Ok, soon after the Tampa Bay Lightnings traded away their third round pick to Pittsburgh for an exclusive discussion with Malone and Roberts until 1 July, and the hiring of Greg Malone (Ryan’s father) as their Head Pro Scout, Ryan was announced signed to a 7-years 31.5M contract with the Lightning. No-one should be surprised of this, but with Malone off the market, the dynamics prior to July 1st have changed significantly. Mark me as one of the first to say that we shouldn’t expect the Canucks to have any big free-agents pick-up this year.The reason is simple, salary Cap. Ever since the lock-out, the salary cap has continuously increased every year. The 08-09 will be at 56M. So much like to old days, the big clubs will have much money to spend this year. And aside from Pavol Demitra, who still has a big chance to sign here, we will have to virtually fight with every other team in the market for the rest of the better players. The Canucks were never successful in UFA signings, because our management have always been too conservative. Don’t be fooled by them when they say they are committed in certain players, because it’s one thing to say you are committed, and another to actually go out of your way to make it happen.
The Lightnings did, by hiring Greg Malone, and then making a trade to have exclusive discussion with Ryan. Would the Canucks have done that? Not likely. This is also reflected on the offers our organizations are willing to make. Despite some fans suggesting that Marian Hossa will most certainly sign here since Demitra is best friends with Hossa, and would like a chance to play together on the same team. Oh how I would like that to be true. I don’t doubt Hossa for wanting to play with his best friend, but when push come to shove, it’s all about the $ he’s getting. Hossa was making a bit more than 7M prior to his playoff performance, and from the fact that he rejected Pittsburgh’s offer of a multi-year 7M deal and the chance to play along side Sidney Crosby, how much does it take to have Hossa on our team?? I’d say somewhere close to 8.5M and at least a 5-year deal.
But will the Canucks offer this to Hossa? As we stand right now (according to TSN.ca), we have about 20M cap space left, so we can afford him, but will we make this offer in time to sign him. From past experience, no. By the end of 1 July, Gillis might sit and regret that he should’ve given Hossa what he wanted as he watches him wearing a Boston Bruins jersey.
What about other free agents?? Sundin? Jagr? Sakic? These three are pretty much already taken. Most others have signed with their original team. Who else are left? Ryder? Satan? Rolston? Prospal?? Hardly ones who will make me excited, but most importantly, the Canucks will follow the same mindset as I suggested. They will under-offer them, and when they sign with some other team, we will regret missing out on the opportunities.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think that we will get Demitra, but along with Kyle Wellwood, these two are pretty much what we can get for nothing. The rest will rely on trades. We are somewhat better with trades, because the rules are clearer, and saying yes to an offer is always easier than drafting up an offer out of nothing.
Should we start panic now? Not really. Because even if we don’t make any significant trades, and we aren’t able to keep Naslund and Morrison. I am still not too worried about our line-up. We are talking about the NHL here, and like I always say, the skill levels of the best players with the not-so-good players aren’t as different as one would expect. Given the right amount of opportunities and training, anyone can be half-decent. The Canucks, in fact, do have some depth in our farm team, (although we’ve lost one of our brighter prospect tragically – R.I.P Luc), when we look at Mason Raymond, Cory Schneider, Micheal Grabner, Jannik Hansen, Patrick White, Daniel Rahimi, Kiril Koltsov (thanks Nonis!), Cody Hodgson.
So in my opinion, yes, the team will be very different next year without Linden, Naslund and Morrison, but I think our team will survive and we shall see the blooming of our younger players. Let’s hope Gillis give them a chance.
Stay tuned, I will have a recap of the signings and trades after July 1st. Signing off, I’m Saint Pako from the Hockey Digest.