I will be previewing all 30 NHL clubs. I will be looking at their available salary cap room, the additions and deletions from the 2008-09 rosters, and where I think they will stack up in their division and conference for the 2009-10 campaign.
Let's get a move on with the Vancouver Canucks, which play in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference.
During the off-season, the Canucks had two goals that they desperately wanted to accomplish. General Manager Mike Gillis wanted to re-sign potential unrestricted free agents Daniel and Henrik Sedin before July 1st. Mission accomplished, he managed to re-sign the twins just before they were going to become free agents to twin, five year, $30.5 million contracts.
Gillis also wanted to make sure the Canucks’ captain and franchise goaltender, Roberto Luongo was signed to a long-term extension and that goal was realized on September 2nd. Luongo signed a 12 year, $64 million deal.
Now Gillis has some questions to answer and some choices to make. The Canucks have 12 defenseman that have played at least one NHL game and currently have ten players on one-way contracts. Now it has been documented that Devils’ General Manager Lou Lamoriello has stated that an NHL franchise will need at least nine NHL calibre defenseman to carry a team all the way to the Stanley Cup.
According to reports, Mathieu Schneider will be out anywhere from two to four weeks while he continues to recover from off-season shoulder surgery but when he returns, the Canucks’ power play will be much, much better.
Mike Gillis now has some more questions to answer. Now that you have committed for the next 12 years to Roberto Luongo, what does the future hold for prospect Cory Schneider? Schneider, who is widely regarded as the best goaltender not playing in the NHL, may have to be moved in order to find a full-time NHL job.
How do the Canucks get under the Salary Cap? Right now, if you have Cody Hodgson in the NHL, the Canucks are almost $2 million over the salary cap and will have at least three players in the AHL with one-way contracts. Do the Canucks risk losing some of their depth by placing, players like Rypien, Rome and/or Nycholat on waivers in order to send them down to the AHL.
With a little more than a week until the Canucks start the regular season. There are some tough questions that still need to be answered in the Lower Mainland on Canada’s west coast. Let’s take a look at what moves G.M. Mike Gillis was able to make and see which players will be a part of the Vancouver Canucks in 2009-10.
Some of the significant additions that the Canucks have made during the off-season are as follows: Mathieu Schneider (Montreal), Christian Ehrhoff (San Jose), Brad Lukowich (San Jose), Mike Funk (Buffalo), Tanner Glass (Florida), Lawrence Nycholat (Colorado), Andrew Raycroft (Colorado), Aaron Rome (Columbus) and Mikael Samuelsson (Detroit).
Some of the significant roster deletions that have moved on from Vancouver are as follows: They are; Zach Fitzgerald (Carolina), Jason Jaffray (Calgary), Jason Krog (Atlanta), Jason LaBarbara (Phoenix), Drew MacIntyre (Atlanta), Mark Cullen (Chicago), Taylor Pyatt (Phoenix), Rob Davison (New Jersey), Jeff Cowan (Buffalo), Ossi Vaananen (Jokerit – Finland) Mattias Ohlund (Tampa Bay), Curtis Sanford (Montreal), Daniel Rahimi (San Jose) and Patrick White (San Jose).
There are three former Canucks Players that have yet to sign deals with another franchise. They are Juha Alen, Patrick Coulombe, Julien Ellis, and Mats Sundin.
Projected 2009–10 Vancouver Canucks roster
The Canucks currently have 20 players under one-way contracts; 10 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goaltenders. The three players that are most likely to fill out the roster, that are on two-way contracts are as follows. It would most likely be three forwards. These players are;
· Cody Hodgson— the 19 year-old native of Toronto, Ontario was the Canucks’ first round pick (Tenth Overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He has signed his first entry level contract and the Centerman was the CHL Player of the Year with the Brampton Battalions last season.
· Jannik Hansen—the 23 year-old native of Herlev, Denmark was the Canucks’ ninth round pick (287th Overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He has played parts of the last two seasons with the Canucks and has appeared in 60 games during his NHL career. The Right Winger has scored six goals and has added 15 assists for 21 points with the Canucks.
· Mason Raymond—the 24 year-old native of Calgary, Alberta was the Canucks’ second round pick (51st Overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Raymond has played the last two seasons with the Canucks and has appeared in 121 games. The Left Wingers has scored 20 goals and tallied 24 assists for 44 points with the Canucks.
With these 23 players, the Canucks’ Salary Cap would sit at $60.9 million. Even after you take the bonuses off of the Salary Cap calculations, the Canucks are still $1.9 million over the cap. The Canucks also have three one-way contracts that they will have to make decisions about if they want to keep Hodgson in the NHL. Rick Rypien, Aaron Rome and Lawrence Nycholat have all signed but there just is not enough openings in Vancouver.
Now let’s take a look at the top prospects that will be looking to make an impression on G.M. Mike Gillis and head coach Alain Vigneault.
Cory Schneider is a native of Salem, Mass. He is a 24 year-old Goaltender and was the Canucks’ first round pick (26th Overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. So far during his professional career, he has appeared in eight NHL games and has a record of 2-4-1 with a 3.38 goals against average. After spending three seasons with Boston College, he has been a professional since the 2007-08 season.
