Air For A Closing Window
How long until this window closes completely and Canucks fans are left without the calming breeze of an opportunity for a Cup?
It has been acknowledged that this team’s core isn’t getting any younger and that the opportunity to achieve Lord Stanley’s mug only exists for a certain timeframe for a given roster.
GM Mike Gillis has said himself that as a team it is required to have good young players stepping into NHL roles to have a balance against the cap, as well as to have speed and youthful enthusiasm in the lineup.
For instance, look at the reigning champion Chicago Blackhawks team led by Jonathan Towes (25), Patrick Kane (24), Corey Crawford (28), Brent Seabrook (28) and Duncan Keith (29).
None of the listed players is above the age of 30 and all except for Crawford have won two Cups.
That isn’t to mention Brandon Saad (20), Nik Hjalmarsson (26), Nick Leddy (22) and Andrew Shaw (21), who all made significant contributions to this club this year.
These are largely players who were drafted and developed in the Chicago system, necessary for achieving success in the hard salary-cap era.
With that being said, if I had to make 3 moves as the GM of the Canucks, I would certainly entertain the following possibilities.
Trade Kevin Bieksa
Alex Edler‘s name floated around as a possible trade chip at the time of the NHL draft and leading into free agency on July 5th, at which time his no-trade clause would kick in with the start of his new contract.
Bieksa, 32, is a solid two way defender who can move the puck and put up points while providing leadership and grittiness.
These are all aspects that any NHL club would welcome, and with three seasons left on his contract at $4.6m per season, he would likely fetch a strong return.
With the emergence of Frank Corrado and Chris Tanev (a must-sign RFA) on the back end, why not fill some of the holes in the current roster and bolster the prospect pool by maximizing your return on Bieksa before the decline that’s common to most players in their mid-30′s.
Yes, Bieksa has a NTC but many trades have been made despite them. This also allows you to keep Alex Edler, who is only 27 and holds a $5m cap hit until 2019, for the time being and has a very moveable contract should that be a course of action at a later date.
Trade Jordan Schroeder
Personally, I like the speed and playmaking ability Schroeder has shown flashes of in his time in the NHL, however, I’m concerned as to where he fits on the depth chart.
Ideally, Schroeder would develop into a 2nd line playmaking center who would beg even favourable zone matchups as an undersized center.
However, we have Selke-quality center and 40-goal scorer Ryan Kesler signed for 3 more years occupying the second line role.
The Sedins are entering the final year of their contract (a topic for another day) but I really don’t see Gillis letting them walk and then there’s the duo of 1st rounder’s Brendan Gaunce and Bo Horvat knocking on the door.
Schroeder is a former 1st rounder who is still just 22. He has offensive upside and could likely bring back a decent return now, which I am concerned would diminish should he toil in the minors for too long .
Use the second buyout on Roberto Luongo after this season
With the core aging another year this season, including the Sedins (entering UFA status), this move would allow the club to gain cap flexibility and re-assess where the roster is at next summer.
The dollar figure would be a more manageable sum for the Aquilini’s to eat after another season of employment to Roberto Luongo.
It will also negate the risk of a potential cap hit should he retire after the age of 35 and before the contract is up.
There are some quality UFA goaltenders (via CapGeek) for next summer in Ryan Miller, Corey Crawford, Devan Dubnyk, Brian Elliot, Jaroslav Halak, Jonas Hiller, Ray Emery and Henrik Lundqvist (although he will likely be retained), so the price may not be through the roof to sign one in a flooded market.
There’s two young Swedish goalies in the system as well that could prove to be worthy of a look in the near future.
These are just a few ideas that, if I were the GM, I would take into consideration. The ideas may align with Gillis’ notion to get younger, gain cap flexibility, increase the prospect pool and avoid future complicated situations.