The Source.Mike Gillis was tied up in meetings most of Tuesday to the point where his head was aching, but that shouldn't come as a surprise given the July 1 free-agent starting line is Thursday.
There are so many things for him to be taking into consideration these days, you have to wonder whether this isn't the most challenging situation in which a Canucks GM has found himself for quite a few years. It's not that he has a mountain of holes to fill with so many dollars. It's a little more complicated than that.
While the Canucks do have some money to spend and holes to fill, how much of that money do you spend and how much do you keep in reserve in hopes of making a deal later in the season when you can better assess the needs of your team?
And that can't always be done right at the trade deadline and it isn't always advisable to do it then either. But you could end up making a deal whereby you take on more in salary in a deal which means you often get the better players if you leave some room with which to work and don't spend the mainstay of your wiggle room now.
He has to think of that. He also can't wait forever to fill the holes he has even though this group of free agents isn't overly exciting -- other than perhaps there being a remote chance still wants to play Teemu Selanne and would consider relocating from his home in Anaheim or Dan Hamhuis wants to give Vancouver a hometown discount.
Certainly Colby Armstrong would be a nice fit with his size and snarl, but he seemed to make his reputation in Pittsburgh and hasn't really added to it since in Atlanta. And if you're in the market for a bumping forward, he's your man so the price is going to go through the roof.
Ditto Eric Belanger, if you need a tenacious centre and given the Canucks have to get into a situation where their bottom-six forwards have some impact if they're to get better, he's a consideration if he doesn't get too expensive.
But there's another concern. How many of these spots do you fill, either up front or on the back end, without seriously impeding your ability to get younger players into the lineup if they're deserving?
What if Kevin Connauton, for instance, plays well enough to make the team and you've already gone out and retrieved six starting defencemen. It means you may have to move someone under pressure or there's a logjam.
What if you retrieve so many experienced defencemen with the money you have that you hurt the motivation of young players like Connauton and Yann Sauve and they get the idea they have no chance to make the team no matter what. Not ideal.
What if Jordan Schroeder comes in and sets the world on fire and Cody Hodgson also plays well. You don't want to be sending young guys back to the minors if they really and truly are ready to play in the NHL.
It doesn't happen often, but what if Colorado had all their positions filled last season and had to send Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly back? Not only can you hurt the team that way, but the player or players in question as well.
That consideration is helped somewhat by virtue of the fact the ownership may well give the team permission to plunk an expensive vet into the minors in that case. But if you're a GM, how many times can you ask the owner to be throwing away money on your behalf when he's already had to throw away the usual $10 million a year to places like Nashville, Florida and Phoenix?
Then again, nothing says a good situation like an excess of talent combined with money to spend and with other teams calling.
In the past, this situation wasn't so sticky. Neither was it so promising. The team essentially had no prospects so the GM in question went out and filled the positions with peripheral people as best he could.
Some were Marc Chouinard, Brad Isbister and Pavol Demitra. Others were Willie Mitchell and Mikael Samuelsson. But when anyone with anything remotely close to the kind of past a good agent can talk into a track record, it almost always cost you top dollar.
If you're a Westerner who's a hockey fan, however, free agency is the best thing about Canada Day no matter how it turns out.
The Source.The Vancouver Canucks will bid adieu to veterans Willie Mitchell, Kyle Wellwood and Ryan Johnson Thursday as the trio hits the NHL’s open market as unrestricted free agents.
Losing centremen Wellwood and Johnson leaves holes down the middle, but Canucks general manager Mike Gillis is in no rush to fill them with Canada Day signings. Instead, the Canucks hope to fortify their blueline and corner the market on defencemen before tinkering with their roster this summer.
“We think there will be three or four marketplaces over the course of the summer,” Gillis said. “We’ll keep our options open and see how it evolves.”
Gillis said Thursday’s opening of free agency will be followed by a flurry of trade activity this month and into August. He also expects a period before training camps in September when left-out veterans scramble to find homes.
