Contract News: Gragnani, Rome, Ebbett, Duco, Oreskovich all on their way out

Last summer, I would often tell my Twitter followers to disregard much of what the @News1130Sports twitter feed put out there. It was inconsistent, and occasionally misinformed and misleading. But it has undergone some sort of massive revamp and has become – easily – the most up to date source for breaking Canucks news over the past month.

The 1130 feed was the first out of the gate reporting the qualifying offers to Schneider, Lack and Weise several days ago, then broke the "Jensen to play in Sweden" news late last week, and today has been nailing it on unqualified restricted free-agents, and on which of Vancouver’s pending Unrestricted Free Agents are likely to hit the open market in five days time. Kudos to them for their good work, they’re are absolutely crushing it of late and are a must follow.

Today they gave us another round of breaking news regarding the status of Aaron Rome, Andrew Ebbett and Victor Oreskovich. Later in the day Ben Kuzma broke the news regarding the status of Ryan Parent, Marc-Andre Gragnani and Mike Duco, none of whom will return to the team.

We now have a pretty clear picture of who the Canucks will retain this summer, and who will be on their way out of the door. Let’s spend a moment on each, discuss their Vancouver tenure, and touch on how easy or difficult they’ll be to replace.

Click "Read More" to do just that. 

Victor Oreskovich

If you’ll recall, Victor Oreskovich was touted as "more than just a throw in" in the Grabner/Ballard draft day swap in 2010. He ultimately became something of a mainstay on Vancouver’s fourth-line during the teams run to the cup finals in 2010-11. Then last summer, he held out for more money, and a two year, one-way deal – despite having no leverage. The Canucks played hardball, got him into camp on a one year, two-way deal that paid him 625k, and he ultimately only played six minutes and change this past season.

In that six minutes, Oreskovich managed to take a minor penalty, and a fighting major, while the Canucks were outshot 1 to 7 by the Avalanche. Four of those seven Avalanche shots were high quality scoring chances… Ouch.

It was clear when the team chose to start the regular season with Aaron Volpatti on the fourth line, and picked up Dale Weise on waivers that Oreskovich had fallen out of favour. His performance in his one call up stint with the big club, obviously, did nothing to change that. That the team has decided not to qualify the 6,3 219 pound grinder comes as not surprise.

Oreskovich occasionally met the eye-test, but by the underlying metrics he was a liability at both ends. As a right-winger, he makes significantly less sense for this team than a safe-minutes option like Dale Weise, and will be exceedingly easy to replace on the open market this offseason.

Oreskovich has a good story – he was nearly out of hockey and was working at a Foot Locker before his comeback season with the Panthers, and his appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals with Vancouver. It didn’t work out for him with the Canucks, but hopefully he gets another shot on a try-out deal somewhere this summer. He’s got the strength and speed to contribute in limited minutes in the NHL, he just never quite put it all together on Vancouver’s fourth forward line.

Andrew Ebbett

This one hurts a bit, because Ebbett was an extremely effective option for the team in that "Jeff Tambellini" top-six depth role. Ebbett was basically even by the quality chance data, kept his head above water in relatively difficult minutes by the possession numbers, and flashed some hands – contributing five goals (several of them off of really nice tips) in eighteen games with the team.

It’s a curious decision by the team not to return Andrew Ebbett, and I almost wonder if Ebbett was good enough in limited time that he "priced himself" out of the Canucks range. Jeff Tambellini made 500k in the 2010-11 season, while Ebbett made 525k in 2011-12. Based on his performance, he may have been due a slight raise, and the Canucks are confident they can fill his slot for the minimum.

There are some tantalizing options out there in terms of a guy with roughly replacement level top-six skill, who can also slot in on the fourth line and maybe center the second unit powerplay. In particular, I’ll be curious to see if Gilbert Brule is qualified by the Coyotes. If he isn’t, I wonder if the team might satisfy the fan-bases increasingly annoying calls for more "Vancouver Giant’s representation" by giving Bono’s part-time chauffer a look.

Regardless, I’d expect Andrew Ebbett will find a job on another team next season and will probably continue to perform. He can play reasonably well in the top-six over the short-term – so long as you shelter his minutes. If you throw him out there on the fourth line, he’ll help you drive play the right way. Ebbett is by no means a world beater, but he’s a competent NHL player who belongs in the show and hopefully he gets an opportunity to stick somewhere.

