Canucks’ cap crunch means they likely won’t join NHL free agent frenzy
Vancouver figures to be filling out its roster with players earning $1 million or less
Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin’s salary cap hit is $6.1 million, as one of nine forwards whose collective cap hit is $31,420,000. The Canucks’ overall salary cap hit is $56,802,778, with the NHL salary cap set at $64.3 million, so the Canucks’ remaining cap space is $7,497,222.
Photograph by: Chris Schneider, AP
VANCOUVER — Even with defenceman Keith Ballard off the books, the Vancouver Canucks face a salary-cap conundrum that figures to prevent the team from making any kind of splash in the free agent pool.
Ballard's compliance buyout, which will be completed on Thursday, frees up $4.2 million of cap space for the Canucks. But that only leaves Vancouver with $7.497 million of cap space with seven roster spots left to fill to complete its 23-man roster.
So barring a trade of a veteran core player — and most of them have no-movement clauses — the Canucks figure to be simply trying to fill out their roster with players making $1 million or less.
When you factor defenceman Chris Tanev into the equation, the Canucks' cap crunch becomes even more severe. Tanev is a restricted free agent and is pencilled in to be the team's No. 5 defenceman. He figures to more than double last season's salary of $900,000.
For the sake of argument, let's say Tanev signs a new deal for $2 million a season and winger Dale Weise, another RFA the team is close to signing, gets $750,000. That would leave the Canucks with about $5 million to spend on five players.
Free agency officially begins Friday, although teams were free to contact players as of Wednesday, but the Canucks figure for the most part to be bystanders left to pick up the scraps.
They simply won't have the money to compete for any of the big free-agent names like Jarome Iginla, David Clarkson, Ryane Clowe and Nathan Horton.
Right now, the Canucks have nine forwards, five defencemen and two goaltenders signed for next season. Once Weise and Tanev are signed, the team will still need to find three forwards and two defencemen to fill out its roster.
All indications are that the Canucks won’t re-sign centre Max Lapierre, winger Mason Raymond or defenceman Andrew Alberts, who are all unrestricted free agents.
It seems likely the Canucks will fill some of those roster holes with young players already in their system. General manager Mike Gillis has talked about getting more young players into his lineup and it's not entirely by choice. It's a necessity as he needs players on entry-level deals in order to squeeze in under the $64.3-million salary cap.
The Canucks’ most pressing need appears to be at centre. If Lapierre does not return, that leaves the Canucks with Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler as their only centres.
They could elect to give Jordan Schroeder a chance to be the team's third-line centre, but would still need a fourth-line centre to skate between Weise and Tom Sestito on the fourth line.
Kellan Lain, a 6-6, 220-pound free agent signed this past spring out of Lake Superior University, figures to get a look at training camp as one of Gillis's stated goals is also to get bigger. The Canucks are high on Lain's feistiness and like the fact he is a left-hand shot who is good in the faceoff circle, something they have needed since Manny Malhotra was removed from the lineup.
Fellow prospects Nicklas Jensen, Brendan Gaunce and even the team's two first-round picks from Sunday's draft, Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk, will be given long looks at camp.
Rookie defenceman Frank Corrado, who impressed late last season, figures to make the team and his $600,000 salary is already counted in the above figures.
But the question has to be asked: how can the Canucks possibly be better next season if they go the youth route and don't add at least one impact player, preferably a forward with some grit and skill?
It seems a given that with Cory Schneider gone and a potentially unhappy Roberto Luongo asked to carry the load, their goaltending won't be as deep as it has been. The Canucks simply must get better in other areas to make up for that.
Gillis may be forced to go the trade route to truly improve his team, but all those no-trade clauses could make many of his veterans almost as tough to deal as Luongo.
The Canucks listened to offers for defenceman Alex Edler before the draft, but his no-trade clause has now kicked in and he becomes more difficult to deal.
So far, Gillis's promised re-set of the team has amounted to a new head coach and trading away his No. 1 goalie. He still has much work to do and not much money to make it happen.
It should make for an interesting summer.
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