The Canucks have 17 players under contract for about $50-million (all currency U.S.). That does not include four restricted free agents: top-six forward Mason Raymond, defenceman Shane O’Brien, and wingers Jannik Hansen and Tanner Glass.
O’Brien is expected to accept the Canucks’ qualifying offer of $1.6-million, while Raymond, whose camp is speaking with the Canucks to avoid the messiness of arbitration, will cost at least $2-million, if not closer to $3-million.
Barring another trade, that leaves Vancouver with little space under the league’s $59.4-million cap, and with few available roster spots.
The Canucks seem intent on accumulating back-end help and not repeating their 2009-10 error. Vancouver was simply run out of NHL-worthy defencemen in its second-round playoff loss to the Chicago Blackhawks last spring.
“We’re going to try to be active,” Gillis said.
Management believes that a deeper defence corps and more size are the keys to finally conquering the Blackhawks, who ended Vancouver’s season two years running. After a draft-day deal with the Florida Panthers for Keith Ballard, the Canucks have seven defencemen under contract, not including O’Brien, and will check in with some free agents on Thursday.
But someone like Dan Hamhuis, the product of Smithers, B.C., who reportedly wants to play for his home-province club, would have to come at a discount unless the Canucks plan on clearing cap room for another high-priced addition.
Up front, the Canucks are hoping that top prospects Cody Hodgson, Jordan Schroeder and Sergei Shirokov can crack the roster. The team plans on giving them full opportunities at camp.
Hodgson is a natural centre, while Schroeder has played in the middle. Their development this summer may determine whether the Canucks pursue more help at forward.
Vancouver had previously expressed a desire to add bigger bodies and defensive-minded forwards, to their third and fourth lines, which was why burly winger Victor Oreskovich was requested in the Florida trade.
In Darcy Hordichuk, Rick Rypien and Glass, the team has several wingers who can fight, but none would be considered classic third-liners capable of logging significant minutes on a shut-down unit. Oreskovich’s addition could make one of the holdovers redundant.
The Source.VANCOUVER — Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa, speaking publicly for the first time since July 1, conceded Tuesday he knows he's a candidate to be traded away.
“I'm not an idiot,” Bieksa said on TSN's Off the Record program. “I can put two and two together. Anything could happen right now.”
Bieksa was responding to a question from host Michael Landsberg about the Canucks' glut of blueliners. GM Mike Gillis has nine defencemen signed to one-way contracts and Bieksa is the third highest paid — at $3.75 million — after newcomers Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard.
The additions of Hamhuis and Ballard also appear to push Bieksa down the depth chart to the No. 6 spot with Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo and Alex Edler ahead of him as well. Shane O'Brien, Aaron Rome and Andrew Alberts are the others currently on the roster.
The Canucks won't carry nine into the season and perhaps not even eight depending on salary cap considerations. The Canucks are already over the $59.4 million cap but are allowed to exceed it by 10 per cent until Oct. 8, the day prior to their regular-season opener.
“We have a lot of depth on defence now and it will be fun to see how it unfolds,” Bieksa told Landsberg.
Asked specifically what he thought of the Hamhuis signing, Bieksa replied: “Happy. Happy for the team. Like I said, a lot of depth. Just gotta fill in a few holes on the forwards now.”
Told the TSN panel figured he would be involved in trade talks after the Canucks' July 1 moves, Bieksa quipped: “Yeah, well, you guys have been drawing blanks for three years now with the rumours so we'll see if you're right this time.”
Landsberg later asked Bieksa how often he planned to check the TSN website for the latest trade rumours.
“Not too often,” said the 29-year Hamiltonian. “I check TSN every day to read the news but I stay away from the other stuff.”
