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Photo Credit: Aaron Doster - USA TODAY Sports

5 Impact Free Agents the Canucks Could Consider

Canucks Army’s Jackson McDonald has been doing a bang-up job profiling free agents the Canucks could consider from the mid-to-low range of free agency. First, it was the reclamation projects; next those who fly under most’s radar.

Today, I’m taking the Canucks Army readership back down the beaten path. I’m going to dive into five high-profile free agents that the Canucks could consider. There isn’t a player of Loui Eriksson’s calibre among the pack, but a few good options remain — along with a few landmines.

The Canucks have the capital to be players. Their $19.5-million in cap space puts them in the top third of the league. It’s all a matter of how much they’re willing to spend, and where. Let’s offer a few suggestions, why don’t we?

Sam Gagner

If you’ve listened to today’s episode of the Canucks Army Podcast, you’re well aware that Sam Gagner’s connection to the Canucks isn’t idle speculation. For the second straight summer, it seems, the two are ready to engage in contract talks.

It sounds like Gagner’s camp wants a little more security than the Columbus Blue Jackets were able to offer last off-season. A one-year, show-me type of contract just isn’t going to cut it anymore. If the Canucks want Gagner — and the sense around town is they do — then they’re going to have to take the plunge on a two, three or maybe even a four-year deal.

The thing is, Gagner, 27-years-old, has earned a long-term deal. He’s played for four teams in four years, cleared waivers, played in the AHL, and came out on the other side a 50-point producer and key cog in one of the league’s most effective power plays.

Gagner, who is a right-shot forward who can play on the wing or at centre, has produced at a rate of just over 47 points per 82 game season over the span of his ten-year NHL career. Gagner’s 50 points last season was a career high.

I’m skeptical of whether we can expect Gagner to get within that range again. Columbus was able to insulate Gagner on a strong fourth line that feasted on weak competition. The first unit power play Gagner featured on was on a year long percentage bender. I don’t think Gagner hitting 40 points with the Canucks is out of the question, though.

Martin Hanzal

We often talk about how inept the Canucks were offensively, and with good reason. Sometimes I think we lose track of how poorly this club was defensively, though. They finished last season in the bottom-third of the league for almost every measure of limiting offence. Martin Hanzal has a little something to offer offensively, but it’s the second of those ills he’s best equipped to heal.

In a weak free agent crop, Hanzal can expect to score a long-term deal with serious cash attached. He’s a far better centre than his tame counting stats would suggest, and to that end, I think he’ll probably get what he’s worth when the dust has settled.

By GAR (Goals Above Replacement), Hanzal’s closest comparable centres by impact are Jaden Schwartz, Teuvo Teravainen and Mikael Backlund. The impact Hanzal had on his linemates’ ability to suppress unblocked shot attempts checks out at a first line rate.

At 30-years-old, I wonder about how Hanzal fits into the Canucks’ picture more than I do his ability. If they’re sincere about rebuilding, they’d be well served to avoid this player, however tantalizing a proposition.

Michael Stone

Why stop at two former Arizona Coyotes the Canucks could look at in free agency? Michael Stone, who the Coyotes dealt to the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline, makes three. And he’s probably a player that checks off a lot of the boxes for the Canucks as they look to replenish a blue line that’s suffered its fair share of hits this off-season.

That’s probably not entirely to Stone’s credit, though. Some of those same boxes are the ones Luca Sbisa dutifully crossed off for three seasons — the good, and the bad, alike. Stone is a big, physical defenceman who does his best work from the defensive zone. The problem? He’s always in the defensive zone, and “best work” is a relative term.

Among qualifying defenceman, Stone’s teams controlled the lowest ratio of unblocked shot attempts when he was on the ice in the entire league. It’s probably not a coincidence that Stone showed so poorly in his first year away from Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Coincidentally, Alex Goligoski has never looked as worse as he did last season beside Stone.

I see Stone as a landmine just waiting to be stepped on in free agency. It’s not a matter of the player not fitting with the Canucks. In this case, Stone’s time with Ekman-Larsson made him look far better than he was and teams are going to likely line up to overpay for that player rather than the one Stone showed himself to be last season.

Justin Schultz

If the Canucks rushed to call Justin Schultz’s agent last season with any kind of security in the way of term or hard cash, they could’ve likely secured him for half of what he’ll get in free agency this off-season. The same goes for almost every team, though.

There will be no such discount this time around. After years spent with too much on his plate with the Edmonton Oilers, Schultz played his first full season with the Pittsburgh Penguins and flourished. In 78 games this season, Schultz contributed 51 points (12 goals and 39 assists) from the back-end and kept the mental mistakes to a minimum in the process.

I’m skeptical of whether there’s a fit between Schultz and the Canucks. Vancouver already has three right-shot defenders and doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to move one of them to create the space for Schultz. I also don’t see Schultz as the type of player they’d be overly fond of, either.

Karl Alzner

I don’t think Karl Alzner is as bad as some would have you believe. He’s probably a fourth defenceman who has some utility on the penalty kill. There’s nothing wrong with having those types of players in the lineup.

Wherein the problem lies is that Alzner is going to command top dollar in a free agent class without any real options on the blue line ahead of him — future New York Ranger, Kevin Shattenkirk, notwithstanding.