Aaron Rome

Aaron Rome caught a lot of guff from Canucks fans during his tenure, mostly because he was seen as Alain Vigneault’s "favorite" and received more ice-time than the flashier, more highly paid and theoretically more talented Keith Ballard. What Canucks fans were missing, however, was that Aaron Rome was better suited for the job at hand – playing safe, low-event minutes on the third pairing – than the turnover prone, overly aggressive Keith Ballard. Rome was also able to fill in on the right-side, something Ballard is entirely unable to do and that versatility was a major reason why Rome got more ice-time than Vancouver’s 4.25 million dollar third-pairing defenseman.

Aaron Rome is a good possession player, an under-rated passer (he’s never going to QB a power-play, but he’s a very competent, intelligent puck mover) and has a lot of "snarl" in his physical game. Unfortunately, he’s also not the most athletic guy, and occasionally his timing was off on his hits. Sometimes that would result is bad, late hits – most famously his "series swinging" hit on Bruins forward Nathan Horton that led to the longest suspension in Stanley Cup Finals history. Nathan Horton missed the entirety of the playoffs this Spring because of a hit from Chicago’s Sesito, but it’s not a stretch to suggest that the impact of Rome’s late hit continues to linger…

Many folks who will admit that Rome is a good sixth or seventh defenseman will also say that he was over-used during his Canucks tenure. They’re wrong, and it’s not a matter of opinion. Aaron Rome was sixth among all Canucks defenseman in average five-on-five ice-time per game during the 2010-11 season, and seventh among defenseman in average five-on-five ice-time per game in 2011-12. In short, he was what he was, and despite the jokes about his special relationship with Alain Vigneault: he was never elevated above his station, and was never more than a depth defenseman during his time in Vancouver. 

If he stays in the Western Conference, Aaron Rome can help a team possess the puck against secondary competition, while playing a hard physical game, and being responsible in his own end. If he goes to the Eastern Conference, I think he has some top-four potential as a "tough minutes" guy. Basically, I think he could have a Mike Weaver renaissance in the East, and I expect he’ll get paid reasonably well to do so (2.5 million per season wouldn’t surprise me).

With the likes of Andrew Alberts in the fold, Sami Salo likely to be re-signed and Yan Sauve in the pipeline, Aaron Rome will probably be replaced in-house. If the team looks to the market to add another depth defenseman who can comfortably slot in on the right-side, they probably couldn’t do better than Dylan Reese.

Mike Duco

Our pal @socialassassin2 noticed earlier today that Duco edited his Twitter profile bio, so that it no longer advertises Duco’s status as a member of the Vancouver Canucks organization. It was later confirmed by Ben Kuzma.

With Duco, I’d say he probably deserved a better shake from the Canucks. Duco was a good solider this season, with a firebrand personality, and I loved the way he’d go after the opposition’s stars like a guided missile when he was in the game. I still think he has the potential to indirectly contribute offense by putting his team on the power-play with a good degree of regularity. 

Basically Duco has some potential to be a quality pest, though his underlying numbers were pretty ugly, and clearly the team never thought of him as an everyday NHLer. It’s probable that they saw him as too small to play on their fourth line, and that’s too bad. Hopefully he gets a chance to drive the opposition nuts on some team elsewhere in the NHL.

Ryan Parent

Ryan Parent is one of the more spectacular draft busts of the past decade. The decision not to extend him a qualifying offer is not a surprise at all, and I urge you to read Jeff Angus’ bit on how teams misread the tea leaves on his level of talent.

Marc-Andre Gragnani

This has to be the most surprising move by the Canucks today, especially because Gillis told Jeff Paterson that Gragnani had been extended a qualifying offer only last week. Marc-Andre Gragnani is what he is: a high-event defenseman. The team gave him an extended try-out towards the end of the season, and most thought it was so that he would qualify as a Restricted Free Agent. Now getting him into those fourteen games seems pretty superfluous.

I suppose the team was sufficiently unimpressed with what they saw of his gap control and defensive coverage, however, and he’s been allowed to hit the open market. It should be mentioned, however, that during his fourteen game stint with the Canucks, the team controlled nearly 55.5% of all Fenwick events against with Gragnani on the ice. He was sheltered in terms of zone-starts, but he did well to maintain that advantage and help the team generate shots and chances. His PDO was exceedingly low (95.8), and I wonder if that had anything to do with the team’s evaluation of him as a player. I’ve been confident in the club’s ability to see past that in the past, but this decision gives me pause.

