Friday Roundtable: Under the Radar Free Agents

roundtable

The Vancouver Canucks enter free agency with no shortage of cap space and holes to fill on their roster, so it’s no surprise that they’re expected to be one of the more active teams therein. Before they can steal other teams top talents, they’ll have to decide what to do with their own. Namely, Dan Hamhuis.

After that is when things get interesting. Radim Vrbata is all but a certainty to leave for greener pastures. That leaves an opening on the wing and no shortage of options on the free market to plug it with. Milan Lucic, local hero and bully of a left winger if there ever was one, is the most mentioned of the lot. Loui Eriksson and Kyle Okposo aren’t far behind in terms of interest.

All these options are just way too obvious, though. So, I figured I would trouble the Canucks Army staff for which under the radar free agents they would like to see the Canucks pursue in free agency on July 1st.

Matt Henderson

I’d love to see them take a stab at David Perron. He fell out of favour in St. Louis and has bounced around a bit, but he put up decent offensive numbers in Anaheim this year, and at the right price he could be a mentor to some of the younger guys. But he’ll probably sign for massive numbers on July 1st, so hopefully not.


Jackson

This is a tremendously boring answer, but no, there isn’t really anybody I’d like them to pursue.

Free agents are for good clubs trying to add pieces and become great clubs. If you’re a contender, it makes sense to overspend to maximize competitiveness during your window. Vancouver is a bad club that could maybe be mediocre if they added a couple of free agents. I’d rather see them stay the course for another year, make due with what they have, and get another high draft pick before they start building back up again.

Having said that, there are a couple of lower-profile guys I wouldn’t mind seeing them sign to short term and hoping they can play well enough to be worth something at the deadline, like the leafs did last season. P.A. Parenteau or Alex Radulov could prove to be great reclamation projects. Don’t see that happening though.

Jeremy Davis

I wouldn’t encourage the Canucks to go swinging for the fences in free agency this year, but I wouldn’t mind them looking to upgrade in certain areas – such as a top six winger. I’d be interested in taking a crack at New York’s Kyle Okposo. The 27-year old power winger is coming off of a five year deal valued at $2.8 million per year and is due for a raise. He made $4.5 million in salary last year, and that’s probably closer to what he’d be worth on the open market this summer. Okposo has averaged about 22 goals and 60 points over the past three seasons and could provide some offence that could take the pressure off of the Sedins as well as the younger players who are working their way up.

There’s a decent chance that Okposo will be looking for four or five years (or longer), but given his age it would be preferable to get him in on a shorter term deal. Given his age and style of play, he’s probably not going to be in a position to be a core member of the Canucks when they make they’re eventual return to some sort of contention. He’d be more of a stop gap, and a sign from management to the fans (and the players themselves) that they aren’t just going to sit on their hands while the rebuild plays out. He also comes with the following added bonus: he’s one of Brock Boeser’s favourite players <and a guy that Boeser has modeled his game after>(http://www.nationalpost.com/m/gamer+brock+boeser+could+canucks+next+thing/11602716/story.html). 

Who better to mentor Boeser when he arrives in 2017-18 than one of his idols?

And I mean actually mentor, like with style of play and skill building. Not the Derek Dorsett School of Shoulder Rubbing.

Tyler Horsfal

I would pretty much echo what Jeremy said. One name that has always intrigued me is Loui Eriksson given his play with the Sedins at international competitions and the fact he is a fairly solid winger.

Outside of Eriksson, Okposo, Lucic, and Perron, there are not many unrestricted free agents worth chasing. I would rather see the Canucks target some restricted free agents like defenceman Patrick Wiercioch.

Taylor Perry

Brian Campbell? I generally agree with jackson and the consensus that the FA class this year won’t be enough to really alter the Canuck’s immediate fortunes. That said, Campbell is still a top-4 guy (although he shoots left) and will probably take a significant discount from his current (overpaid) salary – say in the 5.5-6 million range as a 36 year old d-man. He’s still a positive possession player and he’s always been very good at moving the puck forward. On a 2-year deal, there is little risk and I would try it. Lord knows the Canucks need to improve their defense, although he may come at the expense of Hamhuis. In any case, worth a look

  • wojohowitz

    I liked the job Cracknell did last year as a fourth line center / winger who they can plug in when needed. A couple of names available for that fourth line center position might be Gaustad and Hanzal.

    • gdpsports

      While that might be true, that wasn’t the question being asked here. We all know the team is more than one or two FA signings away from contending, that’s why it would have been nice to hear about the more inexpensive players available on the market that could help the team down the road. I know it’s not easy to find them, but with a little research and effort we should have learned about at least one player who could be a good fit and make sense. I guess that leaves the door open so when JB signs a player he be can ripped for it as always. How about Jamie McGinn, Darren Helm or Luke Schenn? Do you think these are players who could help? Positives/Negatives?

