Plugging the Holes: Looking at Line Two

David Clarkson – Wikicommons Media

Assuming the Canucks go with the status quo for next season (relatively speaking, there will be some inevitable change to the roster), what holes do they need to fill?

Today, we will take a look at some options for the second line wing spot next to David Booth* and Ryan Kesler**.

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Obviously there are two assumptions being made. Firstly that *Booth isn’t bought out. And **Kesler is healthy. I have made my thoughts on Booth pretty clear in previous work, but I don’t think you are going to find a better forward on the open market for $4.25 million this summer. And selling low is rarely the right course of action. Hopefully a full summer to train will help Kesler get back on track – his positive contributions to the Canucks have been far too sporadic over the last two years.

From everything we’ve heard, the Canucks aren’t going to make wholesale changes this summer. Mike Gillis and company believe in this core, and they are going to give them another shot at winning. Like San Jose, who largely stuck with the same core after repeated playoff failures, the Canucks know there is no knight in shining armor on his way to the NHL.

On the other hand, Gillis could just be blowing smoke. But let’s take him at his word and proceed.

The forward lines:

Sedin (6.1) – Sedin (6.1) – Burrows (4.5)

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Booth (4.25) – Kesler (5.0) – XXXX

Higgins (2.5) – XXXX – Hansen (1.35)

Sestito (.75) – XXXX – Kassian (.8)

Weise (RFA)

Right now, there are three or four lineup spots that need to be filled. In an ideal world, Kassian comes into camp ready to assume that open second line spot. However, it is never prudent to give ice time and responsibility to young players without them earning it. And sticking in this ideal world, Weise is brought back to play on line four, and Sestito slots in as the 13th or 14th forward. Jordan Schroeder is an RFA this summer, as well, and he will be in the NHL next year – either in Vancouver or somewhere else.

Last week I touched on some options to fill out the fourth line – on the left wing, at center, and on the right wing. There isn’t much within the organization on the left side, but there are a number of intriguing options on the open market. The pro scouting department has had more misses than hits in recent years, and they need to connect on a few signings this summer if they want to reopen the window to win.

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So let’s assume that the Canucks find a way to move Keith Ballard and Roberto Luongo (I’ll leave the cap Jedi magic up to Laurence Gilman). And let’s also assume that neither player fetches a top six forward in return (unfortunately this isn’t a huge stretch).

How much money would the Canucks be willing to spend on a second line winger? They could bump Higgins up there, but on a true contending team he is best suited for a third line spot. Nicklas Jensen may be ready for NHL minutes, but it wouldn’t be fair to him to expect second line production, and it wouldn’t be fair to the team to assume that a rookie is ready for it. I understand that many out there want the team to get younger, but you don’t force the process. You insert young players into the lineup when they are ready.

It is looking more and more likely that the team won’t be trading Alex Edler this summer (just look at some of the money being paid out to inferior and less experienced defensemen) unless the Canucks are able to land a star in return. The team doesn’t really have any other significant trade assets to dangle, so the open market is probably going to be the only route to find scoring help.

The “Kesler to right wing” picks:

Stephen Weiss – C


Weiss is probably the best two-way center available on the market (although an argument could be made that Mike Ribeiro is the best UFA center overall). He’s pretty much money in the bank for 18-25 goals and 50-60 points. And before missing most of 2013 with a wrist injury, he had played in at least 74 games in five straight seasons. That’s about as durable as it gets for a Vancouver center not named Henrik.

Weiss would allow Kesler to move to the right side, giving the Canucks an actual second line. And if Kassian surprises with his offensive consistency, it gives Vigneault’s replacement the option of balancing three scoring units up front.

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Why Not?

Weiss turned 30 this year, and he will likely be seeking a long term contract (five-plus years). Also, he isn’t big. How will that fit with the mandate?!

Weiss will also likely command offers in the $5-5.5 million per season range. Vancouver does need to add a center, and they need scoring depth. But there are other pressing issues within the organization and committing big money and big term to a solid – but not spectacular – 30-year-old coming off of a serious injury may not be the most advisable course of action.

