“I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it NOW!”
One of the hallmarks of this Canucks administration is their commitment to rebuilding without sacrificing winning. They’ve been adamant that they want to bring their prospects up in the winning culture, which we assume is the result of the fear of going down the path of a decade long Edmonton-esque rebuild. Whether it is this, or a drive to squeeze that extra couple million dollars that comes along with a first round playoff home stand, is sort of irrelevant. This is the path they’ve chosen, so can it work?
In this series, I’m going to explore whether its possible to move towards the ultimate long-term goal of winning a Stanley without sacrificing management’s short-term goal of making the playoffs every year.
After the jump, I’ll get into the first step: tearing down the current roster.
As I detailed last month, the Canucks compounded a bad situation with their salary cap when they re-signed Derek Dorsett and Luca Sbisa to ugly extensions. With the salary cap projected to be $71.5M next year, that leaves the Canucks with $4.86M in space to fill 6 remaining roster spots. The Canucks need to get younger, they need cap space, and perhaps most importantly, they need to ensure they get value for their 2015 and 2016 UFAs rather than having them walk away for nothing.
Moves to Consider
Without further ado, here are the moves I think the Canucks should be considering now:
|Shawn Matthias||27||UFA||5th round pick|
|Chris Higgins||31||$2.5M||2nd round pick|
|Kevin Bieksa||33||$4.6M||2nd round pick|
|Radim Vrbata||33||$5M||1st + prospect|
|Dan Hamhuis||32||$4.5M||1st round pick|
The Case for Moving Matthias, Higgins, & Bieksa
I touched on what we could expect to receive for the rights to Matthias, Higgins, and Bieksa based on recent comparable deals earlier. It’s been discussed at length that the Canucks aren’t currently in a position to compete for Matthias in the UFA market this year, so the Canucks focus really needs to be on monetizing this asset before it evaporates in two months, if possible.
In the case of Chris Higgins, he’s still very much a useful player, but if your plan is for the Canucks to return to being a contender in a couple years time, at 31 he’s not going to be part of that. A 2nd round pick is market value for a player like Higgins, and as I’ll show later in the series, his skill set should be replaceable from this year’s UFA market, and potentially by younger prospects already in the Canucks system.
There’s been a lot of discussion around the reasons to ask Bieksa to move on from the Canucks. I won’t restate the argument again, but if you want to look at this more, I’ll refer you to our own JD Burke and his recent article questioning if the Canucks should move on from Kevin Bieksa.
The Case for Moving Radim Vrbata
Vrbata is an interesting one. He is coming off a career year, with 31 goals and 63 points, and his production won’t be easy to replace. However, for a number of reasons The Province’s Jason Botchford pointed out in his column last week, it’s sounding like management is less enthused with Vrbata than you may think. While it was to find a number of trades for scenarios similar to Matthias, Higgins, and Bieksa, the examples of comparables for Vrbata are fewer and there’s more variability.
|Age as of Trade||Transaction Date||Acquiring Team||Player||Team||Compensation||GP||G||A||PTS|
|32||2012-06-22||WSH||Mike Ribeiro||DAL||Cody Eakin + 2nd||74||18||45||63|
|36||2013-03-28||PIT||Jarome Iginla||CGY||1st + 2 b prospects||82||32||35||67|
|31||2013-04-03||CBY||Marian Gaborik + 2 x b prospects||NYR||D. Brassard, Dorsett, Moore, 6th||47||12||15||27|
|30||2013-04-03||MIN||Jason Pominville + 4th rd pick||BUF||1st, 2nd, prospect, backup goalie||47||14||20||34|
|30||2013-10-27||NYI||Thomas Vanek*||BUF||1st, 2nd, Matt Moulson||78||27||41||68|
|39||2014-03-05||NYR||Martin St. Louis + 2nd||TBL||1st, 2nd, 7th, Ryan Callahan||81||30||39||69|
Now, obviously Vrbata doesn’t have the same brand power the names on this list, but in terms of players with similar production and age, they are comparable to what Vrbata achieved last year. To be clear, I’m not suggesting Benning can equal the haul Steve Yzerman did for Martin St. Louis, or Tim Murray received received for Thomas Vanek. However, for a “win now” team that believes they are a Stanley cup contender in need of bolstering secondary scoring, I don’t see a scenario where they part with a late first and a prospect as being unrealistic.
