With the signings of Mathieu Schneider, Christian Ehrhoff, and Brad Lukowich, the Vancouver Canucks have eight NHL-caliber defencemen in their stall to start the season. Arguably, the Canucks have the deepest set of blue-liners in the NHL right now.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that it can’t and won’t stay that way.
Right now, the Canucks are over $3 million over the salary cap, which they have to trim by October 1st. So Mike Gillis has a month to solve this problem. So what are his options?
Here are a few ideas:
1. Simplest trade. Trade one of your $3m+ defenceman for a draft pick or two, or a promising prospect. It solves the immediate cap space problem, and provides future assets in return. There are a number of teams that are in immediate need of a top 4 D. ANA, CBJ, DAL, LAK, NSH and NYI all need a solid edition to their blue-line and have cap space to take on $3m in salary.
2. Create a trade package for a top 6 forward. This would be ideal in a perfect world, because it solves the problem of the Canucks cap space issue and too many defenceman, plus it brings in a needed top 6 forward. The problem with this idea is that you have to lose an existing forward to make room. I would love to be able to package up Demitra and one of the $3m+ D for a $4-5m top 6 forward. There are two many options here to list but one idea would be Demitra + Bieksa/Ehrhoff for Michal Handzus and a pick/prospect from the Kings, assuming the necessary NTC’s are waived.
3. Go for the top gun. There has been a lot of speculation around Vancouver that the Canucks are targeting Dany Heatley, because one of the players Ottawa was coveting for a trade was Christian Ehrhoff. Now that Ehrhoff is Canucks property, it seems Vancouver has some trading chips. That package would solve the problem of too many defenceman, and would bring in a bonafide 50-goal scorer. However, it would have to be a big package and they would not solve their cap issue, since Heatley’s cap hit is $7.5m and they would have too many forwards. The package would end up looking like Bieksa and Ehrhoff and a high prospect (C Schneider? Grabner?). So they would have to deal away a forward, likely Demitra. Again, though, you have to contend with No-Trade Clauses in order to truly free up salary.
So, Mike Gillis. You’re lucky that you have plenty of assets right now. But the clock is ticking fast to October 1st. So what’s your next move?