Valtteri Filppula – C


Filppula, who turned 29 back in March, has quietly developed into a very effective two-way center. The Red Wings would love to keep him, but they may not be able to afford his salary demands. And he may want a bigger playing role – there are a few teams in the league that may give him the keys to the first line. He has a Cup ring, and now may be the time for him to go after the big contract (much like former teammate Jiri Hudler did last summer with Calgary).

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2013 was a disappointing season for Filppula, especially after his breakout campaign in 2011-12 (60 points, strong two-way play). But he bounces back in the postseason, so that probably won’t affect his open market value much – many teams need centers, and there aren’t a lot of good ones available.

He’s solid on the draw, he can play on the wing, he can kill penalties, and he is good on the power play, too.

Why Not?

If Filppula prices himself out of Detroit’s range, he will be outside of Vancouver’s, too (Gilman magic notwithstanding). And his only season of 50+ point production (last season) came when he was playing primarily left wing on Henrik Zetterberg’s line.

The “cagey veteran” pick:

Danny Cleary – LW


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Cleary has experience, skill, and he will likely come a lot cheaper than the other players on this list. However, there is a reason for that. He turns 35 this December, and he plays a very abrasive style of hockey (with low PIMs, mind you). How long can he remain an effective forward? Cleary scored 26 goals in 68 games back in 2010-11, but that number dipped down to 12 the next season. He has averaged over 20 assists a season for the past six full campaigns, and he is a versatile forward.

I like Cleary’s game a lot – he’s hard on the puck, he’s consistent, and his versatility would be a nice fit in the lineup. He’s kind of like Detroit’s Alex Burrows – a versatile player who can score, defend, and agitate the opposition.

Why Not?

Cleary isn’t a bona fide top six forward – he’s in that Higgins/Hansen range – solid enough in the top six, but better suited to a third line role (with increased ice time in the case of injury or a good stretch of production). And he really wants to return to Detroit.

The “likely too expensive” picks:

Nathan Horton – RW


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He’s relatively young for a free agent (28). He is a proven 25+ goal scorer. He’s physical.

Why Not?

Horton is going to be a hotly-pursued commodity this summer. The Bruins probably don’t have the cap space to re-sign him, but at least a half-dozen other teams will throw big money his way. He has battled concussion problems over the past two years (the Aaron Rome hit for concussion one, and a Tom Sestito hit for concussion two), and he can’t play center or the left wing. The Canucks are actually reasonably deep on the right side (Burrows, Kassian, Hansen, and likely Weise, too) – however, bringing in Horton could maybe allow Burrows to slide back to line two.

Horton is finishing up a six-year, $24 million contract he originally had signed in Florida (the Canucks sure picked the wrong Panthers to trade for…), and he will likely be looking for a $1.5-$2 million per season raise.

David Clarkson – RW


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If I could pick one UFA forward to add to the Canucks this summer, it would be Clarkson. He isn’t the most skilled player available, but he knows his game and he plays it every single night. He has great hands around the net, he’s tough, and he doesn’t change his game depending on who he is up against. He has scored 45 goals since the 2011-12 season began, which is more than any player on the Canucks roster.

The advanced stats back up Clarkson’s effectiveness – he shoots the puck a ton and is a terrific possession player (the two tend to go hand-in-hand…).

Why Not?

I can’t think of any reason to not sign Clarkson other than salary demands (term or salary amount). He’s 29, and has missed only two games total over the past three regular seasons.

Jarome Iginla – RW


To irritate an entire city, mostly. More seriously, Iginla is still an effective offensive forward (although you wouldn’t know it from having watched the Eastern Conference Final), even if his two-way game is atrophying rapidly. He wants to win… and he is likely going to sign somewhere that gives him another shot at the Cup. He’s made his money, and I’d expect him to take some sort of discount wherever he ends up going.

Why Not?

It’s Iginla. In Vancouver.

This isn’t a comprehensive look at the UFA market – stay tuned for two more parts to this series.

