If today was Christmas, then Santa Claus gave us some pretty kick-ass presents!
July 1st was a very busy for Canucks management. It was probably their busiest day ever, signing available free agents to replace exiting players and fill needs on the lienup exposed throughout last season and the playoffs.
GM Mike Gillis had a game plan, and he executed to a tee.
Canucks brass made it clear that they were in the market for more depth on defense, and shoring up the bottom 6 forwards. He started on his game plan on draft day when he traded Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner and their 2010 1st round pick to FLA for D Keith Ballard and RW Victor Oreskovich. In Ballard and Oreskovich, you have a potential top D and a big, strong bottom 6 forward. Good start.
Today, Gillis and his group hit a home run. They addressed every main need that the Canucks had during the regular season and the playoffs. Their first acquisition was Joel Perrault, a big center likely to play in Manitoba or possibly on the 4th line. This was a much needed depth signing as the Moose need roster players.
Next up was a much needed addition to the penalty kill and faceoff numbers. Manny Malhotra will be a welcome addition all-around. He is widely regarded as a great guy in the locker room, a true team player, and he is a big physical presence on the third line. If Cody Hodgson makes a permanent leap to the Canucks next year, Malhotra will be an excellent mentor for him. I would even suggest that Gillis ensures that Malhotra and Hodgson room together. This signing has a bigger impact than just on the ice. This could change the complexion of the team itself. The criticism of this signing though has come in the cost. Malhotra is signed for 3 years at $2.5m per year. The criticism lies in the fact that Gillis could have signed him last season for less than $1m per season. Yes, the cost is obviously much higher now, but the cost of equal centermen was higher. Much higher. Take Colby Armstrong for example. He signed for 3 years at $3m per year. Malhotra is bigger, hits more, is a better penalty killer and is better in the faceoff circle. So if Armstrong is the comparable, Gillis’ offer to Malhotra is decent, despite the hindsight of knowing the Canucks could have signed him much cheaper last season.
Jeff Tambellini was the next signing for Gillis and co. A cost-off LW from the New York Islanders, he returns to Western Canada where he was raised. Tambellini has a lot to prove and is signed to a two-way contract. He’ll be eager to prove he can play, especially in the division where he dad, Steve, is GM of the rival Edmonton Oilers.
Finally, the Canucks landed their big fish of the day in acquiring free agent defenseman and BC native Dan Hamhuis. This had been widely speculated for several weeks, even as Hamhuis’ rights were being bounced around from Nashville to Philadelphia and on to Pittsburgh. But the Canucks got the much-sought-after defenseman and signed him long-term to a 6 year deal for $27m. At $4.5m per year, this is a great signing, and about $1m per year less than many were speculating.
It gives the Canucks plenty of depth on defense. In fact, they have too many expensive bodies on the blueline and someone will have to be moved. The only existing defenseman without a NTC is Kevin Bieksa, and given his inconsistent play he is quite likely going to be traded.
So what’s left for Gillis?
He still needs to shore up the remaining spots in his bottom 6 forwards, sign Mason Raymond and trade a defenseman (again, likely Bieksa). But now, he has some breathing room.
Take a bow, Mike. You did good today.