VANCOUVER — A year ago, the Vancouver Canucks spent $27.6 million US to sign free agent defenceman Jason Garrison. Today, their big catch on defence was $650,000 Yannick Weber. That tells you all you need to know about how close the National Hockey League team sits to the salary cap.
Weber, 24, signed a one-way, one-year deal to provide depth on defence for the Canucks, who bought out blueliner Keith Ballard this week and aren't expected to re-sign Andrew Alberts. The Canucks also filled a hole at centre by signing gritty Brad Richardson to a two-year deal worth $1.15 million per season.
Even extricating themselves from Ballard's $4.2-million salary and trading $4-million-a-year starting goalie Cory Schneider, the additions of Richardson and Weber leave the Canucks with only $5.7 million to spend on the four or five players their need for an NHL roster.
After the team re-signs their own restricted free agents, fifth defenceman Chris Tanev and fourth-line winger Dale Weise, they'll be down to about $3 million for 2-3 players.
The team was interested in signing Phoenix centre Boyd Gordon for the third line, but wouldn't match the Edmonton Oilers' bid of $9 million over three years for a player who has scored 39 times in 486 NHL games.
The Canucks were also interested in physical Dallas winger Eric Nystrom, who reportedly has chosen the Nashville Predators. Pittsburgh grinder Craig Adams was also on Vancouver's radar.
Richardson, 28, spent the last five seasons with the Los Angeles Kings. He played both wing and centre and possesses plenty of speed and grit. But he has only 105 points in 391 NHL games with the Kings and Colorado Avalanche and may be best suited to a fourth-line role.
He should be an upgrade on Max Lapierre.
But the Canucks still don't have a clear centre for their third line, where Manny Malhotra was never adequately replaced after suffering a serious eye injury two years ago, and Richardson will audition for that spot at training camp.
Weber, a 2007 third-round draft pick from Switzerland, spent parts of the last five seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, collecting 27 points in 115 NHL games. He is capable of playing the power play and is regarded as a solid puck-mover.
His acquisition by the Canucks makes it unlikely former Vancouver Giants junior Jonathon Blum, cut adrift by Nashville, will sign here. But the Canucks may still be interested in another ex-Giant, rugged Edmonton free-agent defenceman Mark Fistric.
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