  • Whackanuck

    They sure do not need more guys that are mediocre talent but can play 3 positions.

    I agree it might be a year or so early to sign a top free agent but they need to sell tickets and a guy like Lucic might help there.

    I’d go for Demers to help the right side D, and sign Lucic. I’d also keep hunting for a few tweeners to pay in Utica and fill in for injuries ie to replace Fedun and other older vets in the AHL.

  • Whackanuck

    If or when the Leafs are an example of a team that has tanked and been rebuilt into a contender, that is when I will stop laughing when I see it in writing that the Canucks should do what the Leafs have done.

    I hope JB signs some grit like McGinn or Martin to at least make the games a bit more interesting if the club struggles.

  • Whackanuck

    I know this is not popular, but I hope they do nothing and see what a healthy team can do and assess the kids and team accordingly. I’d rather Jim make an assessment with as much information as possible.

    • Ho Borvat

      I would be quite happy with this approach. I think Mccann will play mostly in Utica next year ( if he escapes a trade) which pretty much pencils in your 4 centers with Hank, Sutter, Bo and Granlund. You still really don’t know who you have with Edem, Baertschi, Virtanen, Hutton, Tryamkin, Rodin, etc. And when I say “don’t really know” I’m referring to where their ceiling is at. I really hate to see him go but I think Hansen may get dealt as his stock will never be higher. They could get a good return on Hansen and sign someone like Troy Brouwer to replace the leadership. Let the other unknowns battle it out and give them lots of ice time and the cream will rise to the top. That all may be a bit of a pipe dream though if the focus is trying to put bums in seats.

    • Dirty30

      Absolutely — there are already new guys coming in — Rodin and Larsen — Tryamkin who only played a dozen games as well as guys like Sutter coming off injury.

      It will be the first full season for Etem post -trade, as well as for Biega and possibly Pedan.

      Edler, Sbisa and Tanev coming off injuries as well.

      Let’s see how they fare before committing to some free agent playing with the Sedins making the team look good when it might be crap.

      If they are crap then plan how to get the players needed to fill in where needed — if they’re not crap, look at who might come available down the road who could make a difference to contending.

  • I once thought Stamkos would be a nice add but his health is a concern and he’s probably looking to break the bank. However, he is exactly what we need. A #1 centre and he’s only 26.

    Other than that, take a look at McGinn and/or Brouwer.

    Benning should look to deal Hansen and maybe buy-out Burr or send him to Utica. Higgins is likely Utica bound but could be dealt to a contender – might happen since it’s his final year.

  • IMO, given the cap space we have, any signing should be made with an eye to the trade deadline. Make sure it’s someone we can flip for a pick or a prospect to a team vying for Stanley if we’re out of the running again.

  • Canucks should overpay any guy that at least 2 cash and cap-strapped contenders are chasing, so that the guy can get rich and that the team has a trade chip when the contenders are contending and can fit a big salary under the cap.

  • Whackanuck

    Okposo would be a great signing, and agreed on Campbell as well (depending on price). I wouldn’t go with Perron, who seems to have issues sticking w/teams, or with Erickson as a signing only based on his play with the Sedins.

    Guys like Okposo and Campbell will help to fill some seats at least, just checked the nucks seasons ticket prices, never seen them so cheap.

  • I would not be opposed to signing a player like Luke Schenn. He is a big physical right defenseman. A player or 2 of that caliber is what this team needs during this transition period.

    Steady play and a willingNess to protect teammates is sorely missing from this team.

    I hope Benning doesn’t go out and do something foolish like sign players for the soul purpose of trade deadline. What a complete idiotic philosophy that is.

  • Whackanuck

    Cannot believe some of the unoriginal suggestions here.

    What the hell is Brouwer going to do for the team? Campbell, age 37. Schenn, exposed as 2 slow by two previous teams?
    If that’s the answer, then I endorse the do nothing suggestion. Sign a free agent to trade him? How long do you thing tradeable talent is going to keep signing with the Canucks?

    Oh well, since I’m collecting trashes I’ll regurgitate Lucic. The one guy that will change the character of the Canucks.Don’t hate me for it-nobody has ever said he’s a bad teammate. And it will prevent the team throwing prospects to the wolves.

    • Dirty30

      The only way I’d like to see Lucic here is if he came for 5 years max, front loaded contract for about 25-30 mil total. But why would he do it? This town would put him under a microscope and criticize every thing he did or didn’t do on or off the ice.

      In LA he can go to a Lakers game naked and no one would know who he is or care. In Van, he couldn’t step out of his house with his kids without getting accosted by some rabid fan.

      And what’s the upside for the team? Some toughness? Getting rid of Vey increases team toughness by 100%. Way cheaper and less baggage than Lucic too!