They might be since they attempted to sign Hjalmarsson and failed.Heard today that the Sharks are interested in Bieksa.
http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/...tration+abyss+with+Raymond/3327018/story.htmlIf evidence was needed to demonstrate just how concerned the Vancouver Canucks were about Monday's scheduled arbitration hearing involving winger Mason Raymond, it came with the unscheduled visit to Toronto this past weekend by general manager Mike Gillis.
Last summer, Gillis flew to Sweden to sign the Sedins.
This summer, he headed for Hogtown and helped negotiate a settlement for Raymond's services that the Canucks can live with.
Raymond gets a two-year, $5.1 million US deal, which is more than the Canucks wanted to pay, but much less than he may have won had the case proceeded to arbitration.
The gap between the two sides was as wide as the Grand Canyon, with Raymond's agent J.P. Barry using San Jose forward Ryane Clowe as a comparable.
After registering 22 goals and 52 points in the 2008-09 season, the Sharks gave Clowe a four-year, $14.5 million deal that averaged out to $3.625 million a year.
Raymond's numbers this past season -- 25 goals and 53 points -- were almost identical.
The Canucks had their own comparables, like Ryan Callahan of the New York Rangers, who makes $2.3 million.
So in a sense, both sides blinked, with neither willing to gamble on the arbitrator ruling in their favour.
The Canucks, already faced with significant salary cap challenges, would have been in a real pickle had Raymond won an award anywhere in the neighbourhood of $3.5 million.
"There was a range of potential awards and when we looked at it after sitting down and having some discussion we were able to find mutual agreement for a contract that both rewards Mason for his performance and the increase he has had in his statistical performance over the last couple of years and yet gives the club a measure of stability as we move through our salary cap plans for the next two years," Gilman said.
Barry said Gillis's decision to head to Toronto helped get the deal done.
"I think Mike flying in on Saturday and sitting down and working through it multiple times helped," Barry said. "We were making progress last night and I guess we were able to sleep on it and get it done this morning."
Raymond was just happy to get the deal done and pleased to avoid Monday morning's scheduled arbitration hearing.
"It's just a great day for me," Raymond said before leaving Toronto and heading to his Alberta home. "I am very excited. Finally it's come and here I am with the Canucks and I couldn't be more happy.
"You hear things about arbitration and it's not like you want to go, but I have learned a lot here the last 24 hours and I have seen how the process unfolds. But the Canucks' management side with Mike Gillis and Laurence Gilman have been first-class, very professional about how they handled everything in our negotiations the last couple of days. I think we were very pleased to settle before the hearing."
Barry said the wide range of comparables made it difficult to know how an arbitrator would rule.
"This was going to be a difficult case because there were really two marketplaces that were far apart," Barry said. "Each marketplace wasn't perfect for the player. The higher one had guys with lots of term and lots of free agency and the lower one that they were using had guys that hadn't had as good a season as Mason had.
"I think they knew we were going to be above theirs and we knew they were going to be below ours and we were able to find that zone."
Raymond, who was an restricted free agent, will still be one when the deal expires in 2012. The two sides could yet make their way to the arbitration table in two years.
For now, Raymond is determined to build upon his breakthrough season, something the Canucks clearly need him to do.
"He's a third-year player in the National Hockey League whose statistics have increased each year," Gilman said. "He scored 25 goals and 53 points. We think he has the chance to build on his prior accomplishments and should exceed those levels."
So does the 24-year-old Raymond, who knows full well that his higher salary will also bring higher expectations.
"I always expect bigger things out of myself," said Raymond, who made $760,000 last season before bonuses. "Last year was a great stepping stone for me, but I still want to get to places where I still feel I can go. I have another year of experience, I went to the world championships at the end of the season and went through some situations that you get put into as you get older. I feel more confident with them all the time."
Raymond's signing means the Canucks have about $63 million committed to 26 players. The NHL salary cap is $59.4 million.
The Canucks, who will get some salary cap relief from Sami Salo's recent Achilles tendon injury, would ideally still like to land another top-six forward through trade or free agency. But whether they can do that given their cap challenges remains to be seen.