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8 Under-The-Radar Free Agents That Could Be Fits For The Canucks (Part 2)

With just one day left before free agency begins, it’s time to take a look at four more bargain-bin UFAs that might make sense for the Canucks.

Related: 8 Under-the-Radar Free Agents That Could Be Fits For The Canucks (Part 1)

Cody Franson

Cody Franson really blew his chance at a big contract two summers ago when he waited to long to ink a deal and ended up signing a two-year, $6.65 million contract with a bad Buffalo Sabres team. Franson’s reputation had already taken a hit after a poor stint with the Nashville Predators at the end of the 2014-15 season, but after two years in Buffalo, it’s at an all-time low. His loss will almost certainly be a savvy team’s gain, however, as Franson’s underlying numbers suggest he could be one of the best value bets to place this summer.

Franson has been connected to the Canucks before, being a Vancouver native, but he fit isn’t as natural as other players in this year’s class. If the Canucks want to trade Chris Tanev without leaving their defence in complete shambles, however, Franson is probably their best bet as a replacement. He’s not going to provide the defensive value that Tanev brings to the table, but he can provide the Canucks with a steady top-four veteran presence that can move the puck and even quarterback a powerplay.

Thomas Vanek

There are a few decent second-line scoring wingers on the market this year, but Vanek may be the best fit among them. He had a bounce back season in 2016-17, scoring 48 points in 68 games, but at 33, he’s too old to realistically get a long term deal, and is unlikely to stick around long enough to block any of the Canucks’ youngsters.

Vanek’s two-way game -never much to write home about to begin with- has completely deteriorated with age. His offensive game has remained fairly steady into his 30s, however, when he’s remained healthy.

He’s also a right-handed shot, which can fill a need for the Canucks either alongside Henrik and Daniel Sedin or on the powerplay. There’s a connection to the organization, too. Jim Benning was the Buffalo Sabres’ Director of Amateur Scouting when Vanek was drafted in 2003.

The sticking point with Vanek may turn out to be term. With the season he just had, there’s a case to be made that Vanek deserves a multi-year deal. The Canucks may be able to sweeten the pot by going high on capital to get a one-year deal, something that would make sense given the organization’s current makeup, but it’s unclear whether or not that will be palatable to Vanek.

Daniel Winnik

Daniel Winnik has carved out a niche as the ideal bottom-six journeyman centre, producing offense at an average third-line rate while posting near-elite shot suppression numbers. He’s among the least sexy names in this year’s crop of UFAs, but he does what he does extremely well, and the Canucks have struggled mightily at both ends of the ice for the past two years.

At first glance, Winnik might seem like a stretch. The Canucks dressed 11 natural centres last season, but that number is highly misleading. The vast majority of the on the Canucks 2016-17 active roster- Markus Granlund, Brendan Gaunce, Michael Chaput, Reid Boucher, Drew Shore, Jayson Megna, Griffin Molino, and Joseph Cramarossa, specifically- are all either expected to move on from the organization this offseason, or are more comfortable on the wing. More importantly, none of them come remotely close to possessing Winnik’s defensive acumen.

The Canucks could desperately use a centre to take some pressure off of Bo Horvat. Brandon Sutter was supposed to be that player, but that hasn’t really worked out. The Canucks, even for all their offensive deficiencies, also lack a defensive ace, and Winnik fits the bill.

Michael Del Zotto

I had originally intended to leave this final slot for Jordan Weal, but with reports indicating that he’s re-signed in Philadelphia, I turned my attention to another Flyer: Michael Del Zotto.

Del Zotto’s had a tumultuous career, going from blue-chip prospect to massive disappointment to successful reclamation project. Del Zotto looked to be well on his way to earning a long-term contract after a successful first season in Philly, but another less-than-stellar campaign in 2016-17 has put him back in one-year deal-territory.

Del Zotto’s never been a consistent player, but that doesn’t mean he’s without value. Del Zotto can easily provide a bit of offense from the back end, something the Canucks were sorely lacking last year. Vancouver has a slot to fill on the left-hand side with Luca Sbisa departing to Las Vegas, and while Del Zotto is a quite an adventure in his own zone, what he brings to the table offensively would be a major upgrade.

The Canucks have a boatload of young players looking to make an impact next season, but little desire to rush any of them into their lineup. At this point, it’s likely Loui Eriksson has scared them away from big-ticket free agents for the time being, which means the team will be left perusing the 99¢ aisle looking for deals. Signing a veteran free agent or two probably won’t be the most popular move with a fanbase that’s desperately craving young talent, but having an insurance policy is preferable to submarining a player’s development by bringing him along too early.

The Canucks aren’t likely to be competitive next season, so their best bet is to try to turn a few free agents into assets at the deadline, and bring up deserving youngsters in their stead. It’s a strategy that worked for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who just made the playoffs in year three of their rebuild. That’s a template the Canucks ought to try and follow.

