I wrote an article a couple of weeks ago about the Top Five Western Conference Team Cores.
When I looked at it closer it reminded me, and should also for the Canucks Nation, that this core is running out of time.
With this group of players the average age is 29 years old and I am told most are at or near the peak of their careers.
If that is so, then there is a two to three year window of opportunity to make a run at the Stanley Cup.
That most likely is not lost on management as they went away from drafting in the first round and instead went out and obtained a top four D-man in Keith Ballard. The rest you already know about that.
Mike Gillis as stated that he is not finished adding to this team and hopefully he will build that third and fourth line with the missing ingredients.
I’m not sold on the players names that have been thrown out there such as Cody Hodgson or Jordan Schroeder to fill the gaps, as firstly they are unproven at the NHL level and secondly, do not fit the size or type of players that are needed.
I don’t see Schroeder or Sergei Shirokov fitting in either, at least not at the beginning of the season.
Victor Oreskovich, who the ‘Nucks picked up in the Ballard trade, fits the size and toughness required but he has not shown that he can score at the NHL level and is, at best, a good fourth line player, for now.
There are definitely UFA’s and RFA’s that Gillis could build a third and fourth with but with 29 other teams looking at similar needs, that will become much clearer in about 19 hours.
By qualifying Mason Raymond at the minimum allowed and thus instigating arbitration, that bought the team a two week period in which to complete the Free Agency Draft.
On July 2nd the Canucks will know how much cap space they will have left over in order to do the deal with Raymond and thus could settle before it ever goes to arbitration.
That was a shrewd move.
The other option might be that they pick up a couple of players that may be able to play Mason’s spot, players who are just as talented but bigger and tougher.
That then would allow the team, if they went to arbitration, to negotiate from a position of strength and not overpay.
Don’t think that the fourth line is set in stone either, since there are a number of players with more talent and toughness than Rick Rypien and Darcy Hordichuk available.
If better players than Rypien and Hordichuk are added both could go the way that a number of NHL teams have done already and end up on waivers.
If not claimed, they could buy them out or send them to Manitoba as emergency players.
This is going to be the most interesting free agency day in a number of years for the ‘Nucks.
Let’s hope that Gillis stocks the shelves.