Well folks, we’re only a few hours away from the start of the NHL season. By now, players have been sent down to the minors, Junior clubs or outright released from the club. The opening day line-up has been decided, and Canucks fans near and far are eager to get this season underway.
A few questions still persist on the eve of the Canucks first game of the year. To answer these questions, we’ve gathered together some of our favourite Canucks bloggers for a roundtable discussion. Joining me in discussing our two burning questions are writers from Canucks Hockey Blog, Canucks Corner, Nucks Misconduct, 24 Hours and The Sports Corner.
For Round 2, the questions we discussed were:
1. Sergei Shirokov has turned a lot of heads so far this pre-season, while Cody Hodgson has been limited to only one game so far (due to injury).
Who has a better shot of staying with the club for the entire season – Shirokov or Hodgson?
2. Mike Gillis still has cap space to clear before the first game of the regular season on October 1st. What move(s) will he make in the next 10 days to get the roster under the salary cap?
Bear with us. These questions were asked and discussed a few days ago. So what did we, the experts, have to say?
Cam Davie – Canucks Army
1. Unfortunately, no matter how well Shirokov plays, Hodgson is ahead of him in the pecking order to stay with the club, for one simple reason – Sergei can be sent to Manitoba and Cody can’t. Because of the age requirements in the AHL, Hodgson cannot be sent down to the Moose this season. It also makes no sense to send Hodgson back down to Junior because he can’t and won’t learn anything new or better or different in a league he has already dominated. So based on the fact that there are options with Shirokov, and there are no options with Hodgson, Cody has a better shot at staying with the Canucks.
2. Mike Gillis finally pulled off his first big trade as Canucks GM when he acquired Ehrhoff and Lukowich from the San Jose Sharks. Granted he was in a position to take advantage of a Sharks team that was desperate to unload cap space, so that they could ultimately land Dany Heatley. But Gillis has now dipped his toe in the water and found it to be warm. The Canucks need to part ways with at least one defenceman, and the likely candidates are Bieksa, Lukowich and O’Brien. Gillis has said that he will not ask any of his players to waive a No-Trade Clause, so it’s highly unlikely that he would trade Salo or Mitchell, given that they both are happy here and have NTCs. Bieksa has a hefty cap hit, but not outrageous, and has been coveted in the past by other teams, so he is definitely on the trade radars. Couple him with Cory Schneider in a trade, which I believe Gillis will do, and they could get some decent top 6 forward talent coming back.
Brian Wawryshyn – Canucks Corner
1. There is no doubt that Shirokov is the more NHL ready of the two. It’s not surprise really as he’s four years older than Hodgson and has been playing in a men’s league in Russia. Hodgson hasn’t looked stellar in his chances, and appears headed back to Brampton. In my opinion it’s not a bad thing. Back spasms can have a real adverse effect on your core and your explosiveness. Hodgson needs get stronger and work on his skating. He’ll likely play a major role on Canada’s World Junior team and could even be captain.
Shirokov will probably start the year here and he deserves to, but if he hits a dry spell the Canucks have the flexibility to send him down as well with the 2-way deal.
2. Gillis will have to trim some fat to get under the cap, and I would think we’ll see a trade and the cheaper option of Raycroft in net (he’s also looked good) for starters. Hodgson will return to junior. The trade will likely involve goaltender Cory Schneider and a defenseman since that’s where we have the most depth. Not only does Gillis have to get to the cap number, I would hope he leaves a little room as well so the club doesn’t end up in a situation the Flames found themselves in last year where they couldn’t bring players up from the farm when injuries hit them.
Mike The Yank – Nucks Misconduct
1. The sexy pick is Shirokov but the safe pick is Hodgson. In truth, neither is a lock for the team just because of the logjam of bottom six players. Hodgson’s ascension as the new savior of the franchise has been in the works for well over a year so that gives him the edge. I also think Hodgson will develop into more of a complete player, someone who can eat up PP and PK time and give AV a more versatile
option. But Shirokov has such great hands, is a phenomenal passer and carries a strong offensive mindset. If he can handle the pace of the NHL like he did the KHL, he would be an incredible asset and a “bring you out of your seat” type guy. I want to see them both in, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Shirokov has to wait just a bit longer before bringing his act to the main stage.
2. Yikes, if I get this correct someone owes me a beer. I’m going to ignore waivers and also the possibility that Demitra hits the long term IR, thereby freeing up a bit of cap room and introducing a host of new variables. In a straight up “who stays and who goes” scenario, I think the odd men out are Hansen and Lukowich. Hansen, though still young, doesn’t bring anything to the table that the rest of the bunch
don’t. I’d love to see him stay because he showed such great promise last year, but thems the breaks. Lukowich was a throw in to begin with and his salary is a beast. Getting those two contracts off the books alone amounts to over $2.1 million and should get Vancouver back under the cap for October 1. But I also have a sneaking suspicion Gillis knows he can put some of these guys on waivers and other teams will take them (similar to why he waived Matt Pettinger last year instead of Mike Brown). The fire sale should be fun.
