Monday, July 23, 2007

The Canucks' crowded blueline

A recent email:
I'm living abroad at the moment, but I gather the Canucks now have the following guys under contract:

Ohlund, Salo, Mitchell, Miller, Bieksa, Krajicek

(Not sure what the status of the storied Rory Fitzpatrick is)

And they've got Edler and Bourdon waiting in the wings, both probably ready to take spots in the top six.

That's pretty great depth, but the team's thin up front. Who's going to get moved?
Now, I've heard they're looking to trade Mattias Ohlund, probably because he has the most value and will be an unrestricted free agent before Mitchell and Salo, but that seems like crazy talk. And the only reason it's coming about is that GM Dave Nonis signed old-timer Aaron Miller on a one-year deal for a pretty reasonable price.

Even still, this reader's absolutely right in the fact Vancouver has too many defencmen — although Fitzpatrick's a free agent and won't be signed, and Bourdon should probably be worried about making the Moose. Alex Edler looks like quite a nice surprise, but perhaps not for another season.

Still, if one of those top six blueliners isn't moved and Nonis decides to go with the same forward corps as last season, there's a real chance the Canucks miss the playoffs this year. I can't see Markus Naslund getting much better given his decline since the lockout, and Roberto Luongo can't play any better than he has already.

Is there any room for growth on this roster?

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At 2:48 a.m., July 23, 2007, Anonymous Sternip said...

I'd agree Bourdon isn't ready for a top 6 role yet, but I thought Edler was ready for top 6 play last season.

He didn't look out of place, played some important minutes, had the right attitude and his hockey was sound. I thought he proved he was ready for the NHL, in fact I'm sure he did. I think more accurately he proved that in the not too distant future he'll make it into a top 4 pairing, hell, I think he's good enough to fill that role already on less defensively blessed teams than the Canucks.

I could definately see Ohlund leaving though and I wouldn't be surprised to see it. I think if the Canucks can get an offensive player of similar standard in return it will be a good move.

At 8:29 a.m., July 23, 2007, Anonymous Darren said...

Thanks for your thoughts. I should have mentioned this in the email, but feel free to credit me on this inquiry. I'll take all the Canucks-related props I can get.

At 9:53 a.m., July 23, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

The Canucks have a couple million still to spend if they want to make a pitch to any remaining UFA forwards. It'd be funny if they got Anson Carter back for $1m again.

They don't have to trade a blueliner for a top 6 forward... but if they want a high quality one, then yes, they probably have to.

At 9:55 a.m., July 23, 2007, Anonymous David Johnson said...

The growth comes next summer when Naslund's $6 million and Morrison's $3.2 million contracts expire. They should be able to find better production for that $9 million than what Naslund and Morrison provided last year, particularly Naslund who is paid like a first line player but produced like a second line player. They also have a top goalie prospect in Cory Schneider that they could/will trade at some point for some scoring help.

At 10:50 a.m., July 23, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Miss the playoffs? Are you joking? The Canucks will be contending for the Northwest Division title, and will likely clinch it. They're pretty much the same team that won it last season, and while Colorado has slightly improved none of the rest of the division has gained anyone significant.

At 12:50 p.m., July 23, 2007, Blogger McLea said...

The growth comes next summer when Naslund's $6 million and Morrison's $3.2 million contracts expire.

Exactly. Ride Luongo to another first/second round exit this year, and make your move the following year.

At 1:13 p.m., July 23, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe Nonis will make a trade in the next month to address the scoring situation.

My guess is it will be Marleau and prospects/picks to Vancouver for Morrison, Ohlund and Schneider. The trade will be dependent on Vancouver getting Marleau to sign a long term contract extension.

Marleau will be moved out of SJ before the season starts because of the "bad blood" between him and Ron Wilson. When Doug Wilson didn't fire Ron Wilson he effectively chose the coach over Marleau. SJ knows Marleau won't reup next year when he becomes a UFA, so they need to get value for him now.

SJ also needs a number 2 d-man to team up with Rivet. Failing to sign Souray means they now have to fill this hole through a trade. Ohlund would fit in nicely, has 2 years left on his contract, and is considerably cheaper than Souray at $3.5 million, which is below today's market value for a top quality d-man. Ohlund has a no trade, but SJ is a very attractive place to play and live so he would probably waive it.

With Toskla gone SJ needs a top prospect goalie in their system to back up Nabokov in a year or two and possibbly replace him in 4 or 5 years time, hence Cory Schneider.

With Marleau gone SJ needs a second line centre. Morrison could fill this role for the one year left on his contract. He is over paid at $3.2 million but SJ has lots of cap room this year - and his contract is gone in one years time.

SJ would add $6.7 million in cap dollars for Morrison and Ohlund (assuming Schneider plays next year in the AHL)while losing $4.2 million for Marleau. Even with this net addition SJ total salary budget for next year will still be in the $41 to $42 million range - within their internal budget cap.

From Vancouver's perspective they would lose $6.7 million of cap dollars while gaining $4.2 million for a net decrease of $2.5 for this year. This would allow them to re-sign Sopel or Fitzpatrick to backfill on defence. Also, they could sign Carter to play on the right side with the Sedins and move Pyatt to play on the right side with Marleau and Naslund.

