular name on the back of his jersey. He's a guy who has spent his entire career playing on the Columbus Blue Jackets ('09-'11) and the Winnipeg Jets (last season), which might mean that you're unfamiliar with his stylings.
Just keep in mind that whenever he has been given a chance, he has done an effective job of producing offence for his team. In 2011, he managed to register 19 points in 31 games for the Blue Jackets, with 10 of them coming on the power play. This past season, he actually performed as a positive possession player for the Jets, despite not even being all that sheltered. Plus, he's on the right side of 30. Did I mention that his name is Clitsome?
Roszival - who was also on Cullen's list - really should in theory be out of Vancouver's price range. But I would have said the exact same thing last year, before Chicago inexplicably scooped him up for a bargain price: 1 year, at $2 million. What a great signing by Bowman.
The 34-year old has a 40 point season to his name ('07 for the Rangers), to go along with a handful of seasons where he has topped 22 minutes/game. For years, he was a guy that could drive play forward at quite a healthy rate while going up against strong opposition. This past year, though, the Blackhawks actually really sheltered him quite a bit, utilizing him mostly against cake opposition, with an extreme offensive deployment. Still, he did what he was supposed to do: post gaudy possession totals, and mash against the competition put forth in front of him. The way he was used was somewhat of an abberation for him, but given just how good the Blackhawks were, it was justifiable.
Based on his age and his issues staying on the ice in recent years, I'd be leary of giving him any sort of term. But if he'd be willing to take something similar to what he did this past summer, I'd be ecstatic. It's highly unlikely, though.
I'll admit, I've got a soft spot for Lovejoy after his appearance on HBO's 24/7 as a member of the Penguins back in 2010. But I also like him because he was kind of sneaky good for the Ducks this past season - after they acquired him for a measly 5th rounder early in the season - and I'm not sure that many people are aware of it.
He was given the task of facing favourable oppositon, but at the same time, he was deployed in a more conventional manner (starting 48.2% of his shifts in the offensive zone), and was a positive possession player (+6.1 Corsi Relative). Can you name the only Ducks defenceman to have a positive "Corsi ON" rating last year? It wasn't Francois Beauchemin. It wasn't Cam Fowler or Sheldon Souray. And it certainly was not Bryan Allen. Nope, it was Ben Lovejoy. In the playoffs, he saw his ice-time elevated to 21:05 per game against the Red Wings, and actually played a whopping 26:06 in a deciding Game 7 (that didn't even go into overtime).
I'm not sure what the future holds for Lovejoy, but I'm going to bet that he goes for less than either of the two guys I mentioned above him and for less than he's worth. He will provide value.
Other intriguing names include Mark Fistric and Scott Hannan, both of whom Drance already went into detail about as potential depth players. Also, someone like Steve Montador may become available for a discount price once teams begin to buy players out.
The Trade Market
Drancee Insiderr also threw out Jeff Schultz as a possible name that may be a target on the trade market. Who knows. There's always 6th/7th/8th defencemen to be had for mid-round draft picks, especially during the season. I think it's rather stupid to throw out potential trade targets, especially given how deep down the depth chart we're getting, without any sort of inkling as to which guys Gillis has his eyes on.
Obviously all of this could be thrown out the window if the Canucks go ahead and do something bold like trade Alex Edler away for forward help, but we can only work with the information that we currently have in front of us. While the team doesn't have a Zdeno Chara or Shea Weber to anchor the defense, they do currently have 4 defensemen locked up long-term that would without question slot into every single team's top 4 all throughout the league.
Thanks to that - and the fact that they've managed to bring guys like Tanev and Corrado into the system without parting with any meaningful assets - their back-end is, and will continue to be, in fine shape. It just needs some tinkering.
For now, I'd personally like to see them buy Corrado some time in the AHL by bringing in one of the steady veteran blueliners I've listed, on a low-risk, 1 or 2 year deal.