If the NHL and the Players' Association can jump their final hurdles over the next week to agree to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, we can finally start to think about the good stuff like, "Who will the Canucks ice as their starting lineup for the 2013 season?"
Free agent defenseman Jim Vandermeer thinks he'd be a good fit. Vandermeer's wife, Stefanie, is from Vancouver, so he's been in town throughout the lockout, skating with the Canucks at UBC and even participating in the Bieksa's Buddies charity game back in October.
In November, Vandermeer expressed enthusiasm to The Province's Ben Kuzma over the possibility of signing with the Canucks:
It would be very attractive and work out great. We’ve talked a little bit to Vancouver when we could and it was the same as when we talked to other teams. We picked the ones who would have a need for a guy like me. Hopefully, when we start talking they [Canucks] feel the same way.
If the season starts soon, Vancouver has seven defensemen ready to go. Chris Tanev has been playing with the AHL Chicago Wolves, while Jason Garrison and Alex Edler have both rehabbed their injuries and were medically cleared to play in December, according to Iain MacIntyre of The Vancouver Sun. The veteran core of Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard and Andrew Alberts rounds out the roster.
Salary cap limitations may come into play, as the Canucks are likely to be squeezed up against the cap ceiling. Vandermeer commanded a relatively modest $1 million salary from San Jose in 2011-12 on a one-year contract. As a depth defenseman, he played in just 25 games, essentially sharing the sixth-defenseman spot with Colin White, and missing six weeks in midseason with a hand injury. He put up four points, 33 penalty minutes and was a plus-three. He did not dress for any playoff games.
Vandermeer is a big body at 6'1" and 210 pounds, but at 32 years old, his best days may be behind him. In 2010-11, he played 62 games for the last-place Edmonton Oilers, where Edmonton Journal blogger Bruce McCurdy of Cult of Hockey broke down a bunch of advanced statistics, summarizing Vandermeer's performance like this: "While he did play a top four role for a significant chunk of the season, he delivered third pairing results, even on this club."
In a depth role, Vandermeer could provide some toughness to a Vancouver blueline that's generally not known for its muscle. Still, it's doubtful that he'd be an improvement on current seventh defenseman Andrew Alberts, who's bigger at 6'5", a little younger at 31 and can fight when needed. Alberts is under contract at $1.225 million for 2012-13.
It looks like Vandermeer's best hope for a contract offer from Vancouver would come if their defensive core falls apart due to injury once games get underway. He may stand a better chance of getting an immediate offer from another team.
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