      • Whackanuck

        I’m surprised at the Lucic hate. I guess it was the Bruins thing but if he had been playing for, say, Carolina, would people care about his past?

        The reason I suggested him is simply that he gets 55 points+ and is a shepherd to what will be an awfully young team. He doesn’t even have to fight anymore, his rep alone deters the less brain endowed. The Canucks can’t put all that on Dorsett, willing as he is. Thats what I meant by cultural shift.

        I agree he may not want to play in Vancouver but IMO there’s no harm in trying to get him. Many of the Cup contenders have cap problems so going there is easier said than done.

        We saw what a cheap fill in gets the team-Weber,Bartkowski, Biega all had terrible stats. That’s how I see Brouwer and Campbell as well-blocks to roster spots for legitimate prospects with upside. I’d rather see Subban as strictly a PP specialist than Campbell fading.

        I’m dead set against offer sheets. Like it or not it’s poison among GMs. If Benning approaches some teams or possibly is approached, do it as a trade. Everybdy is onside, no lingering dislike and the Canucks get a good young player.

        As I said, if it’s Eriksson or Perron, I’d rather have the Canucks just get a couple of projects. And draft well.

        • Lucic isn’t a bad idea because he’s an ex-Bruin. He’s a bad idea because he’s an overpaid power-forward who is on the decline — his numbers came back up somewhat this year because he got to play with top line players in LA so maybe he’d repeat 50 points playing on a line with the Sedins. But he brings you nothing defensively, he’s slow as hell, has scored more than 30 goals once in his career and I see no point in spending at least $6 million on our own version of David Clarkson.

          If you have to spend on a big name free agent (which is a terrible idea for a team that’s rebuilding) then I’d say you either go for a two-way forward (Eriksson), a two-way D (basically Hamhuis) or a goalie (which we already have in Miller).

          But the best option is NOT to spend the cash and instead to do as someone else already wrote — assume that getting Edler, Sutter and Henrik back from injuries would be the necessary cushion to still training the young guys. Will we be good? No. But we’ll be competitive and a good place to see whether the young guys are going to get better.

  • On second thought, if the Canucks are serious about winning back the trust of the fans in the team’s direction, this has to be the summer of the offer sheet.

    Benning is looking for foundational players, not stop gaps, and he is the super scout, so it doesn’t seem like much of a gamble to find a guy coming off a $2M deal and show him the money, especially if his team isn’t in a position to match.

    Face it, the premium UFAs want to go to contenders, and the Canucks are more than a few years away from that status. They need to use their cap space to steal youngsters that they were unable to draft a few years ago because they were competing for the Presidents Trophy.

    • Whackanuck

      You do understand how offer sheets work right? Is it really worth sacrificing multiple high draft picks for years to come to land someone unless they are a generational talent (and there’s no-one like McDavid in any of the RFA classes)?

      Besides this post is about UFAs and I agree with all those who’ve written before that it’s better not to hamstring the rebuild and to get a few complementary players if any. I would lean towards not getting any more. If we are caught between the dilemma of competing versus developing (and I don’t think we really are, we are in the middle of a rebuild no matter what the public stance is) then getting a Peron or Campbell simply blocks the developmental path of another young player. We need to accept that we aren’t going to be terribly competitive and try to build as good a learning environment as possible (which would include staying away from locker room cancers like Radulov)

      • Under $1,239,226 No Compensation
        $1,239,227 to $1,877,615 Third Round Pick
        $1,877,616 to $3,755,233 Second Round Pick
        $3,755,234 to $5,632,847 First and Third Round Picks
        $5,632,848 to $7,510,464 First, Second, & Third Round Picks
        $7,510,465 to $9,388,080 Two Firsts Round Picks, One Second & One Third Round Pick
        $9,388,081 or higher Four First Round Picks

      • Starting with the Vey and Clendening trades Benning showed he was willing to trade opportunity for guys that were closer to being ready, suggesting there is some sort of urgency to the rebuild. Signing offer sheets (and sacrificing the picks if successful) is consistent with this more urgent approach.

        You offer sheet guys stuck on third lines some place that your scouting magic tells you could be first and second liners in a few years time. Offering $5.5M to a guy current making $2M only costs you a 1st and a 3rd if it is accepted, and if it isn’t accepted it really messes up other teams’ cap management. Do this to two teams and you can bet that other teams are going to be more interested in talking trades at the risk of getting “sheeted on”. (pun intended)

        • Trading late round picks (Forsling for Clendening), picks acquired through trade (Garrison for second for Vey) or stalled prospects (Jensen and a fifth for Etem) is a good strategy. What you suggest is a fantasy — who is stuck on a third line and making $2 million? Wiercoch and Orlov are both at that number but both are D and I’d be surprised if either are available. Just about anyone else who is an RFA is an up and coming prospect whose team is definitely going to match.

