On a day when most Canadians will be celebrating our national holiday, Mike Gillis and his management team will be looking to celebrate in another way, in the form of hopefully a top end player. Jul. 1 marks the opening day in the free agent market and following last season's unexpected success anticipation is high for Vancouver to make a splash in the free agent waters.
Vancouver typically has been quiet when the free agency opened; however, this time they have 23 million reasons to make a lot of noise.
There are currently 13 players under contract with the Canucks for next season. This does not necessarily mean they will be with the Canucks next season. The Canucks have a lot of trade value out there with Roberto Luongo, among other hotly discussed as a possible trade option.
I expect to see Luongo in a Canucks uniform at the start of this season. If the right deal is out there, don't be surprised to see Mike Gillis pull the trigger. Mason Raymond, who was widely regarded as a future star with the Canucks, had a dismal season this year and, though he has great wheels, his scoring is a cause for concern and he could very well be packaged off in a deal for a top end forward.
Speaking of top end forward, the Sedin twins have yet to re-sign and there is hot speculation that they may not be in a Canucks uniform come tomorrow. Gillis has supposedly left a deal on the table for them, but don't be surprised to see them resurface with the man who brought them to Vancouver, Brian Burke. Should the Sedins re-sign, they will likely be reunited with Alex Burrows, who had a career year with the two last seasons.
The Canucks were hotly pursuing Jay Bowmeester, but their plans have changed now with Bowmeester signing with the Calgary Flames. The Canucks are solid on defence but will want to add a strong puck-moving defensemen to help their power play, which had an up and down year.
Don't be surprised to see a Thomas Kaberle come to Vancouver, whether it be in a deal with the Sedins or in a free agent signing. The Canucks could use his skill and hands. It is almost a sure bet that Mattias Ohlund will not be a Canucks come tomorrow and defensemen like Kaberle could help log a lot of the minutes the Ohlund did while on the back end.
Expect the Canucks to take a run at every skilled high priced forward there is to help bolster their scoring for next season.
The fourth line is set with Rypien, Hordichuk, and Johnson providing some much needed energy. Kyle Wellwood's strong playoff performance should get him a spot for next season along with linemate Steve Bernier, who was inked to a deal earlier in the offseason.
Should the Sedins re-sign, that will leave the Canucks with a second line to help improve. It is unlikely Sundin will resurface in Vancouver next season, and though Demitra is under contract, that will not stop Gillis from going after a big name.
Team MVP Ryan Kesler has shown to be a great shut down forward and a wonderful offensive spark, and will be counted upon to do the same next season. That leaves Gillis with a lot of decisions for next season, but he has a lot of options.
Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa, Alex Kovalev, Martin Havlat, Alex Tanguay, and Mike Cammalleri would all be great options for Mike Gillis to help address his issues of adding a top six forward.
Gaborik is a proven goal scorer and leader, but with his string of injuries is he worth the risk?
Hossa would be a great fit; he has made it clear he wants a cup and may want to stick with Detroit to make that happen. Kovalev, Havlat, Tanguay, or Cammalleri would all make great additions, but whether the Canucks can sway these players enough will be key.
Danny Heatley is another outside possibility, though it seems he will likely resurface somewhere else.
Then again, with outstanding prospect like Cody Hodgson and Michael Grabner ready for the big time, Gillis might very well just be content with the team he has right now, though he has already shown to be very determined as GM.
For the goaltender position, Roberto Luongo was a hotly debated topic since he let in seven goals in their exit from the playoffs against the Blackhawks. It has been known for years that he is among the best in the world, but is he capable of taking this team to the next level?
Corey Schneider certainly looks ready to at least get some game action in the NHL, is Schneider ready for prime time? Luongo become an unrestricted free agent next season and the talk is that they need to get some value for him now before it's too late; whether or not the Canucks see it that way is anybody's guess.
If there is one thing we have learned from Mike Gillis is his short time as GM, it is that he is very patient and persistent when it comes to free agents. If there is a deal out there to be made, he will pursue it but he will proceed with caution. Expect some moves to be made tomorrow. Which moves and how many will be very much up in the air.