Scoring is the central concern for Canucks

 

If the season were to start now, Max Lapierre would be the second centre

 
 
 
 
Maxim Lapierre, shown in the playoffs against the Kings, is be one of three healthy, experienced Canucks centres.
 

Maxim Lapierre, shown in the playoffs against the Kings, is be one of three healthy, experienced Canucks centres.

Photograph by: Getty Images Files, Analysis

The Canucks may have improved their defence by signing Jason Garrison, but that's not the only area that needed to be addressed after they lost in the first round to the L.A. Kings.

Much like the Stanley Cup final in 2011, the Canucks couldn't score. Granted, in both series, they ran into the hottest goalie in the NHL. But they didn't exactly make life difficult for either Tim Thom-as or Jonathan Quick. Not enough, anyway.

The Canucks have 16 goals in their past 13 playoff games and that's before they had what exists now - a fairly substantial hole at centre.

If the season starts on time, as it stands now with Ryan Kesler out, their healthy centres with NHL experience would be Henrik Sedin, Max Lapierre and Manny Malhotra.

There are reports the Canucks tried to fill the void with Olli Jokinen, a centre who may have been considered if he was willing to take a one-year deal. If true, it should indicate how shallow this free agent pool really is.

Jokinen may have had 61 points but he manages to turn invisible for weeks at a time. He had just three points in his final 13 games, during which he was a minus-14.

Disappearing late in the sea-son is not exactly a good sign and neither is the fact he's played just six career playoff games. He ended up with a lucrative two-year, $9-million deal to go to Winnipeg. Even if the Canucks were kicking Jokinen's tires, they weren't going that high, and the same could be said for Jiri Hudler, who got four years and $16 million to sign in Calgary.

A cheaper option at centre still available is Gilbert Brule, but with both Cody Hodgson and Samme Pahlsson gone, the Canucks need a third-line centre and Brule is set to be a depth player on a good team. Basically he'd be a guy with fourth-line responsibilities.

"I don't think we have to fill [the hole at centre]," said GM Mike Gillis. "We're looking for a certain type of player. Lots of players don't fit, so you have to be patient."

It's hard to imagine the Canucks are so patient they don't acquire another centre before training camp.

There is still the trade route for the Canucks, who need to execute the inevitable Roberto Luongo deal. Suggesting there hasn't been much progress on the Luongo front isn't a reach because there hasn't been much progress on many trades around the NHL.

Movement around the league has slowed to a crawl with both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, domino 1 and domino 2, dithering along with their decisions.

Gillis did shoot down speculation Luongo refuses to waive his no-trade clause to go to Toronto.

"My understanding is that Roberto said he'd do what was in his best interest and what was in the best interest of the team," Gillis said.

"That report was not correct. Until you have something we would like to do, there is no sense in talking about which teams.

"We've had discussions with him about different possibilities but nothing that was really firm. It was just open discussions about 'this could happen or this is a possibility, what do you think?'

"He's been thinking about those things and as we move along, we'll probably get into more detail."

Gillis also said the Canucks refused to offer Sami Salo, 37, more than one year, suggesting ideally they wanted to re-sign him to one-year deals until he retired.

"For players over 35, it's very dangerous territory," Gillis said. "If any-thing happens it counts against your cap. We were comfortable going one year at a time with Sami.

"If he continued to play at a high level and continued to want to play, we were comfortable with that. But players in that category, even if they decide not to play, they still count against your cap."

But age may not have been the only reason the Canucks offered Salo a one-year deal and were reportedly exploring the same for Jokinen.

They just may be trying to sign one-year deals so that next year they have the cap space to explore what they believe will be a much improved July 1 marketplace.

"We felt the free agent group was going to be much stronger next summer," Gillis said.

He couldn't have been referring to Shea Weber, could he?

jbotchford@theprovince.com

 
 
 
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Maxim Lapierre, shown in the playoffs against the Kings, is be one of three healthy, experienced Canucks centres.
 

Maxim Lapierre, shown in the playoffs against the Kings, is be one of three healthy, experienced Canucks centres.

Photograph by: Getty Images Files, Analysis

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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