How To Fix The Canucks

 

It is a secret to nobody that the Vancouver Canucks are in a little bit of a pickle. They have a General Manager who thinks they are a playoff team and consistently trades away young players and picks for older players who, well aren’t very good. They’ve got years worth of contracts tied up in sub-NHL level players and a prospect group, which not that long ago looked as if it were one of the better groups in the league, now looks much less promising.

 

Not all of this is Jim Benning’s fault. The second he was hired he was put in an awkward position. The Sedin’s are still really good. They also still make a lot of money. This is not bad for the Canucks, but it certainly puts them in an uncomfortable position. They can’t trade Daniel and Henrik because no team in a position to make such a trade would be able to take on the combined $14,000,000 cap hits. Also the twins both have full no movement clauses, so even if a trade were possible, they would have final say in whether or not they’d want to go.

 

At the end of the day, the Sedin’s are Canucks and it will stay that way most likely until their current contracts expire (summer of 2018) at least. This left Canucks management with two options. Waste the last few productive years of the best players in the history of the team, and start a rebuild, or try and cobble together whatever pieces they could and make a run for the playoffs every year.

 

For that reason I don’t fault Benning for his efforts to make the playoffs (though I do fault him greatly for his methods of attempting to do so). Because of the Sedins and subsequent binding contracts Benning signed in order to achieve his goal, the only option the Canucks have is to at least be as good as possible. For the purposes of this exercise I am hopping in my time machine and going back to the start of the summer and filling in for the Jim Benning who was rightfully fired in this hypothetical timeline.

 

At this point in time the roster I am stuck with looks like this:

 

Daniel Sedin

Henrik Sedin Alexandre Burrows

Chris Higgins

Brandon Sutter Derek Dorsett

Sven Baertschi

Bo Horvat

Jannik Hansen

Emerson Etem Markus Granlund

Jake Virtanen

Jared McCann

 

Alexander Edler

Chris Tanev

Luca Sbisa

Nikita Tryamkin
Ben Hutton

Alex Biega

 

Ryan Miller

Jacob Markstrom

 

With this roster I have $11,906,249 in cap space to work with. That is a good amount of space, of which much will have to be wasted in clearing out some of the bad players and contracts.

 

Step One: Get Rid of Dead Weight

 

My first day on the job, I buy out Luca Sbisa straight away. Luca isn’t an NHL caliber player and makes the Canucks a far worse team. This buyout will cost the Canucks $1,517,667 the first two seasons, but opens up some cap space. We have Philip Larsen to replace his roster spot, and I think he deserves a shot in training camp to earn a spot on the starting squad.

 

I assume there would be a team who would take on Brandon Sutter. This is purely speculation, as with all the trades and signings to come in this piece, but I will try my best to make things as realistic is possible. The Bruins were a team this offseason who were aggressive in their pursuit of centre’s, including signing David Backes for $6,000,000. Sutter seems like the type of player the Bruins would appreciate, and they trade for him in exchange for Colin Miller and a second round pick.

 

In this reality I don’t buy out Chris Higgins, opting to keep him for the remaining year of his contract. He is still capable of playing a depth role and we can afford to absorb his $2,500,000 cap hit in order to get it off the books a year earlier.

 

Unfortunately this is all the trimming which I can somewhat realistically do. This exercise is being performed under the assumption the team is being pressure by ownership to make the playoffs, so I need to add some players through free agency or trade who can help us achieve that goal.

 

Step Two: Identify Areas Of Need

Presently this team is in need of a number two centre, as Brandon Sutter was traded and Bo Horvat probably isn’t ready yet. I don’t want a player I’ll need to commit to long-term because Horvat and McCann are both in the system and won’t be far away from taking on larger roles.

 

Left-wing is another weak point, as outside of Daniel Sedin, our left-wingers are Baertschi, Higgins and Etem, and that simply won’t cut it. I’m okay going longer term on this player because there’s no significant young players to step in and take this role anytime soon.

 

Last but not least I need to beef up this D-Core. Outside of our top pair of Edler and Tanev, there isn’t a lot to inspire confidence. Colin Miller looked good in Boston last year so I’ll start him on the second pair. This means ideally I’d like to add another top four defenseman and maybe someone to play on the third pair as well.

