3 affordable UFAs that could help the Canucks in the faceoff circle

Thomas Drance
June 17 2015 10:00AM

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Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Canucks ranked 28th in the NHL in faceoff winning percentage last season, which is to say that the club wasn't very good at all at winning draws.

When the best faceoff man on your team is a 19-year-old, that's generally a problem.

Faceoff wins aren't the be all and end all in hockey, and their impact is often overstated. Still you'd like to start with the puck more often than not, and this is an area where the Canucks might reasonably target a player that can help them this summer.

Let's look at some relatively affordable options that are primed to be available in unrestricted free agency.

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Why it's time to give up on the 'Zack Kassian is a playmaker' narrative

Thomas Drance
June 16 2015 09:00AM

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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports

Zack Kassian is at his best when he's creating havoc at the net front, challenging goaltenders with his sneaky-good wrist shot, and sticking pucks into the net from the slot.

In the past we've argued at length in this space that Zack Kassian is a playmaker. It's time for us to reconsider that position in my view. Kassian is best suited to being a more traditional power forward, and his value to the Canucks - should they opt to keep him past this summer - will be heightened if he plays a simpler north-south game and generates more shots on goal.

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7 fascinating things about Elliotte Friedman's Jamie Benn offer sheet anecdote

Thomas Drance
June 15 2015 10:19AM

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Photo Credit: Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports

Late last week Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman appeared on the Oilers Now radio show with Bob Stauffer and shared a scintillating anecdote about the Mike Gillis-era Vancouver Canucks considering an aggressive offer sheet on reigning Art Ross winner and current Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn, a local kid, and former BCHL standout, during the summer of 2012.

It's an explosive story and for a variety of reasons. Let's unpack Freidman's comments and some of the context that makes it so interesting after the jump.

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Where the Canucks will be counting on Sven Baertschi to contribute next season

Thomas Drance
June 14 2015 11:00AM

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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Canucks are likely to lose a pair of useful middle-six forwards this summer in Shawn Matthias and Brad Richardson.

Yesterday we looked at one area - the penalty kill - where Richardson is likely to prove tough to replace. Today let's turn our focus to Matthias, and the heir apparent to his spot in the lineup Sven Baertschi.

Acquired from the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline in exchange for a second-round draft pick, Baertschi lit up the AHL (and the Calder Cup playoffs) upon joining the Canucks organization. He played decently well in a small handful of regular season and playoff games for the big league club also. The skilled, Swiss-born forward will be counted on next season to provide crucial secondary scoring, and he's got big skates to fill in a second- or third-line role. 

Will he be up to it?

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Why Bo Horvat will be in tough to replace what Brad Richardson brought to the Canucks penalty kill

Thomas Drance
June 13 2015 09:00AM

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Photo Credit: Winslow Townson / USA TODAY Sports

It seems likely that the Vancouver Canucks will be moving on without pending unrestricted free agent Brad Richardson.

Though Canucks general manager Jim Benning recently suggested that he's still in touch with Richardson's agent (Mark Guy of Newport Sports) and hasn't given up on bringing the penalty killing ace back for next season, the club is dealing with a significant cap crunch. It's probable that the club will have to replace Richardson's quiet, useful contributions internally.

Luckily there's a tailor made in-house replacement available to the Canucks in 20-year-old pivot Bo Horvat. Horvat has serious defensive chops, and his play driving ability came on in a major way towards the latter half of his rookie campaign. When it comes to stepping into Richardson's skates at 5-on-5, Horvat is a good bet, and might even be an upgrade. It's a different story shorthanded though...

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