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.