Notes: Cam Barker Signed, Edler to Play the Right Side, Gillis Bullish on the Luongo Market

Back in the friendly confines of Rogers Arena, the Canucks prepare to open training camp this afternoon.
Photo credit: @VanCanucks.

There’s lots of Canucks stuff happening today. With training camp opening in about three hours time and media availability just ending, I figured I’d distill a whole of bunch of topics into one medium sized post. 

Click past the jump for some thoughts on Cam Barker, Alex Edler playing the right-side and Mike Gillis’ description of the Luongo trade market.

Cam Barker

Earlier this week it was thought that Cam Barker would be brought to training camp on a professional try-out, but it turns out the Canucks have gone ahead and just signed him to a one-year deal worth $700,000. According to Jason Botchford, the Canucks "had their eye on Barker for a similar role last year," and have spent the day praising the 26 year old for his upside and potential (terms usually reserved for teenagers).

Granted the Canucks have had some success with reclamation projects in the recent past (Maxim Lapierre, Raffi Torres and Chris Higgins to name a few) and In terms of the financial commitment the Canucks made to Cam Barker, who was recently released by the Texas Stars, this is a no-risk deal. So I really shouldn’t get too worked up about it.

So I’ll just say that most likely, even in a depth role, Barker will continue to be as overmatched at the NHL level as he has been the past three season (seasons in which he has been a clear cut anchor on defensive pairings with Andy Sutton, and a rookie Jared Spurgeon – yikes). But there’s at least a chance that the Canucks can manipulate the matchups and Barker’s zone-starts sufficiently well to bring out the best in him on nights when back-end injuries force him into the lineup.

This Canucks management team has done a good enough job, for the most part, bringing in value guys on no-risk deals so perhaps they deserve the benefit of the doubt. I’m very skeptical about this one though.

Edler on the Right Side

Oh man, oh man. The Canucks are lucky that the rest of the Northwest Division is so mediocre because with Kesler out of the lineup and big question marks in their top-four, this club’s spot atop the division table would be vulnerable if there were any legitimate rivals out there.

This past Wednesday I looked into Edler’s performance playing the right-side last season at five-on-five for my gig with PlayNowSports. Here’s the meat of my findings:

Edler spent about 15% of his even-strength ice-time in the 2011-12 season playing with defenders who are exclusively “left-side” guys (Keith Ballard, Dan Hamhuis and Andrew Alberts), and the balance of his ice-time playing with right-side defenders like Sami Salo, Kevin Bieksa, Alexander Sulzer, Chris Tanev and Aaron Rome. In his left-side ice-time, the Canucks controlled 52.7% of Corsi events with Alex Edler on the ice and were outscored by 5 goals in well over 1250 minutes of ice-time. With Edler playing the right-side, and this needs to be qualified with your standard small sample size disclaimer, the Canucks controlled 47% of Corsi events and were outscored by 8 in 225:09 of even-strength ice-time. While the small-sample adds an element of uncertainty to our analysis, I feel comfortable telling you that the early returns on Alex Edler playing the right-side point are ugly and don’t inspire me with confidence.

If the Canucks handle Edler’s adjustment correctly, and shelter the hell out of his pairing in the first bit as he adjusts, he should have the skill level to pull it off. But Edler was given a shot on the right-side last season, and the results weren’t pretty frankly. All of this is just to say that this particular move doesn’t exactly inspire me with confidence.

Luongo’s Trade Status

Some of us, like John Shannon, were expecting a Luongo trade to happen within hours of the transfer window re-opening following the ratification of the new collective bargaining agreement. Obviously that hasn’t happened, yet, and it seems realistic that we may have to wait another week (or more) for things to play out. 

In the meantime, Mike Gillis gave a press conference and fielded some Luongo questions that are worth discussing briefly. Here’s some tweets from the reporters in attendance:

This one makes sense because, really, what else is Gillis going to say?

This one is a bit more interesting. It makes some sense that the new CBA, with its restrictions on long-term deals and cap-circumventing contracts, would add to the value of Luongo’s cap-circumventing contract. In comparison actually with the cap-benefit that a club receives over the course of Luongo’s deal, any punitive cap-benefit recapture at the tail end seems like small potatoes. Also, because of the length of Luongo’s deal, obviously it makes no sense for the Canucks to split Luongo’s salary with whatever team that acquires him. I’m really not surprised to hear that the Canucks aren’t even discussing it as a possibility.

This third tweeet, from the Canucks official account no-less, if full on revealing. Why? It tells us that Mike Gillis, who is more familiar with the Roberto Luongo market than any of us could possibly be, isn’t feeling any pressure to "manage expectations" at the moment.

Sure he could be bluffing and trying to inflate Luongo’s value – I mean, clearly they’re over-selling the living hell out of Cam Barker’s potential usefulness – but in this case I think that’s a stretch. If Luongo was only going to fetch cap-space, an expiring contract and a B level prospects in a trade; I’d imagine that Gillis would be subtly preparing Canucks fans (and Vancouver sports media) for such an eventuality. I find it very interesting that he isn’t.

  • DCR

    I’m less concerned about Cam Barker than Edler on the right side.

    If Barker doesn’t work out he can be thrown to the Wolves with no penalty beyond having to pay his salary. It’s a low risk play on Gillis’ part, with potential upside if Barker can come back to the player he was when he was drafted. For all that Oilers fans are saying it’s a bad signing, it’s a lot better contract for the Nucks than the one Edmonton signed him to last season.

    I wouldn’t call the chance of a great reward very high, but the fact there’s practically no risk more than offsets the fear that he is unlikely to pan out.

    Right-side Edler scares me.

    I’m still having trouble understanding what’s going on with the Canucks’ D on the right side. With 80-odd percent of the overall population being right-handed why have the Canucks had so much trouble signing a top-4 right-side D? To butcher Shakespeare, it “puzzles the will.”

  • BrudnySeaby

    Thomas, like you said on Twitter, with the Canuck’s luck on D, Barker as their 8th defenseman will play. Unless of course that prospect scares all Canucks D to stay healthy all season! 😉

  • DCR

    DCR — right-handedness doesn’t correlate strongly (or at all? Or possibly even inversely) with right-shottedness. A majority of NHLers shoot left, I’m pretty sure.