Vancouver Canucks: Five Players They Should Pursue This Offseason

Joel Prosser@@JoelProsserCorrespondent IMay 5, 2011

Vancouver Canucks: Five Players They Should Pursue This Offseason

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    NASHVILLE, TN - MAY 03:  Shea Weber #6 of the Nashville Predators carries the puck behind the net and out of the reach of Henrk Sedin #33 of the Vancouver Canucks in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs
    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    As entertaining as it is to watch the playoffs, time is passing and we are getting closer to July 1. A time of change, when free agents hit the open market, and General Managers overpay to reshape their rosters.

    In other words, the best day of the year for armchair General Managers.

    The Canucks have most of their core players under contract for 2011-2012, but there are quite a few defensemen and depth forwards who are free agents and could be replaced. 

    Here are a few players I think Mike Gillis should be considering.

Canucks Players Under Contract

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    VANCOUVER, CANADA - JANUARY 22: Ryan Kesler #17 of the Vancouver Canucks is congratulated by teammate Chris Tanev #18 after scoring against the Calgary Flames during the third period in NHL action on January 22, 2011 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC, Cana
    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    The Canucks have the following NHL-calibre players signed through the 2011-2012 season.

    Forwards (8)

    Daniel Sedin

    Henrik Sedin

    Ryan Kesler

    Mason Raymond

    Mikhail Samuelsson

    Manny Malhotra

    Alex Burrows

    Cody Hodgson

    Defensemen (5)

    Dan Hamhuis

    Keith Ballard

    Alex Edler

    Aaron Rome

    Chris Tanev

    Goalies (2)

    Roberto Luongo

    Cory Schneider

Canucks Players That Will Be Free Agents

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    VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 13: Jannik Hansen #36 of the Vancouver Canucks pumps his fist after scoring against the Chicago Blackhawks during the first period in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on Ap
    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    The Canucks have the following players that will be either unrestricted or restricted free agents on July 1. I've highlighted the players I believe will re-sign with the team in bold. The others are likely to change teams, in my opinion.

    If the players I predict re-sign with the Canucks, they will have pretty much a full roster except for some depth players for the press box. If they don't re-sign, the next slides suggest some alternatives.

    Restricted Free Agents:

    Maxim Lapierre - Playoff performer, and an actual center for the fourth line, something the Canucks were missing all year long.

    Jannik Hansen - Will demand and get a nice raise, but they will want him back with Malhotra next year.

    Victor Oreskovich - Physical presence for the fourth line.


    Unrestricted Free Agents:

    Chris Higgins - Clutch playoff scoring, good chemistry on multiple lines. Gillis will want to keep him.

    Raffi Torres - Too streaky, likely to lose his third-line spot to either Hodgson or Higgins.

    Tanner Glass - The only constant on the fourth line. He will be back.

    Jeff Tambellini - Hasn't scored since January.

    Christian Ehrhoff - Will make too much money on the open market to re-sign.

    Kevin Bieksa - A core defenseman who can do a bit of everything.

    Sami Salo - Too old, too many injuries. He had a good run, though.

    Andrew Alberts - Might return as a depth defenseman, but likely will go elsewhere for more money and ice time.

Shea Weber

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 31:  Shea Weber #6 of the Nashville Predators warms up prior to facing the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on March 31, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. Rinne had 27 saves as the Nashville Predators defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-2.
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Current Salary: $4,500,000

    Status: Restricted Free Agent (Nashville Predators)


    6'4" 234 lbs

    Shea Weber can hit, skate, fight, set up a scoring chance with a nice pass or just score himself with a blistering slap shot. He should win the Norris Trophy this spring, and has won a Gold Medal with Canada in the 2010 Olympics.

    He is basically the next Chris Pronger.

    He is also a restricted free agent.

    There are many teams interested in Weber, but I believe the Canucks have a unique opportunity due to their salary cap space and Weber's ties to Vancouver. He grew up in BC and played his junior hockey there as well.

    Weber's friend and former defense partner Dan Hamhuis also jumped ship from the Predators to the Canucks as a free agent last summer.

    Nashville would be loathe to lose their captain, but they might not be able to match an offer sheet from the Canucks or other teams who are willing to pay the draft picks in compensation. It isn't every day you can pick up a player of this caliber as a free agent.

    If Mike Gillis did manage to steal Weber away from Nashville, it would mean the end to any thoughts of Bieksa or Ehrhoff returning, barring any further salary dumps.

Drew Doughty

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 02:  Drew Doughty #8 of the Los Angeles Kings looks on against the Dallas Stars at Staples Center on April 2, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Current Salary: $3,475,000

    Status: Restricted Free Agent (LA Kings)


    6' 212 lbs

    A member of the 2010 Canadian Olympic team, Doughty was also nominated for the Norris Trophy last season as well. And all this at the tender age of 21.

    Everything I said about Shea Weber in the previous slide pretty much applies to Drew Doughty as well, although he plays more like a Scott Neidermayer than a Chris Pronger.

    The Canucks would have to pay dearly, probably upwards of $7,500,000, to pry him away from the Kings, but it would be worth it.

    If the Canucks did manage to sign Doughty, it would likely mean that neither Bieksa or Ehrhoff return, unless Ballard is traded as a salary dump.

Brooks Laich

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 22:  Brooks Laich #21 of the Washington Capitals skates during an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 22, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
    Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

    Current Salary: $2,066,667

    Status: Unrestricted Free Agent (Washington Capitals)


    6'2" 199 lbs

    Laich is one of the hardest-working Capitals, and plays on both special teams units. He can score, hit, forecheck and play defensively. In other words, he is a very versatile player.

    If Manny Malhotra doesn't recover from his season-ending eye injury, Canucks GM Mike Gillis might turn to someone like Brooks Laich to center the third line.

Zenon Konopka

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    UNIONDALE, NY - JANUARY 11: Ryan Kesler #17 of the Vancouver Canucks butts heads with Zenon Konopka #28 of the New York Islanders during an NHL game at the Nassau Coliseum on January 11, 2011 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
    Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

    Current Salary: $600,000

    Status: Unrestricted Free Agent (New York Islanders)


    6' 209 lbs

    Konopka provides two things the Canucks need on their fourth line.

    First, he was the fourth-best faceoff man in the league, winning 57.7% of his draws. Imagine a lineup that included Henrik Sedin, Kesler, Malhotra and Konopka. The Canucks would dominate faceoffs in every game.

    Second, Konopka provides a ton of grit and nastiness. He threw 110 hits, blocked 52 shots, and dropped the gloves an astounding 25 times last year.

    He would be a replacement for Lapierre if necessary.

Sean Bergenheim

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    TAMPA, FL - MAY 04:  Sean Bergenheim #10 of the Tampa Bay Lightning scores at 4:41 of the second period against the Washington Capitals in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the St Pete Times Forum o
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Current Salary: $700,000

    Status: Unrestricted Free Agent (Tampa Bay Lightning)

    Left Wing

    5'10 205 lbs

    Bergenheim wasn't known for his scoring prowess before this spring, but he has quickly become a playoff hero for the Lightning, putting in seven goals though two rounds of the playoffs.

    Usually, he is thought of as a dependable depth forward, a solid two-way player.

    He could be a replacement for Hansen or Higgins as a third-liner with some scoring touch while still being defensively responsible.