What’s Next for the Vancouver Canucks?

With the draft and free agency’s first wave gaining distance in the Canucks’ rearview mirror, there isn’t an awful lot on the horizon that can have a significant impact on their roster composition going into next season. Barring anything drastic, the Canucks roster now is, more or less, the roster they’ll take to training camp.

The dog days of summer, they are upon us. Which isn’t to say that teams have taken their foot off the gas, so much as they’re decelerating. Moves are fewer and further between than ever and often of less significance than those of weeks past.

It’s supply and demand at it’s finest. The former outweighs the latter and nobody’s in a rush to shake the apple cart to pick up the pieces. The Canucks, for example, are in the midst of their development camp, familiarizing themselves with their prospects and vice versa. It’s a question of priorities and making tertiary tweaks to their rosters aren’t high on anyone’s list.

Eventually though the Canucks will, as everyone does, circle that wagon and make changes where necessary. Better still, should the opportunity present itself — as one did last season — for them to make a trade that they see as beneficial to their short and long term goals, maybe they bite. 

If the Canucks have their way, that might involve dipping their toes back into free agency. Though there isn’t a consensus among my contacts to confirm the extent to which the Canucks pursued Kris Russell, there is some level of agreement in the interest they have in the veteran defenceman on Pat Quinn Way. Canucks President Trevor Linden, in particular, covets the shot-blocking defenceman.

Last we heard the Russell camp was trying to pry $5-million with term on the open market. Vancouver, with $4.1-million to spare, can field an offer in that range. Teams are allowed to exceed the upper limits of the salary cap by 10% in the off-season and adding another $5-million piece would account for one percent of that. Then the clock starts ticking.

Likely the Canucks would continue to pursue an offer of any kind for Luca Sbisa. They’ve tried their damnedest to date, but no takers. One could do a lot worse than Sbisa on their third pair, but the $3.6-million associated with the privilege is undoubtedly scaring teams away.

Squeezing Russell into an already overcrowded blue line presents obvious problems though. Problems that can’t be fixed by trading any one blue liner. The Canucks have nine defenders that either requires waivers or are a virtual lock to make the team out of camp. Eschewing one defenceman’s bad contract to squeeze in another means exposing one of Alex Biega and/or Andrey Pedan to waivers next season.

That could be why the Canucks have publicly stated that they’ve withdrawn themselves from the free agency process and are focusing their efforts towards improving this lineup through the trade circuit. The Canucks have more NHL calibre players than they have spaces to accommodate them as is.

One option would be to scour the league for a team with more quality players than they’ve spots to protect them with. The Nashville Predators, with their endless stream of quality defenceman, are likely to take the second option for player protection, which allows them to protect four of their defenders, but also, only four of their forwards. They’ve at least five forwards I would consider as marquee pieces. You do the math.

Similarly, the Canucks can play the role of vulture as the arbitration hearings gear up for their conclusion towards the end of the month. It’s not all that rare that a team, sensing an unfavourable arbitration ruling, will trade their player before being forced to pay them or lose them to the open market entirely. Consider this a low rent example, but the Predators did this with Taylor Beck last off-season, dealing him to the Toronto Maple Leafs just days before his arbitration hearing.

The options this year are much more substantial. If the Canucks are looking for scoring on the wing, perhaps they come knocking on the Ottawa Senators door. They’re gearing up for an ugly confrontation with Mike Hoffman, and really, that relationship’s been souring all season. Much of the same applies to the Colorado Avalanche and their contentious relationship with Tyson Barrie.

Vancouver has afforded themselves the ability to let the off-season come to them. They’re well positioned with cap space — in the short and long-term alike — and not overly threatened to be cleaved too substantially by the expansion draft. I don’t think the Canucks are done. Not by a long shot. And they have options, to boot. 

  • Almo89

    I have no idea, none whatsoever, why the Canucks would pursue Kris Russell. He doesn’t improve our team that much, costs more than we can afford, eats into cap flexibility and blocks a younger and more affordable player from trying to stick in the NHL with his training camp play. Why is it seen to be preferable to fill out the defence corps with other teams’ castoffs and overrated spare parts, rather than building and developing our own talent?

