The loss of Mattias Ohlund via Free Agency may have been compensated by the signing of veteren Swedish winger Mikael Samuelsson on Friday by Mike Gillis. A 32-yr old winger from the 2008 Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings, Samuelsson is a member of the prestigious Triple Gold Club – having won the Stanely Cup, Olympic Gold and World Championship.
Signed for three years at US$2.5-million per season, Samuelsson may be able make up for the loss of Ohlund in terms of the team’s overall talent, but not in terms of position. The 6’1 205 lbs rugged winger scored 40 points last season in 81 games playing mostly on the third line. In 23 games during the most recent playoff, Samuelsson registered 10 points and were just a game away from capturing the Cup in two consecutive years.
However, Gillis still has a lot of work to do, especially finding a top four defenseman. Although the Canucks currently have a solid top-4 in Willie Mitchell, Kevin Bieska, Sami Salo and Alex Edler, Salo is injury-prone and hasn’t played more than 70 games per season ever since the lockout in 2004. Shane O’Brien, when playing his A-game is more than capable in stepping up to fill a top-4 duty, but his inconsistencies during last season will make him a risky bet, especially if Vancouver plans to go far in the Playoffs this year.
Rumors of Gillis trying to sign Andrew Alberts and Tomas Kaberle had surfaced since July 1st (mostly by Eklund!), but I personally don’t think that will happen. Still, I will be very happy if Eklund’s e4 rumor of Kaberle for Schneider + 2nd is true!!
The current forward roster looks sufficient for the Canucks, with the Sedins + Burrows on one line, Demitra/Kesler/Samuelsson on the second line. Gillis will probably not sign back UFA Taylor Pyatt, but maturing prospects Michael Grabner and Cody Hodgson are expected to crack the line-up this coming season.
Another rumor about Gillis looking to sign back Mats Sundin, if he chooses to return for another season. According to Sundin’s agent J.P. Barry, his client will take much shorter time deciding his future this year. It is expected that Gillis will likely offer no more than US$4-million for the aged Swedish superstar.
If this is true, we shouldn’t expect Gillis to sign any more forwards via Free Agency. Instead, his focus will most likely be on a top-4 defenseman. Having said that, the signing of depth defensemen Aaron Rome, Nolan Baumgartner and Lawrence Nycholat should allow the team some options of the bottom-2 defensemen, should O’Brien needs to step up to replace Salo.
The Canucks still have US$7.2-million in cap space with RFA Kyle Wellwood, Jannik Hansen, and Shane O’Brien unsigned. If all three signed similar contracts as their previous ones, it will cost approx. US$2.5-million of the cap. This will leave the canucks with US$4.7-million to either resign Sundin, or another UFA defenseman of similar value. Otherwise, the Canucks still has a choice to re-sign defensemen Rob Davision ($0.5-million) or Ossi Vaananen ($1.0-million).
The last option has remote possibility, and that is the possibility of Burnaby Joe playing for his hometown before he retires. At 39-yrd old, Sakic can announce his retirement any time, especially with Ryan Smyth traded to the Kings and the Avalanche entering rebuild mode. Of course, Sakic hasn’t played a full season for two seasons, and he only mentioned to played 15 games last season, having only 12 points. So even if he does sign with Vancouver, his impact may be minimal.
Anyways, let’s wait and how things unfold after this weekend.