          And the idea that it’s an actual workable strategy to “mess with other teams” by throwing out offer sheets to force them to match at too great a number is laughable. Because other teams are stupid and don’t know what’s going on? Because they won’t have a long memory and hold it against you? Remember the Dustin Penner fiasco with Edmonton and Anaheim? Do we really need to have a repeat of the Gillis era with the entire league hating our management and basically refusing to trade (outside of FLA) with us? You’re not going to force teams to make trades with you through these kinds of strategies. You aren’t competing with dumb computer AIs but with real people with real grudges they’ll hold.

          • Whackanuck

            The “dealing with grudges” angle is interesting because in all of this virtual GMing we do here there really is no psychological profile of the GMs involved. It’s probably worth some investigation to see if it really is as prevalent as it used to be. Anyway, GMs get fired for messing up. You put the heat on the one closest to the brink.

            Let’s hope that this summer Benning gets beyond the chapter in Art of War that recommends throwing in a second rounder.

          • Ho Borvat

            But let’s say you’re successful and you drive up the price of a few RFAs. In the long run that doesn’t just harm another team and its cap situation, it comes back to harm you because when its time for you to negotiate with your RFAs you’ve effectively increased the market across the board and affected your own cap situation as well. And you could only get away with this perhaps one or two times — the NHL remains too much of an old boys network not to have blowback on such a strategy.

          • You sign players at below market value by creating an environment where they want to play, and winning doesn’t hurt either. Right now the Canucks have got to overpay to bring guys in, so you might as well overpay someone that has a long career ahead of him and will make you better in the future than someone who will decline in a year.

            I don’t see the “inflation” argument, because the cap is what it is, and that is what determines who gets paid what on a team that is willing to go right to the cap. As it stands now the Canucks aren’t a contender. Benning has his road map about how to build one with foundational pieces. I’m pretty sure a UFA in his 30s doesn’t fit as a foundational piece. If you’ve identified a potential foundational piece and he is currently on another roster and is RFA you offer sheet him, because the team’s pipeline is pretty limited.

        • You got the mechanics right, but the tactics wrong.

          First, you talk with a GM: “My owner is really pressuring me to make a bid on your RFA Barrie. Can we try to work something out between us so my owner doesn’t pressure me into this?” Your starting ground is “Here’s what you’d get on an offer sheet; but we all know what kind of a crapshoot the draft is, and how long it takes to get someone NHL-ready. What if we subbed in…”

          Second, if you’re actually going in on an offer sheet, you have to offer sheet two players from the same team, but only if they are up against the cap (Chicago) or an internal cap (Colorado, Columbus). That will force them to choose between the two players, and you will get one of them.

          Of course, this could backfire on you, if the team you’ve approached gets in a huff at the implied threat and then trades Hamilton to Calgary–I mean, will make a trade with one of your division rivals as a punishment for the implied threat.

          The reason that offer sheets generally don’t work is that the team can go to 110% of the cap during the off-season. Between July and 12 October, the team will have plenty of time to make a deal with someone else to balance the books.

          • Again, how realistic is any of this? There have been less than 40 offer sheets in the entire history of the NHL and 8 since 2000. I think you know this all too well so in what way do you think the mechanics make any sense (I agree that the tactics are wrong too)?

          • Ho Borvat

            If you are going to sheet all over another team you have to be careful about how much advance warning you give them. Following your friendly chat the team could just call the RFA and accept whatever offer is on the table, or wrap up the negotiation quickly.

            Your approach is definitely more collegial, but the fundamentals are essentially the same, use your leverage to squeeze a team that is in a compromising positon. Live by the sword, die by the sword and all that but we are talking hockey here, not ringette. I’d endorse your suggestion if it included a call to the player’s agent before hand 😉

  • How many times in the salary cap era has an offer sheet resulted in actually getting the player at a below market rate?

    Sure, one can pilfer Dustin Penner and proceed to pay him above market value…

    Or one can get quid pro quo’d into paying Steve Bernier $2.5 million.

    It is a poor idea which is why it’s not surprising delusional Canuck fans are discussing it as a legitimate tool…

  • Mattchu

    I would really like to see how this team does healthy, and I feel like they wouldn’t be a playoff team yet but at least a team that could compete most nights. Which is really all you can ask for right now.

    Saying that, I would love to see the Sedins with a guy like Eriksson just to give them a bit more of a spark near the end of their careers. But you have to wonder how many top-UFAs would be willing to go to a team like the Canucks at this stage of their “rebuild”.

  • Mattchu

    As far as ‘under the radar’ is concerned, the player that nobody would suspect the Canucks to be interested in but could make an immediate and surprising contribution in my eyes is Mikkel Boedker. In the right situation (top line with the Sedins) he could become a serious threat.