    The team has Tanev, Gudbranson, Hutton and Juolevi as defenders they can build around for the next generation, and Edler is only one year older and a LOT better than Russell if that’s the comparison to be made, meaning that at best, barring an ill-advised downgrade by dumping Edler, Russell would be looked at for the #6 spot in the rotation. $5 million for a #6? Sure, get rid of Sbisa if you can, but please, give Tryamkin, Pedan, Larsen or Subban (or even Stecher or Brisebois down the road) a chance to earn that spot for a fraction of the cost and hopefully with a possibility of a higher performance ceiling too.

    • Fred-65

      I didn’t write this, the moderation here is a disgrace
      so I will be leaving CA for awhile. Any comments after this using my name won’t be from me. If they are printed that is your responsibility.

    • Fred-65

      Hey idiot, he is as good a shot blocker as there is, we have no defensemen who have that talent. Plus he will come cheap as long as we don’t over extend his term.
      @PS Moderators, Why arent my posts coming out green like we agreed to?? This site is becoming assinine.

      • Trash

        I’m not going to get into the merits of shot blocking versus having players that are more likely to get you the puck so you don’t have to block shots, but saying we have “no defensemen who have that talent” isn’t correct:

        http://www.sportingcharts.com/nhl/stats/player-blocks-statistics/2015/

        Chris Tanev is 16th in the league in total blocked shots, and 10th in the league in blocks per 60 (players with minimum 100 blocks)

        • Neil B

          I know. That’s part of “whomever the CA mods want to have on the website instead of contributing commenters” thinks is a good joke.

          Please don’t engage with someone claiming to be Neil B. without the green name. It signifies that they are spoofing my account. In fact, don’t respond to anything purporting to be me. I’ll be away for a while.

      • Fred-65

        Hey idiot? Thanks for showing that I don’t need to care about your opinion by leading with that.

        The article said he wants $5 million with term. Explain to me what about that screams “cheap and not overextended term”.

        Tanev is plenty good at it, but is called upon to use it less because he’s so much better at keeping opponents from getting those shot attempts in the first place.

  • Trash

    I would stay away from Kris Russell. Unless he comes in at far below $5 mill/per.

    Canucks should try and leverage some teams going through the arb. process as J.D. mentioned.

    I’m still hoping Benning takes a long, hard look at Colorado. Barrie is an option. So is Landeskog and I believe Duchene is also available. I don’t know if I want to break the bank on any of them but Landeskog and Duchene are both still very young and they’re exactly what the Canucks need. Barrie would be nice too but the price for good D men seems to be rather asinine. Now is the time to use the insane market and maybe deal a Tanev package for Landeskog and Duchene.

  • Steampuck

    The Canucks look pretty comfortable right now from an expansion draft perspective. I don’t see how they add a Russell or another winger without exposing key pieces at year’s end. This is why I figure JB keeps talking about the trade route. But even then, I don’t know that that frees up the space to protect too many assets coming in. The best case/worst case scenario is that Granlund and Etem have monster years. And then we have desirable players exposed…

  • Steampuck

    The Canucks don’t need to be pursuing any more defencemen – in fact they should be looking to move at least one of their bottom pairing guys. What they need is to get another mid-20s scoring forward or decent prospect. Don’t know what it would take to get Landeskog (Gaunce, Sbisa/Pedan and a 2nd rounder?) but he is exactly what this organization needs.

  • Rolland

    “One could do a lot worse than Sbisa on their third pair, but the $3.6-million associated with the privilege is undoubtedly scaring teams away.”

    It cannot be asked enough: what was Benning THINKING?!

    • Fred-65

      If …..IF …. JB is trying to move/trade Sbisa and are having difficulties let’s hope JB keeps this in mind before he signs other to dumb contracts. A lessen learned I hope

      As for Russell let some other team sign him….now that would help Vcr

  • Steamer

    Report out of Columbus’ Dev Camp: Dubois thrilled to be playing with Vitaly Abramov – “he’s a first-round talent” – Abramov was ranked as high as #22 – taken by Columbus in 3rd round right after after Van chose Will Lockwood – ranked no higher than 74th. Abramov had 38 goals, 55 assists with Gatineau this past season. Not only did Columbus get Dubois,
    but they also picked up a second ‘first-rounder’ while Benning focussed instead on a guy who, if everything goes right, may be a 3rd or 4th line player. Abramov projects as a 1st line player. Plus ca change.

