This article is not being written by a fan of the Vancouver Canucks. This, in my opinion, makes this a far more objective article.
I don’t think that Ryan Kesler is the next Joe Sakic, that Willie Mitchell is Scott Stevens and that Kevin Bieksa should be anywhere near the Canadian Olympic team.
I also believe that they have a great group of upcoming young players already on the roster, in the A and in the CHL. And I believe that this season will determine the future of the Canucks for the next eight-to-ten years.
The Canucks are at a crossroads for the following reasons: The Sedin brothers, Daniel and Henrik, are unrestricted free agents. Between the two of them, they lead the team in points, goals, and assists.
They are a package deal, and therefore must be signed together. The rumours have them looking for somewhere between seven and eight point five million each, meaning any team interesting in signing them would need 16 million in cap space.
Reason two is Mattias Ohlund, who is also a UFA. Ohlund is the top defender on Vancouver, a shutdown d-man that wore the A and served as the on-ice captain as Luongo was not permitted to perform the on ice duties.
His position on the ice and in the locker room was a huge part of the Canucks over-achievement this season. He is going to need between three and four million, which is quite a bit for a shutdown defender, but worth the money.
Reason three, Mats Sundin. The ex-Leaf captain is signed for the season at a decent chunk of change, and if he is committed to the season, he could be a great source of leadership for the younglings populating the Canucks dressing room.
He could also be a distraction, a player frustrated by his increasing age and his fate with the team, especially if they struggle.
Reason four, Roberto Luongo. Bobby Lou is under contract for one more reason, but if the Canucks are not in the race for the division title and a good seed in the playoffs, Luongo will walk. So what the Canucks do this season will have massive ripple effects on their goaltending, and their future with or without their Captain.
Regarding the Sedins, they are the cornerstone of the Canucks’ attack. That is 160 points sitting there, and the question becomes, how many teams are willing to pay whatever the twins’ ask for the chance to have that 160 points on their team, and it has been proven repeatedly that GM’s in every sport will do whatever it takes.
Mike Gillis has to decide whether or not he can trade, sign, and/or find that 160 points within his organization for less than 16 million a year. The assumption is that he can’t. So signing the Sedins is a priority.
The next question that arises is how long will this contract be. Five years has the Sedins leaving just as they start to decline, something that will benefit the Canucks. Ten years probably sounds about perfect to the Sedins, so expect around an eight year deal that will keep the Sedins in Vancouver for the majority of their remaining years in the NHL.
If the Canucks can get the Sedins under contract for 16 million a year for eight years, expect Ohlund to walk free. 22 million for two good but not elite forwards and a shutdown defender is more than even the Canucks ample cap room can maintain, especially with the cap expected to drop in the next few years.
If the Canucks can’t get the Sedins under contract, Ohlund will be much easier to retain, and is probably the more reliable signing, despite some injury history.
If the Sedins are retained, a replacement for Ohlund will be necessary, and defensive d-men take years to cultivate. He will be difficult to replace, and trade might be the only available root.
Rumours have been swirling suggesting Marion Gaborik if the Sedins aren’t around anymore. If its true and Gaborik does want to play with his friend Demitra, the Canucks will be getting a more dynamic scorer, but one that averages 66 games a season.
If he could stay healthy and match some of the point per game marks he has put up in the past, he will be a great help to the Canucks attack. However Gaborik is a player with RISK stamped all over him.
If the Sedins get away, Luongo may seriously consider walking. Which leads to the next move.
A question that Gillis has to ask is what can they get for Luongo. Whether or not this situation ever comes about, it has to be asked. If a huge haul of prospects, picks and/or players can be reaped, it may be worth it for the Canucks to send him out, and with the prospects that currently have the Manitoba Moose playing so well, begin building for a very bright future.
Players like Kesler, Burrows, Cody Hodgson, and more are all solid young NHLers and as such the team has the ability to spend some time working around those players.
The Vancouver Canucks have a very significant draft ahead, and depending on what goes down there, a very interesting summer. The 2009-2010 Canucks could be a very familiar or a radically different team.