Previous Posts from Jeff

    • Mantastic

      they have lots of defensive prospects, not as good as streit of course but Viz will be taking over as their primary puck mover.

      goaltending is their bigger question mark but there are a lot of options out there for goalies this off season.

    • Mantastic

      I think it could be had. But they will be looking for a younger defencemen with some size, essentially everything Striet is not. If Luongo would go, would you send Edler for the right return? Corrado or Tanev?

      What would it take to make that happen? And what would you like to see as a return (realistically)?

      • UkeeRob

        Are you ok with trading Schneider? Trading Lu means getting Dipietro back. Let them deal with him, I don’t think Aquilini would buyout that contract. From what I’ve heard, he isn’t enamoured with buying out any contracts. I’ll probably get ripped for this (by NMOO), but how about Schneider and Edler for Nelson,Nino,and their first rounder. That would give us some youthful prospects and cap space. Our prospect pool would look a lot better for our next generation team with Nelson, Nino, Gaunce, Jensen, Corrado, and two first rounders in this draft. With a bit of cap space we could sign a FA winger to complement our aging core for a run in the next two years. After that if we bottom out, at least we should have a decent young core on the way to complement an eventual top pick star. I wouldn’t mind finishing near last at that point if only for a season or two, but I’m not crazy about doing it for a decade like the Islanders.

        • Mantastic

          only problem is that trading schneider is no longer an option due to Gillis painting himself into a corner with the mishandling of Luo. time to move on from the idea of trading schneider because it just won’t happen.

          • UkeeRob

            Maybe you’re right, but I don’t think it’s out of reach. With a new coach, Lu could be reinstalled. I don’t think Gillis painted himself in a corner, but he would have to eat some crow. But would he do that, probably not. The thing is, he doesn’t want to give Lu away for nothing (obviously) and Aquilini ain’t buying him out. So what to do with Lu?

          • UkeeRob

            “Maybe you’re right, but I don’t think it’s out of reach. With a new coach, Lu could be reinstalled”

            Choosing Schneider over Lou has nothing to do with the coach.

            It has always been Gillis’ decision. It doesn’t matter which goalie the coach prefers. The GM assembles the roster.

          • UkeeRob

            I realize that it’s Gillis who assembles the roster. I was referring to Luongo’s willingness to stay with the team. Don’t you guys understand when somebody uses the word “could.” I try to add some food for thought here and get ripped by people who only ever seem to add negative criticism about Gillis. Getting Kinda stale dudes.

          • Fred-65

            Trust me, I am fully on board with keeping Lou and trading Schneider.

            It’s one of the main reasons I want Gillis fired.

            But it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. And it has absolutely NOTHING to do with a new coach.

            “With a new coach, Lu could be reinstalled.”

            With a new GENERAL MANAGER, Lu could be reinstalled. The coach has nothing to do with it.

          • UkeeRob

            As I said, Gillis probably wouldn’t eat some crow on the Luongo situation. I’m just trying to come up with some realistic course of action whereby we can add to our core to take another crack or two at winning a cup and concurrently build a new generation core. Trading Schneider and keeping Luongo maybe isn’t as realistic as it once was, but its more realistic than Gillis getting fired or Aquilini eating Dipietro’s contract.

          • JCDavies

            Unless Aquillini steps in, which I would love for the record, I assume he’ll make the best trade for Lou that he can.

            Maybe he can get a mid-round draft pick.

            Maybe he has to take back a Komisarek or Grabovski.

  • The Voice In The Dark


    I love the idea of a VAN-NYI trade. Luongo + Ballard for Dipietro + Moulson/Okposo?

    Benefits us because we get rid of bad contracts and bring in a good 2nd line winger. Buying out Dipietro sucks, but that’s the price to get rid of Lu and bring in Moulson.

    Benefits them because they get a decent D-man (Yes, Ballard is decent, just not here!) and a proven goalie. And they don’t have to buy anyone out.

    Though I doubt this would happen because of Lu’s NTC, and NYI is unlikely to bring in another goalie signed until forever – also why I don’t see a Lu to PHI trade happening.