According to hockeysfuture.com
“Schneider is a fundamentally sound goaltender with superb quickness and agility. He has demonstrated that he can step up in big games. Schneider plays with a tremendous amount of focus and confidence and exhibits his maturity on and off the ice. Schneider is excellent positionally. He does an outstanding job of taking away the lower portion of the net, moves extremely well laterally and with his 6’2 frame covers a lot of the top half of the net as well. He will aggressively challenge shooters and has a quick glove. The most notable improvement that Schneider made in his collegiate career is his ability to control rebounds. It isn’t often that he will give up rebounds and when he does, he does an excellent job of steering loose pucks away from the crease area.”
Michael Grabner is a native of Villach, Austria. He is a 21 year-old Right Winger and was the Canucks’ first round pick (14th Overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He turned pro at the end of the 2006-07 season after spending the previous seasons with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL.
According to hockeysfuture.com
“Grabner’s game is all speed. One of the faster open-ice skaters in whatever league he’s playing in, he uses his superb speed to find openings and create scoring opportunities. He has the unique ability to stickhandle at top speed as well, which makes him very difficult to stop on breakaways and other situations close to the net. His two-way game needs to evolve considerably before he will be considered a well-rounded player, but with his raw offensive potential, he certainly could be a NHL player despite his shortcomings in the defensive zone. There have been concerns publicly voiced by his junior coach in the past about his willingness to physically compete when the going go tough, but there were few signs of that during his professional rookie season.”
Jordan Schroeder is a native of Burnsville, Minnesota. The 18 year-old Centerman was the Canucks’ first round pick (22nd Overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He is set to start his sophomore season at the University of Minnesota and has not signed his first Entry Level contract.
According to NHL Central Scouting’s Jack Barzee
“He’s a dynamic player, a leader and a type of player that has developed into a complete offensive and defensive threat every time he is on the ice. He has a rocket of a wrist shot and he can beat you by putting the puck in the net, going around a defender, or freezing the goaltender and passing it off to one of his wingers. The concern is going to be his overall size, like there was with Scott Gomez, with Brian Gionta and with Patrick Kane, but at the same age he is probably a little thicker and a little bit more compact than they were. He’s a great hockey player.”
Anton Rodin is a native of Stockholm, Sweden. The 18 year-old Right Winger was the Canucks’ second round pick (53rd Overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Rodin has not signed his first Entry Level contract and he is likely to play over in Sweden during the 2009-10 season.
According to hockeysfuture.com
“Rodin’s offensive game stands out thanks to his superb skating, his shot, hockey sense and puck handling. Usually scores quite spectacular goals and does not shy away from playing physical. He could use some more strength though. He has the offensive arsenal to be a productive player in the future, but has also the fundamental skills to be used as a role- and checking line player.”
Sergei Shirokov is native of Moscow, Russia. The 23 year-old Right Winger was the Canucks’ sixth round pick (163rd Overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Shirokov has signed his first NHL Entry Level contract and will probably start the season with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL.
According to hockeysfuture.com
“Small and undersized at 5’10, 176 lbs, Shirokov is not a fast skater, but is described by the Canucks scouting staff as being a very strong skater. He does not possess dynamic offensive skills, but has the vision and finishing ability to potentially develop into a supporting scorer at the NHL level and could prove to be a very valuable player for the Canucks if he can round out his defensive game.”
Recap of 2008-09
Canucks finished the season in first place in the Northwest Division and finished third in the Western Conference with a record of 45-27-10, good for 100 points.
The Canucks had five players that broke the 20-goal plateau and they had 11 players in total that finished with double digit goals. Last season, the Canucks was led by Daniel Sedin (31 goals and 82 points) and Henrik Sedin (60 assists and 82 points).
The Canucks` offense was 11th in the NHL with 243 goals for and defensively the Canucks ware seventh in the NHL giving up 213 goals.
The Canucks` powerplay was 17th in the NHL last season, clicking at 18.8 percent and they were 16th in killing penalties (81.4 percent).
Outlook for 2009-10
The Canucks should have one of the most powerful teams in the Western Conference but when you play in a conference with the Red Wings, Sharks, Flames, Black Hawks and Ducks, you are going to be in tough to make it all the way to the Stanley Cup. The Northwest Division alone is the home for four of the top eight goaltenders in the NHL (Luongo, Kiprusoff, Khabibulin and Backstrom).
With the additions of Mathieu Schneider, Christian Ehrhoff and Mikael Samuelsson, the power play units for the Canucks will be improved on the back end.
Defensively, the Canucks currently have the best top eight group of defenseman in the NHL but given the current Salary Cap situation, moving a defenseman may be in the Canucks’ best interest to help the Canucks get under the Cap. It has been reported by Rick Ball of the Team 1040 in Vancouver, that the only defenseman, from the returning group from last season that does not have a no-movement clause is Kevin Bieksa.
The Northwest Division is going to be a dog fight again this season and not unlike last season, the seeding may not be known until the last week of the season. The division champ will be the team that gets the timely goals and the best goaltending compared to the other teams in the Division.
I foresee a second place finish in the Northwest Division and I think they will finish fifth in the Western Conference.
On Sept 21th, I will be reviewing Washington Capitals as I continue to preview each of the 30 NHL clubs. Look for my four-part article on how I would improve the NHL and my other previously published articles on bleacherreport.com.