At 28-years-old, with a career-high of 21 points and unimpressive defensive results, Alzner doesn’t represent even good value in the short term and could prove a nightmare by the end of his contract. This isn’t a player who’s going to get better, and even if he plateaus, it’s not looking good.

Though Alzner is a local kid — a Burnaby native, in fact — and available for nought but the cost of his contract, I think the Canucks would be wise to take a hard pass.

  • apr

    You know its a pretty lame FA list when Sam Gagner is #1. Obviously Stone is gone. I like the Del Zotto and Niellson signings. No need to make any free agent signings. However, signing Gagner and trading Sutter for Demers would definitely be interesting.

  • TD

    Listening to Pierre McGuire today, he said Gagner is a fourth line centre and power play specialist. The Canucks PP sucked last year and could use the help as long as its not too expensive or for too long in term. Two to three years would be fine, but the Canucks need to leave room for Gaudette and Pettersson, so anything longer would be detrimental.

  • Pat Quinn Way

    ”I also don’t see Schultz as the type of player they’d be overly fond of, either.”

    So you are saying the Canucks wouldn’t be ‘fond of’ and therefore not interested in a fast skating, puck moving defenceman who can QB a powerplay and put up points. One that put his Oilers nightmare behind him and stepped up in the absence of Kris Letang to play a key role in helping win the Stanley Cup, his second two years? Seriously!!!… and he’s a BC boy to boot.

    JD, we both know that Benning is a clown but even he knows the value of a Jesse Schultz in the current NHL… doesn’t he…

      • Braindead Benning

        Sure Bud… and in Jimbo’s world its money well spent for be tough meatheads such as Gud & Pizzaman at or around the same “Dough” as Schultz and what have/did those 2 bring so far…NOTHING !!! at least JS contributed to a couple of cups !!!
        Oh, and spare us with their good in the room Cliche… you can get a dozen or so meatheads at the fraction of the cost VIA: UFA or cast-off’s

        • defenceman factory

          Is schultz really a player you think the Canucks should sign or are you just unable to pass up on any opportunity to ridicule Bud and slag Benning? I don’t think Bud is gonna change.

          Justin is a reasonable offensive defencemen and should get more money and term than most commenters here seems to want. He shouldn’t be given tough minutes against team’s top lines or kill penalties. Don’t see a good fit here.

          • Braindead Benning

            Yes, i think Schultz is a player they should consider but perhaps may not be a suitable fit with this CURRENT roster however, it certainly has NOT worked with the likes of the so called tough guys Gud & Sbisa or the second grade offensive types such as Larsson & Bart.

            So if you sum up all the salary of the players above mentioned including the squandered draft picks and trades done to acquire their services then perhaps JB should start looking at getting a more well rounded UFA dman

      • Pat Quinn Way

        Guys, It was great here yesterday (other than the idiot DJ_44) without this sad b*stard (bud poile, crofton, defenceman factory, truthseeker – all the same poster) clogging up the chat like a t*rd in a downpipe – and now they all magically appear again and it’s lame central once more.

        Anyway let’s all laugh at Dud…

        “The only thing that matters is the playoffs” – Dud

        “The Canucks won’t do anything until they get a QB on the PP” – Dud

        Justin says hi from his second Stanley Cup party… in two years.

        • defenceman factory

          No, I’m definitely not the same poster as Bud. In fact I seldom agree with Bud’s very optimistic view of the current management regime. His views, however, are far less offensive than the insults, vulgarity and black poison cloud you and your various sock accounts bring to this site.

          • Pat Quinn Way

            “Being negative and nasty is ignorant self-entitlement.”… he says

            “You’re a knob, PQW. Did I tell you that you are a knob?”
            “You are the big, ugly clown show here”
            “So stuff your ignorant comments, Rusted One.”
            “I didn’t write the piece, dick.”
            ” Pi$$ off you jerk.”
            “shove your act up your arse. I don’t drink ,dick.”

            Another bs bluff from Bud the Dud called out and that’s just from the last few weeks and doesn’t include his main ott nasty accounts pheenster and I Am Ted.

            Guys, notice how nice and relaxed it’s been without him and his numerous accounts Bud Poile, pheenster, I Am Ted, apr, LTFan, crofton, Jamie E, Locust, RoCkFaThEr, Cageyvet trolling the board this Canada day weekend.

            Keep em peeled guys!

  • acg5151

    I read a report that there’s a lot of interest between the Canucks and Alzner. I don’t really like it but OK. We really don’t need to be signing free agents to long term deals, we need to be signing guys to shorter term deals and flipping them or putting rookies in position to play their way up the roster.

  • Rayman

    Man, I don’t see any names that I want for my team next year….If any of those guys take 2 years contract, sign them. If not, let’s tank with our own prospects. At least, I’ll feel better…..

      • Pat Quinn Way

        LOL BB – so true. Read some great posts on SBN by Pens fans the other day…

        ”Canucks fans would blindly laugh at any offer the Pens throw for any of their players. According to them, the Pens had to unload a really great 3C in Sutter! They’ll just fleece the Pens again! I’ll never get over how dumb those fans are. Never.”

        LMFAO!!! So true eh….