Ryan Kesler Signing Solidifies Canucks Core

Justin IsaacsContributor IApril 9, 2010

MONTREAL- FEBRUARY 2:  Ryan Kesler #17 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates his third period goal with team mates during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens on February 2, 2010 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Canadiens defeated the Canucks 3-2.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

When Canucks general manager Mike Gillis signed Ryan Kesler for six years at $5 million per season, he must have felt like I do when I buy an $8 beer at GM place: I don’t want to, I know it’s a bad deal, but what choice do I have? 

Truth be told, I was hoping Gillis could work his magic and get him for less money, but Kesler and agent Kurt Overhardt weren’t going to let that happen.  They wanted a good deal for Kesler and they got it; so let’s move on and see where the Canucks go from here.

Vancouver has their core players locked up and can now begin building around them.  The Sedin twins, Roberto Luongo, Kesler, and Alex Burrows, all of whom will be here for at least the next three years, are the cornerstones of this franchise. 

Unfortunately, the aforementioned players garner a huge chunk of available salary and with the salary cap likely heading south, the percentage of salary they take up will increase.  This will make it more difficult for Gillis to manoeuvre in the future to sign big name UFA’s that could give us the extra boost needed to win a cup.

All that being said, I am very optimistic when it comes to the future and direction of this organization. 

The extra push that moves the Canucks into legitimate Stanley Cup contender status won’t come through free agency, but from within.  Right now there are three players in the Canucks system that need to step up and make this team in the next two or three years: Michael Grabner, Cody Hodgson, and Jordan Schroeder.

Those three guys need to step into the lineup at low cap hits and produce.  Obviously, I am bullish on these players; however, I do realize that this is a tall order.  Grabner hasn't taken that next step, Hodgson was supposed to be here last year, and Schroeder is only 19 years old.

Looking into my crystal ball, I see Vancouver contending for the Stanley Cup in three years.  At that time our core guys will still be here and, hopefully, we can keep support guys like Mikael Samuelsson, Mason Raymond, and Christian Ehroff.  That, and we'll see the introduction of home-grown talent into the roster.

In the Salary Cap Era, the only way to build a team properly is through draft and development.  GMs cannot simply go out and buy a Cup through free agency anymore.  You need guys like Grabner, Hodgson, and Schroeder to make entry level money but play like $4 million players.

This, in combination with the Canucks purging the dead weight on the roster, will free up Gillis to add an extra piece through free agency.  The most likely scenario will be that Gillis goes after a stud defenseman with any spare cap space, which the Canucks have not enjoyed since Mattias Ohlund’s heyday.

I have been wrong before, but I am confident that the Canucks will be legitimate Stanley Cup contenders in the next few years, if they aren’t one already.