  • Rodeobill

    Winnik at first seems like another good 200ft character bottom 6 guy, which god knows we’ve heard and seen too much, but upon further thought might just be the guy who can shelter the other lines from too many D zone face offs and give them more O zone shifts, or at the very least if we are gonna play our whole game in our own zone, may as well have a guy to play and learn from who is elite in that regard!? Probably cheap too. Like Tanev as a forward – an unsung hero kinda guy.

    also… good UFA posts Mr. Perogy.

    • Cageyvet

      I couldn’t agree more, cheap depth that has NHL pedigree has to be better insurance than Megna and Chaput. I’m dying to see the kids get ice time, but given our injury history, give me some defensively responsible depth that isn’t a bunch of plugs and can show the kids a 200 foot game. Short term deals only, like most I don’t want the kids to have to rip jobs away from veterans like they would on a contender, but they need to hit a certain level to be everyday players.

  • Rodeobill

    I wonder if Hartnell would be worth consideration on the cheap for a year, closest thing we have in our system to power forward is Gadjovich or Virtanen, neither seem probable on the team next year, and the rest of our division seems to keep getting bigger and bigger.

    • orcasfan

      According to the CA mindset, just what determines the beginning of a Rebuild? So, despite Toronto having all those top 10 picks in the past 10 years, their Rebuild has only lasted 3 years? And since the Canucks only just declared their own Rebuild this Spring, we have 3 years to catch up. Right?

      • Goon

        Toronto thought they had finished their rebuild and were competitive, went out and signed some big names, crashed and burned terribly, fired all their management, and started to rebuild again. They had one rebuild from 2009-2012, and a second rebuild from 2014-2016.

        There’s a reasonable argument to be made that the Canucks rebuild didn’t seem to start in earnest until the trade deadline this year. Benning was still signing major free agents and talking playoffs until the end of 2016. That’s not a rebuild, despite getting a couple of high draft picks since he took over.

      • Dirk22

        There was a direction change when Shanny took over from Nonis/Burke – an admission that the team finally needed to recognize what it was and stop ‘trying to compete’ but instead start putting all their emphasis on building for the future. Matthews obviously sped that up a lot but even without him they have managed to accumulate a massive amount of good prospects in a relatively short time by being proactive. People confuse rebuilding with just being bad.

  • defenceman factory

    These 4 players aren’t the top tier of the UFAs available but they aren’t risky either. What you see is what you get and if utilization is appropriate will fulfil a role.

    Winnick and Franson both look like a good fit with the Canucks. They both have strong shot suppression numbers and are the type of players that can take some of the defensive pressures off younger, more offensive minded players. They both probably help on the PK as well.

    Winnik would remove the need and temptation for a coach to over use Sutter. Franson could be decent shelter for Stecher, Hutton or Joulevi, a role I’m not confident Guddy can provide.

    Del Zotto is also interesting. Adding him and Fransen provides a lot of depth and gives the Canucks flexibility. They can be flipped at the deadline, Guddy and Hutton become tradable for the right deal or there is enough depth to pull the trigger if the right offer for Tanev comes around.

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    A guy like Winnik is the perfect illustration of why you don’t give up a bunch of draft picks to get Sutter. Here’s a guy who’s better than Brandon in almost every facet of bottom 6 hockey, available for the price of a contract. He’s not “Foundational” but would be a good veteran piece especially if the team didn’t already have a glut of bottom 6 forwards kicking around.

  • Forward Thinker

    Franson appears to me to be a good player to put on the third pairing if you follow not wish to give any of the young guys a shot, but no way I am trading Tanev this summer. I would prefer to give one or two of our you guys a chance to show they are NHK ready. As for a winger for the twins, I still think I would take a chance on Yakupov. He brings lots of finish to two pass first players and can be picked cheap. If he works out and rejuvenates his game you have a young piece of the rebuild. If not you have a cheap depth player. Who you could waive if you like.

  • mathonwy

    Brandon Sutter is a $4.375M 3C/4C tweener signed til 2020-21. Offensively incapable of making his teammates better, defensively suspect in 5 on 5 situations, prone to getting walked by top 6 forwards as he’s not very good at reading his opponent which means forget about Brandon shutting down anyone, less physical than Chris Higgins but isn’t afraid to call out Goldy’s gritty balls.

    To think we could have had an Aimish $1.9M 2C/3C tweener instead.

    Move Sutter to the wing and sign Winnik. Brandon could use some mentoring on what a 3C actually should look like.

  • andyg

    I just hope they find guys that they can flip at the trade deadline. Del Zotto is a good example. A one year show deal and if he plays well we can de him to a team looking for help latter in the year. No multi year deals.