    • Almo89

      OK, maybe the kid is good or maybe he isn’t but it is important to identify that we are talking about Columbus, they need to hype their players because they are perennial bottom dwellers (it’s not like we haven’t heard their prospects hyped before only for them to disappear). Let’s let the 18 year olds develop a couple years before applying labels and/or winners/losers.

      • TheRealRusty

        Think you missing the point…
        Much like Steamer, I would prefer to take a flier on a boom or bust player with 1st line upside with my 3rd round pick, than a prospect who projects to be a 3rd/4th liner. The latter can always be picked up free via the waiver wire (or for 2nd round picks if your GMJBTL).

        • Almo89

          I get what the poster is saying but I totally disagree with that type of drafting philosophy. Sure you can make a general statement that 3rd/4th liners can be picked up free via the waiver wire but in reality that isn’t true for the effective 3rd/4th liners. Good teams draft and develop skilled players and high energy players because it maintains a high level of competition throughout the organization, and it keeps salary costs for the bottom part of their line up down over the long-term.

          As I wrote, Abramov might turn into an NHL player but I would take Lockwood’s compete level (plus skating ability and other skills) over Abramov any day of the week. Prospects need to have skill but I don’t think Abramov has the desire to make it…rookie camp and the pro game are two different beasts.

        • Almo89

          I think Lockwood is a steal! I remember thinking who is this kid when he went on a one man rampage against team Canada in the WJC. He reminded me of Matt Cooke with a little more skill. He hits everything in sight. I’m sure anyone playing with Dubois will look good that doesn’t mean he will actually make the team.

  • JuiceBox

    “One could do a lot worse than Sbisa on their third pair”

    If we are talking about bonafide NHL players – even replacement level – NO, they could not possibly do any worse than Sbisa. I would be shocked if somebody could name 5 full-time NHL defencemen worse than him.

    His acquisition and subsequent extension are a complete head scratcher…. He brings nothing positive to the line-up, what JB and Co. ever saw in him is beyond me and his $3.6M contract makes him virtually un-tradable.

    If I were FA I would be pissed that Sbisas’ contract now has to be buried in the AHL or bought out. By far JB’s biggest !@#$ up.

  • Steampuck

    I think most people would want the Canucks to go after a 2-way middle-6 winger FA with the 4m in cap space.

    But Trevor Linden’s recent interview indicates that they’re not close to any FAs. He says they’re exploring trade options. Seems fishy.

    A few years ago, some people were defending the Sbisa signing, pointing out that if he turned into a legit 2nd pair guy, then 3.6m cap hit would be a bargain in the third year. Hard to see that happening… but here’s to hoping it does. Cause right now, it looks a lot like it’s a 3.6m cap hit on a bottom six guy, who’s going to be fighting for a spot on the last pair with 3-4 guys who make around a mill per year.

  • Nichushkin Stinks

    Hoffman’s issues with Ottawa stemmed with the coach, who is gone. It is an asinine suggestion to go after him JD. I expect better suggestions than this as the Managing Editor.

  • Almo89

    With a bit over 4 million in cap space is a good time to just sit back and see what comes Canucks way they have their feelers out there and teams know what we have to offer there could be a smoking deal made before the season starts that can turn some heads and get Canucks into playoffs the young players get a taste of what it takes to win in the playoffs and how hard they need to work every game to get back into the playoffs

  • Almo89

    I think if Benning was so good in Boston… the wouldn’t have let him go.

    It’s clear Linden wanted a BFF to hold his hand during his time here but we can see how that’s working out.

    Sad to see the Canucks are known as the NHL cesspool but you reap what you sow.

  • Almo89

    If you ever see comments on this website, in green or black, by usernames TB or Trigger Ben then you know it’s either me or an imposter. If any IMPOSTERS ever use ~this~ screen name (Trigger Ben) than please say something funny, clever, sarcastic, wise, transgressive, polite, imprudent, facetious, or mind blowing.