Gragnani could still be re-signed, but, he has way more leverage as a UFA than he would have had the team submitted a qualifying offer. That’s a fancy way of saying that it’s extremely unlikely that Gragnani will be returned, and I’m extremely confused as to why. It seems to me that there were some smart strategies, strategies the coaching staff already implements with their roster, that could have been used to maximize his value. One thing to consider, is that Kevin Connauton’s continued improvement in Chicago this past season may have played a role in this decision. While I still would’ve been interested to see them compete for the same minutes, one may read this decision as a vote of confidence in the former Vancouver Giant. Or maybe the Canucks are getting Justin Schultz, who knows?

Who is left?

Of Vancouver’s eight pending restricted free agents, only four were qualified. Those players are Eddie Lack, Cory Schneider, Dale Weise and Mason Raymond – though he wasn’t quite qualified, but he was protected through arbitration. Of the roster players who are set to become unrestricted free-agents, we’ve heard that Bitz, Ebbett and Rome have not had talks with the team about new contracts – so those three are likely to hit the open market. Sami Salo was thought to be on his way out, but the tone of that chatter has changed of late, and it’s now expected he will return for another season (yay!).

Among non-roster players who are pending UFAs many expect the team will take another look at Steve Pinnizotto, who impressed in the preseason but was on the shelf with an injury for the entire 2011-12 campaign. Beyond that are farm hands like Mark Mancari, Steven Reinprecht, Matt Climie, and Nolan Baumgartner. I’d expect Mancari and Reinprecht to test the market and gauge interest from other teams before deciding whether or not to return to Chicago, whereas Climie is on a contract with the Wolves through next season, and it’s extremely hard to imagine Nolan Baumgartner leaving the organization.

  • DCR

    Thinking about Granani, how much of it do you think was just his inability to really mesh with Edler? I agree he still has upside for someone but do you really want a high event d-man on your 3rd pairing? It seems like AV wants a top pair, an Ozone pair and a Dzone pair for his d-men and if Granani couldn’t hack it with Edler then he’s just taking up a contract.

    I think the Canucks really saw the last 10-15 games of the season as downtime (which in hindsight was its own problem) and decided to treat it like extended training camp; so getting Granani his games didn’t involve giving up anything in their mind. After reviewing the tape they have decided that he is at best insurance. Which also explains the about face in rumors on Salo. If Granani is only insurance I would take a final year of Salo as insurance over MAG every time, even at 3 times the contract.

    Food for thought anyway. Thanks for the post, love you guys blog.

  • DCR

    “Many folks who will admit that Rome is a good sixth or seventh defenseman will also say that he was over-used during his Canucks tenure. They’re wrong, and it’s not a matter of opinion.”

    It absolutely is a matter of opinion, as both under- and over-use are comparisons to a hypothetical ideal use. If fans think Rome should have been used less than he was — irrespective of who played more or less than him — then they feel he was over-used.

    In the case of Rome, a lot of that is situational: it was inexplicable why Vigneault would give him power play time, for example, or play him as much as anyone down the stretch of a tight game where the Canucks were trying to catch-up from behind. The comparisons to Ballard’s ice time are fair, moreover, since these are situations where a high-event guy like Ballard can come in more handy (especially on the PP).

    When the Canucks went out and got a Ballard Jr. in M.-A. Gragnani at the deadline (rather than the steady, right-handed veteran defenseman they actually needed) it just led to even more head-scratching, given what Vigneault was known to dis/like. And now that they’ve let Gragnani walk, it’s even more puzzling.

  • BrudnySeaby

    It does almost seem like Gillis is trying to clear as much cap space as possible. Perhaps he is really serious about keeping both Luongo and Schneider? Or perhaps he wants to bring in a bigger contract up front for the top 6?

    Regarding some of the individuals that have been let go:
    – Ebbet; would have been great to see him return for the minimum (or a bit more than that) but my sense is that Gillis wants bigger bodies (as seen in the draft) throughout the team and definitely up front.
    – Rome; serviceable as 3rd pair D-man for sure. One would expect that Gillis knows he is bringing someone in for the 2nd pair and have Salo and some young talent alternate on the 3rd pairing (for keeping Salo fresh and giving experience to the young talent).
    -MAG; bit puzzling that he is cut loose from asset management perspective. Why not qualify him and give him some time with the Wolves and thus a longer look (coming into a new team for the final 14 games cannot be easy) or involve him in a trade?

    From a pure personal perspective, I hope Gillis will trade Ballard and Booth because those players are over paid. More so if Gillis wants to follow and keep selling players on the “home-discount” mantra that he got the Sedins and Kesler to sign onto. And that involves both current players (like Burrows) and future acquisitions.