What have you got ready to conjure up with those magic hands, Mike?
More wizardry? Or another Steve Bernier?
The playoffs are done and the Canucks feel one win short of ultimate glory. The awards have been presented and the Canucks were well honoured.
And now… all of a sudden… we’re on to thinking about next season! Free Agency begins in 8 days and the Canucks have some issues with which to contend, starting with the fairly large list of free agents that Mike Gillis and co must either re-sign or let walk.
So … what do they do next?
Mike Gillis has already gone on record as stating that one of his primary objectives over the summer is to obtain a top six forward. Hallelujah. Given the Canucks failure to break through in the Stanley Cup Final, it is clear that the Canucks were one forward short in the top 6. The Sedins are great and will be great, but they were held in check. Kesler was wounded and had no help on the wings, and Burrows was too busy snacking on bear meat. I kid, I kid….
They need help in the top 6. And frankly the other horses that they have in the race currently aren’t getting close to the finish line. They need a powerful top 6 forward who’s tough to play against. And someone who can swap with Burrows and play with the Sedins. To me, none of the current crop of UFA’s really fit the bill. Sure, there is Simon Gagne, but he is very unreliable health-wise. There is Joel Ward, but he’s NOT a top 6 forward, and the Canucks already have Jannik Hansen, who is a similar player IMO. Sure, there is Brad Richards, but he’s going to cost a fortune and the Canucks have 3 UFA defensemen to possibly sign.
So, to me, it looks like Gillis and his management staff need to focus on a trade. I’m not a trade guru, so I don’t profess to have an ability to conjure up a reasonable sounding trade, for a couple of reasons. 1. My Canucks-coloured glasses will almost certainly make any trade I propose look unbalanced. 2. People will spend more time nit-picking about the details of the trade than the essence or nature of the trade I propose.
Rather than worry about specific dollars and cents and specific cap space, I’m just focusing on players that fit the ilk of what the Canucks need, and at a high level would likely fit into the Canucks budget. In other words… while my fantasy trade acquisition for the Canucks would be either Rick Nash or Jarome Iginla… it’s not going to happen.
Here’s my list of top 10 trade targets that fit the needs for a top 6 forward. One that would complement Kesler well, and one that is tough to play against:
There are some in that list who I think are more attainable than others. Philadelphia’s potential massive overpayment for Ilya Bryzgalov might make it easier to get either Giroux or Hartnell. Same Sharp and the horrible cap situation in Chicago. While others like Brown and Ladd appear to be cornerstones of their current teams and could be considered unattainable.
High on my list is Evander Kane. He’s loaded with talent, spark and speed and he’s from Vancouver. Seriously, this seems like a knockout but who knows if Winnipeg would part with him.
Now the question is… who do you send back? This is a trade after all, not a UFA acquisition. You have to give up dollars to acquire dollars in a cap world. Again, I’m not fussing with exact amounts here because every team have open space under their system. Some more than others.
In any event here is my list of Canucks trade-outs, players that the Canucks could/would like send out:
- Keith Ballard. The problem is… how do you move his $4.2m after the year he had? Yes, I made the case that he actually had a decent year, under the circumstances. But folks won’t see that. They’ll see that he was benched repeatedly for the playoffs.
- Mason Raymond. I know he’s going to be out for a LONG while… and I’m sorry to be callous but I’m done with MayRay. He’s not doing it for me. I don’t see any longer how his skill set fits into the needs of the Canucks top 6. And since you can’t put him in the bottom 6… He’s the odd man out.
- Mikael Samuelsson. The Canucks just aren’t getting enough out of him to justify him being there. Not enough production, not nearly enough consistency. Much like Raymond, if you can’t keep him on the second line, and you can’t put him in the bottom 6, then he finds himself on the outside looking in.
- Jordan Schroeder. I wasn’t sold on him when the Canucks drafted him, and I’m still not convinced that he has enough in the way of talent and drive to stay in the Canucks lineup. He didn’t get a sniff of a call-up last year, so it makes me think that the Canucks might know that he’s not a good fit.
- Cody Hodgson. It’s make-or-break time for CoHo. He only made it into 8 games last year, and barely saw any ice time at all in the playoffs. The Canucks don’t have confidence in him yet to play more minutes. So… when WILL they? How much longer will they coddle him? They either have to throw him into the fire and get him playing regular minutes or trade him. Simple as that. They can’t keep going from AHL to NHL with him and only playing him 6 minutes a game.
Are those 10 players on Mike Gillis’ target list? Or is he going to the Free Agent list and keep as many of his assets as possible? There just isn’t room on in the top 6, if you acknowledge a need to acquire a better forward there. You already have Daniel, Henrik, Burrows, Kesler, Raymond, Samuelsson. What about Jannik Hansen? Jeff Tambellini? What if you take the risk that Hodgson is ready and could shift to the wing? Do you need someone else there too?
Someone has to go. It’s just as simple as that. Even if Gillis gets a winger via free agency, someone has to make way for the new player. This is why it makes sense to me that Gillis will go the trade route, rather than the FA route.
The pieces will start to fall into place in the coming week, as the Canucks look at the draft tomorrow, and the opening day of Free Agency next Friday. Rest assured that the Canucks don’t have to do much. But they do have to make one big move. And likely little else.
Will GM of the Year Mike Gillis be able to get what he needs? He’s done it before… and he’ll likely do it again.