  • Mantastic

    “Selling low is rarely the right course of action.”

    You are making a gigantic assumption that the Canucks would be selling low on Booth.

    Was Tallon “selling low” on Booth 2 years ago?

    “Mike Gillis and company believe in this core.”

    It doesn’t really matter whether he believes in the core or not. It would be difficult for any GM to make big shakeups to the core and expect an improved product in 2013-2014. The Canucks simply don’t have many chips to move around.

    Aside from Schneider…

    “Like San Jose, who largely stuck with the same core after repeated playoff failures, the Canucks know there is no knight in shining armor on his way to the NHL.”

    San Jose integrated a quality draft pick in Logan Couture and used another quality draft selection in Charlie Coyle as well as a former draft pick in Devon Setoguchi to acquire Brent Burns.

    The Sharks forward group does not depend on Thornton, Marleau & Pavelski in the same manner in which the Canucks depend on the Sedins & Kesler.

    “So let’s assume that the Canucks find a way to move Keith Ballard and Roberto Luongo (I’ll leave the cap Jedi magic up to Laurence Gilman).”

    On what basis should we be assuming the Canucks move Ballard and Luongo without retaining salary?

    “Jordan Schroeder is an RFA this summer, as well, and he will be in the NHL next year – either in Vancouver or somewhere else.”

    He has played 31 NHL games. He is nowhere near a lock to be an NHLer next year.

    And the “why not” aspect of all these acquisitions boils down to the cap.

    Even if the Canucks manage to rid themselves of Ballard & Lou without cap implications, there simply isn’t much money to fill out a 22 or 23 man roster and be safely under the salary cap.

    If all Gillis does is move out Ballard & Lou, the Canucks are looking at a cheap 2nd line winger (Kassian or Jensen), cheap 3rd line centre (Schroeder or Gaunce), cheap 6th defenseman (Corrado) and cheap backup goalie (Lack). It will either be these internal solutions or similarly priced free agents.

    The Canucks need to move Ballard & Lou just to fill out the roster. Significant upgrading is not possible without moving out even more money.

  • BrudnySeaby

    Of all the players you listed here, in my mind, only Stephen Weiss makes sense. (Sure Clarkson would be awesome but is probably not realistic!)

    If the Canucks can sign Weiss for 4.5-5mln they should with the following in mind: start him of on 2C duty, and hand 3C to one of our youngsters. If the youngster under performs, Weiss can slide down to 3C and Kesler back over to 2C. At the deadline we would “only” be looking at adding another winger instead on another centre; a feat much easier to complete.

    This way we have a bit of insurance in our line-up. You know, I think it is best for a team to try to get the best players possible and have players of lesser quality slide down the line-up.

    • BrudnySeaby

      Wow that sounds like a great idea for Stephen Weiss’ career.

      Not only will he sign below market, it will also only be a 3 year deal! And without a NTC!

      How often does a quality 2nd line centre like Weiss choose to play on a team where he’s the 3rd best centre?

      Jordan Staal moved on. Derek Roy will also move on.

      It doesn’t make any sense for Weiss to come here.

  • UkeeRob

    I love how folks here and elsewhere cavalierly spend Aquaman’s money by proposing massive buyouts. Why do you assume he is that committed to building the best possible team? Why wouldn’t he believe he will still fill the building every night even with a mediocre team?

    Here’s my prediction: The Vancouver Canucks will not buy out ANY player – either their own or someone else’s.

    They will package good players with bad contracts in trades and get fairly crappy returns just to avoid compliance buyouts. I.e. sending Luongo with Edler somewhere just to move the contract and get a deal done – with Philly and the Islanders the two most likely destinations.

    Hockey is a passion for fans, but its a business for owners. We forget that.

    • The Voice In The Dark

      You’re probably right about the buyouts. I think most people are operating under the assumption that Ballard will be bought out — the actual cost to Aquilini won’t be that much, all things considered.