With Marleau at centre, Naslund might once again become a productive left wing. Also, Vancouver has plenty of salary cap room in future years to offer Marleau a contract extension close to Gomez and Briere comparables.

At 2:05 p.m., July 23, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

I don't think SJ "needs" a top prospect goalie... they have 3 pretty good ones already. These Marleau rumors keep coming out, and it's a shame because Ron Wilson is in reality a bad coach and Marleau's a good captain and great player. Just because SJ lost a quality netminder doesn't mean they desperately seek a top goalie prospect... they have a goaltending factory that has produced great goalies with low draft picks consistently in the past.

All that being said, the key to SJ is definitely a big time blueline presence. Ohlund might be a guy of that quality that they seek that might have them move Marleau. If not, why not just keep Marleau for your one last shot with the same group next year? If he then leaves as a UFA, that's fine, but there's no guarantee that any pending UFA that you acquire (be it Morrison or whoever) will re-sign with you either.

And just because Wilson kept his job this off-season doesn't mean it'll be the same song and dance next year... or even before the playoffs.

At 11:26 p.m., July 23, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to point out Ohlund Has an No Trade Clause, is signed at less than market value because he loves to play in Vancouver and is very happy with the care his son recieves for his medical conditions in the area.

Why does everybody seem to think that he is the one out the door?

I don't seem to think that any of the factors above make the team or Ohlund likely candidates for a move.

At 1:22 a.m., July 24, 2007, Anonymous MisterD said...

Just to point out Ohlund Has an No Trade Clause, is signed at less than market value because he loves to play in Vancouver

So do Mitchell and Salo who both signed under market value contracts with no trade clauses. With the 50.3 M cap, the Canucks do have some wiggle room to acquire additional scoring. I won't be surprised if Nonis decides to go with the current lineup he has to start the 07/08 season. Keep in mind that both Naslund and Morrison are in their final year of their 3 -year contracts, which may explain why Nonis has done little so far in the offseason.

At 3:27 a.m., July 24, 2007, Blogger Kel said...

I don't know how a team that won a division and added another solid defenceman is going to miss the playoffs. Yes, they had a hole in the top six, but they won the division despite that same hole and a poor start in 06/07. I guess James just don't like or don't have confidence in this version of defence-first Vancouver Canucks, despite last season's pleasant surprise.

You may think Naslund won't get better because he'll be one year older. On the other hand, it wouldn't be outrageous to suggest that Naslund may rebound from his worst season in a long time. And Morrison played with an injury last season so another rebound year could be in the making after his surgery. With the rising cap and salaries around the league, they won't be bargains but they won't be grossly overpaid even if they maintain the same level of production.

If I were Nonis, I would be comfortable with leaving the hole up front on the right wing even if none of the cheaper options pans out. I would save the 2-3 million dollars in cap space and the team would still be at least fighting for a playoffs spot if not the division title by the trade deadline. Near that time, I'd use the cap space saved to load up significantly (remember around 2/3 of the season's salary will have been paid and it takes around 1/3 of the annual cap hit to fit a player). That 2-3 million dollars in cap space in theory could turn into payroll addition of $7-8 million (or even more) at the trade deadline.

At 8:30 p.m., August 04, 2007, Blogger hardyvan said...

Part of the problem here with the Canucks is that Nonis hasn't been very productive in his role as a gm. Other than getting Roberto as a steal from Mike keenan, what has he really done?

Mitchell is a good fit on defence but the offense is not able to generate enough scoring to succeed against elite teams. Vignault was able to have the team overachieve last year but teams like the Canucks last year and the Oilers in the previous year's playoff's always lose their slipper before midnight and turn into the proverbial pumpkin.

Any team that has Taylor Pyatt as a top 6 forward is not a serious contender for the cup. Throw in the fact that the sedins might not ever become elite performers in the playoffs when they are the target of the other teams best defense and checkers attention to them and the declining fortunes of Naslund and Morrison, this is a team spinning it's wheels.

Living in Vancouver one always hears the ever optomistic fan feeling that the canucks surely can win the cup this year if certain things happen such as,

1) Roberto plays even beter than he did last year, if he is injured all bets are off

2) the Sedins improve at the same pace that they did last year, and are able to perfrom to top level in the playoffs

3) Pyatt beomes the next Bertuzzi or at least vastly improves his 23 goal performance, which was due for the most part to playing with the sedins

4) Naslund and Morrison turn the clock back 2 and 3 years respectively

5) that someone, anyone on the 3rd and 4th lines, which is very difficult to distinguish on the Canucks, takes a step forward and actually scores over 20 goals while playing stellar defense. This was one of the keys to the Ducks winning the Stanley Cup this past year with Pahlsson scoring 12 points in 21 playioff games while shutting down the other teams top line

For the faithfull maybe one of these things might happen, probably the sedins getting slightly bettter, still where would it leave them, maybe 4th best contenders for the Cup in the west, not a gameplan for a Cup in my mind


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