Sean Zandberg – Nucks Misconduct
1. I think Shirokov has shown that he can play with the big boys more than Hodgson, even though his frame isn’t all that big. His preseason numbers don’t lie. He led the team in scoring. He is 23 years old and is used to playing at this level, more or less. Hodgson seemed overwhelmed in preseason, in my opinion.
2. He won’t do much except demote guys to Manitoba. He’s allowed to go over $5 million over the cap because of the long term injuries to Pavol Demitra and Mathieu Schneider. When those guys return, Gillis will have to make some moves. He has some extra time now to weigh out his options.
Hosea Chung – 24 Hours and The Sports Corner
1. Cody Hodgson will most likely end up with the big club even if he becomes the 13th forward. Sending him back to junior would be a waste since he has learned everything he needs to down there, and has nothing left to prove. He still has areas he needs to work on -his skating for example- but the Canucks will benefit with him on their main roster, especially since injuries to other players will happen. As for Shirokov, he’ll probably need some AHL time before coming back up to the Canucks. The Russian has hands, there’s no doubt about that, but he needs to work on his overall game first, and that includes his defensive responsibilities. With these two players though, Vancouver certainly has a brighter future.
2. It really depends on who he decides to have on his opening night roster. There’s always the chance to free up about $1.5 or $1.6 million by sending either Shane O’Brien or Brad Lukowich to the Manitoba Moose. And of course, Demitra’s early injury will help them get some breathing room in cap space. Gillis says he has a plan, and we’ll see what that is come September 30th, when the lineup list has to be submitted to the NHL. If the Canucks are needing to move big salary, there’s always Kevin Bieksa, who doesn’t have a no-trade clause.
Richard Loat – Canucks Hockey Blog
1. I don’t think you can really make the comparison between the two players because of the awkward situation the Canucks are in when it comes to Cody Hod-sun. To suggest someone has a better shot of staying than the other implies that one of them will go down to the minors, or in Cody’s case his junior team. It would be lunacy to send him back to his junior team, and since he can’t play on the Moose it only makes sense to bring up to be a part of the big club. Shirokov doesn’t have that age problem, and thus has had to make a legitimate case for why he should be on this team. The fact that Cody is basically a walk on to this team, to me means he has a lot more to prove. Shirokov has made his case amply in the first two games and it would be naive to over look him and give his spot away to a less deserving player. Come October 1st I expect both to be on the roster, but I think if the Canucks are going to try and get around the Cody Hodgson problem we might see him as an often healthy scratch.
2. All eyes point to the defensive corps. The Canucks have about 10 defencemen under one way contracts, and are over cap. Something’s got to give. Bieksa has been the coveted defenseman by a few teams, and you remember back to the last trade deadline, he was the make or break component in the deal for Jay Bouwmeester. He comes with a salary that would take a big chunk of our cap hit. My guess is it’ll be for a prospect or player on a two way contract who’ll get sent straight to the minors because it doesn’t make sense to trade for that top 6 forward we’ve been looking for, when we’re trying to lose cap. My guess is whatever package gets put together it might include Cory Schneider as Luongo’s lifetime deal has signed Cory’s fate as far being the starter on this club goes. If not it’s likely Cory’s going to be dealt in a separate deal. The playing time he’s getting this pre-season to me comes off as a showcase of his talent to other teams in an attempt to entice them into a deal to move the goaltending prospect out of the Vancouver system.
JJ Guerrero – Canucks Hockey Blog
1. It looks like Sergei Shirokov will start the season as Pavol Demitra’s replacement alongside Ryan Kesler and Mikael Samuelsson. Shirokov deserves this opportunity. He led all Canucks skaters in preseason scoring and didn’t look out of place in the top-six. Of course, the question is whether or not Shirokov can prove he belongs there over the course of an 82-game season, but look for Vigneault to keep him there until he proves otherwise.
2. For now, the Canucks are relying on the LTIR exemption to get under the salary cap. The one “big” move they made was to waive Brad Lukowich and his $1.56 million cap hit. Of course, the Canucks will have to make further moves once Pavol Demitra and Mathieu Schneider are healthy. If feel-good stories, Aaron Rome and Tanner Glass, continue to contribute as they did in the preseason, then I’d look at someone like Shane O’Brien becomes expendable.