      There are teams/owners who can afford buyouts, and those who can’t. Van is one who can; Nyi is one who can’t. I think that’s where people (myself included) get the idea that the Canucks would be willing to pick up Dipietro in order to buy him out, IF it came with a half-decent return. I include Ballard in my trade wish because I can’t see Aquilini accepting that he’d have to buy out two contracts.

    • JCDavies

      “I love how folks here and elsewhere cavalierly spend Aquaman’s money by proposing massive buyouts. Why do you assume he is that committed to building the best possible team? Why wouldn’t he believe he will still fill the building every night even with a mediocre team?”

      It’s all just speculation, obviously, but why can’t spending money on buyouts be the correct business decision? It’s up to the Canucks to figure out how each decision will impact future revenues but I see no reason why good hockey decisions and good business decisions can’t be compatible.

      • UkeeRob

        “It’s all just speculation, obviously, but why can’t spending money on buyouts be the correct business decision? It’s up to the Canucks to figure out how each decision will impact future revenues but I see no reason why good hockey decisions and good business decisions can’t be compatible.”

        Of course it can be the correct business decision.

        Espescially if we are talking about retaining a small amount of Ballard’s salary on the Canucks’ cap as opposed to a buyout.

        But when people are talking about crazy Dipietro buyout scenarios, I think it’s safe to say Aquillini’s wallet isn’t much of a consideration.

        • JCDavies

          Agreed, some of the scenarios are getting a little crazy, especially the ones involving Dipietro.

          I also think buying bad contracts could be a good business decision.

          Two weeks ago Justin Azevedo had Leino, Wisnewski and Umberger on his list of buyout candidates. What would getting out from under those contracts without having to spend the money be worth to Buffalo and Columbus? If the deal made sense …

  • Fred-65

    If TO can’t sign Bozak they’ll sign Weiss.From what I’ve heard Bozak want to come out to the West. Kesler has to take one for the team and convert to a full time RW.

    We have enough top 4 Defensmen ( Hamhuis-Garrison- Bieska- Tanex ) to let Ballard and Edler go and give some Cap relief

    • JCDavies

      On June 24, 2013 02:56PM, Post 24 of this thread…if I had to pin it down. (Just Kidding).

      I think the point being overlooked with most of the speculation I’ve read is that we’re entering into an offseason like no other in the history in this league. Anyone out there remember anything like it?

      So I’m really in wait and see mode when it comes to opinions on what we need or what we can afford. I think this offseason a lot of General Managers are going to have to make some pretty huge decisions. Not just Gillis, all of them. So what makes the most sense to me is to wait and see what opportunities knock.

      It’s my opinion that what is happening right now is what’s best for our club. Transition. It’s going to happen, but can’t happen all at once. I can’t help but to think it’s at a perfect time since a league wide shuffle is about to take place this summer. It’s not just the Canucks that are impacted by the new CBA, it’s the entire league. We still have to be patient enough for the market bell to ring, because what is out there will more than likely change what we need. I suppose what I’m trying to say is, this is a good time to be a little needy with everybody reacting to the new shift with the CBA.

      Personally, I’m interested to see what happens because of the historical relevance this off season will have, and for once, I haven’t a remote clue how it’s going to unfold. Kinda fun reading all of this window shopping though.

  • JCDavies

    Kassian has to be the most logical fit for the hole on line 2, that or he has to be packaged out for something else
    I look forward to Jeff’s analysis of line 3 because I suspect that’s where the action is going to be this summer…

  • I didn’t really dive deep into the cap because there are so many moving parts.

    Buyouts, the Luongo issue, and so on. The Canucks could theoretically clear close to $10 million in cap space if a few moves are made.

    As it stands now they have zero cap space, obviously.

    • Mantastic

      $10 million will be for 8 players need to fill out the rest of the roster? i don’t see how you can find anything else but replacement level talent because actual impact players cost a lot more.