 

These are the most important areas to improve and I can do so using my $16,414,582 in cap space. Things are already looking up.

 

Step Three: Add Some Free Agents

 

It’s now July 1st and I have a pocket full of cash to spend. First thing’s first, I want to add my second line centre. My chosen player is Eric Staal. He’s not the same player offensively as he used be, but he’s very versatile, he’s a great two-way player and he signed a fairly cheap, short term contract with the Wild. I’ve signed him to an identical contract ($3.5M x 3 years), which has a low enough cap hit that I needn’t worry about having him on my third line should Horvat pass him in the next three years.

 

Next up I sign Jason Demers to the same five year contract he signed with the Panthers. He can play on our second or first pair depending on injuries and is a massive upgrade to any in-house replacements. At $4,500,000 he comes at a pretty reasonable price and I didn’t even need to give up Taylor Hall to get him!

 

A top six left winger will be hard to come by in this year’s free agency crop, so I decide to sign someone to a short term contract instead of tying my hands to a long-term deal that’ll end up looking bad down the road. David Perron suits our needs just fine for these purposes. He’ll fit in nicely on the second line with Eric Staal, and comes at a reasonable cap hit, $3,750,000 for two years. We can re-evaluate our need at left-wing two years down the road when Perron is off the books, and in the meantime we don’t need to worry about looking like idiots for signing a player way over market value well into their 30’s.

I now have $6,339,582 left in cap space and have filled all of my key weak points and sent some unneeded players to the AHL to get a more accurate reflection of what my cap will be. With my extra spending money, I’d like to shore up the D a bit and maybe add a depth forward if there’s any money left.

 

I sign David Rundblad to a two year contract at one million per year. Rundblad could just be a diamond in the rough and is well worth the risk. Worst case scenario we have a solid 3rd pair guy who contributes some offense.

 

In other moves, I brought in Kris Versteeg on a one year contract worth $1,500,000 to bring some much needed depth on the wing and signed Teddy Purcell to the same contract he signed with the Kings (one year, $1.6M). If we make the playoffs these guys will help tremendously and add some much needed offense. If not, they have very tradable contracts and can be swapped for picks/prospects at the deadline. Very low-risk contracts.

 

Step Four: Roster Moves

 

I don’t have too many trades to make in this world. I don’t have any need for Emerson Etem anymore, so I’ll trade him away for a 3rd round pick to the Devils who always could use forwards. I’ll also trade Markus Granlund for a third round pick to the Ducks who could use some cheap depth at centre until Nate Thompson returns.

 

Both Higgins and Dorsett will end up starting the year in the AHL which will not only free up roster spots for better players, but will give us some additional cap savings as well. Other notables who will be starting the year in Utica include Nikita Tryamkin who was clearly not ready for the NHL game, Alex Biega who is morbidly meh, and Jordan Subban who was not made the leap yet.

 

End Result:

 

After all these moves I can’t help but feel as though this version of the Canucks is much better. Here’s what my final roster looks like:

 

Daniel Sedin

Henrik Sedin Jannik Hansen

Kris Versteeg

Eric Staal David Perron
Teddy Purcell Bo Horvat

Jake Virtanen

Sven Baertschi Jared McCann

Alexandre Burrows

 

Alexander Edler

Chris Tanev

Colin Miller

Jason Demers

Ben Hutton

David Rundblad

Philip Larsen

 

Ryan Miller

Jacob Markstrom

 

Philip Larsen and Ben Hutton will likely rotate in and out of the lineup. So, is this a playoff team? I doubt it, but they are certainly a way better team than Jim Benning scrapped together. We also have $5,814,582 in cap space which we can use as a trade asset in order to do deals like the Bolland/Crouse trade between the Panthers and the Coyotes. Most importantly all of the additions I made were signed at or below $4.5M, there’s no contracts that stick out as potentially being burdens in the future. Whether or not you agree with the team I assembled, there’s one thing we can all agree on: pretty much anybody could have done better than Jim Benning.

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