Perhaps most importantly, Vrbata will be an UFA next summer, so one way or another the Canucks will need to either have assurance they can resign him a year from now, or move him by the 2016 deadline in order to ensure they don’t walk away with nothing.
The Case for Moving Dan Hamhuis
A whole post could be written on whether or not to move Dan Hamhuis, but for the interest of time, here are the top reasons for moving him:
– He’s one of four key core members of the team who will be an UFA after the end of next season, with Eddie Lack, Kevin Bieksa, and Radim Vrbata being the others. In the case of Bieksa, Vrbata, and Hamhuis, at their age I can’t see the team prioritizing resigning them, and given the value I think they hold, the team should not allow them to walk away for nothing.
– While Hamhuis’ play is declining, but not nearly as rapidly as for Kevin Bieksa, so he could bring the Canucks a pretty enticing return. He’s only a year from being a Team Canada Olympian and was asked to represent his country again this summer in the World Championships. Here are some comparables of other top 4 defensemen moved in the last couple years:
|Age as of Trade||Transaction Date||Acquiring Team||Player||Team||Compensation|
|27||2012-02-21||DET||Kyle Quincey||TBL||1st, b grade prospect|
|30||2013-04-01||STL||Jay Bouwmeester||CGY||1st, 4th, replacement level G, replacement level D.|
|28||2015-02-15||NSH||Cody Franson & Mike Santorelli||TOR||1st, prospect, Olli Jokinen|
|29||2015-02-25||LA||Andrej Sekera||CAR||1st, prospect|
|28||2015-03-01||NYR||Keith Yandle, 4th, replacement level D||ARI||1st, 2nd, Anthony Duclair, John Moore|
|30||2015-03-02||TBL||Braydon Coburn||PHI||1st, 3rd, Radko Gudas|
While Hamhuis doesn’t have the same offensive capabilities as some of the other names on this list, its hard to conclude by looking at these trades that a late first round pick from a contender wouldn’t be possible. From the 2012-13 season through to this year, Hamhuis’ play has been consistent with a four defensemen, top 2 in some aspects of his game:
Courtesy of Dominic Galamini (@mimicohero ownthepuck.blogspot.ca )
However, when you look at his rolling shot attempt differential chart over the past few seasons, you can see a slow, but unmistakable decline consistent with a player of Hamhuis’ age:
Courtesy of Muneeb Alam (@muneebalamcu)
Time waits for no man, and it would much better to monetize Hamhuis’ value now before he walks away for nothing, begins a Bieks-ian decline in abilities, or both.
Where Does that Leave Us?
There are six RFAs that I fully expect the Canucks to re-sign: Ronalds Kenins, Sven Baertschi, Adam Clendening, Linden Vey, Frank Corrado, and Yannick Weber. That said, without counting on those players to sign, here is the Canucks roster after taking into account the moves suggested above.
|D. Sedin||H. Sedin||Burrows|
I’ve put Virtanen and Shinkaruk in as placeholders until the more likely candidates like Kenins, Baertschi, and Vey sign, but you get the idea. The 15 players listed above account for $52.9M in cap space, leaving $18.6M remaining for the 8 remaining roster spots ($2.3M per spot).
This certainly leaves fairly significant holes in Vancovuer’s roster that will have to be filled before next season. I’ll cover how the Canucks can go about filling these holes in the next installment, where I’ll discuss the 2015 unrestricted free agents I recommend the Canucks look to fill some of these open spots on July 1. Stay tuned for part two!