  • Mantastic

    Oh man, things are looking bleak on the summer market. I’ve always said, the only option for Canucks is to purchase themselves some assets. If Philly is willing to spend 30+M to rid themselves of bad contracts, Canucks better be willing to purchase themselves some. This is the NHL. You have to spend some to get some. Canucks don’t have prospects, cap space, the free agent market is crap. They have no other options. Maybe take a $24M Dipeitro contract, and send them a $5M Booth and $5M Ballard for buyout. The difference is $14M and Canucks can get a 3C (Brock Nelson) and a top 6 winger (Okoposo) in return. Works for me. Or something like this.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Iginla in Van this summer. Friemand stated in his 30 thoughts and on Hotstove a few months ago that Iginla like Van. That he’d take a run at Van this summer, but would never ask Cgy to trade him to a divison rival. He’d have to sign for reallllly cheap. And like u said, he’s not effective anymore – unless he gets some easy minutes.

  • lou19

    canuck’s fans are too funny, you don’t even know the Owners of the team you like. do you people really think the Aquilini’s are going to buy out any of those bums on the canucks or any other bums in NHL? ya think Luigi Aquilini got rich by giving his hard earned money away? lol
    He would have that idiot Gillis picking BLUEBERRY’s on one of Aquilini’s farms for the rest of his life if Gillis every asked for money to buy out any player. lol lol give a rest it aint going to happen.

    • JCDavies

      The Canucks have basically been a cap team every year since the cap was established.

      The only times they weren’t spending to the cap were when they were saving cap space for acquisitions at the trade deadline or when Gillis was waiting for a former Maple Leaf captain to decide if he wanted to play or retire. Either way, the money was there to spend if they needed it.

      If the cap was $70 mil this year, the Canucks would be a cap team; if it was $75 mil they would probably be a cap team …

      The moves still need to make sense to happen but for some reason, because the cap went down this year, people seem to think that the Canucks don’t have money to spend.

      • JCDavies

        “The moves still need to make sense to happen but for some reason, because the cap went down this year, people seem to think that the Canucks don’t have money to spend.”

        The Canucks may have money to spend. But they don’t have the cap space without clearing out a number of expensive contracts. It starts with Lou & Ballard. But that’s not enough to add anything significant.

        • JCDavies

          The comment was in response to doubts that the Canucks will use their compliance buyouts, obviously they will need to clear cap space.

          I don’t know if the Aquilinis will let Gillis use the buyouts but if they were averse to spending money, they had plenty of opportunity before now to reduce the payroll.

    • JCDavies

      This. It’s quite remarkable how little known the Aquilini’s remain to the fanbase. It’s a clever strategy because the more fans knew, the less happy they would be.

      These are hard-nosed businessmen who are rich, but not in the billionaire leagues. They are not going to burn money, period. The Canucks are a profit-turning exercise for them.

  • GC99

    (first time posting, so hope I dont get ripped apart)

    In my opinion, the owners best line of action is to use their deep pockets and BUY assets… which means use the compliance buyout.

    I know, I know. It’s a business and they would still sell out every night even with an average product on the ice.

    So, why spend more money?

    To make truckloads of money in the playoffs.

    deep playoff run > cost of buyout

    I cant remember exactly, but they make something like an extra $2m per home playoff game. We’ve only had 3 home playoff games in the last 2 years. Compare that to the 14 home games we had in the 2011 cup run. The 2011 cup run brought in over $20m for the owners.

    Now, Gillis just needs to convince the Aquilinis that buying assets can result in a deep playoff run… I’ll leave that to him.

  • GC99

    If you can’t sign Clarkson,I think you promote Hansen to the second line. He was in 9th place among RW (Who played at least 20 games last season) in the league in ES pts/60. Granted, he had a high PDO, but I think he’s earned his shot at big minutes, let’s see what he can do.

  • GC99

    Unless the departure of Booth was for the impending signing of Iginla (maybe not even then, Booth is just so good at driving play), I can’t see Booth being bought out.

    Also, it’s positively laughable to see people who practically take it for granted that the Canucks are getting Dipietro back for Luongo…

    How stupid would that be? Seriously? Whether you like to admit it or not, Luongo is still a positive asset. It’s not that GMs don’t like him or want him, they just want him cheap. At the very least, move him for a couple draft picks, but don’t move him for a massive minus-asset in Dipietro. Seriously people…