The Vancouver Canucks enjoyed their best season in franchise history, capturing their first President’s Trophy as the team with the league’s best record, and making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 17 years, falling short in Game 7 yet again.
Last offseason general manager Mike Gillis and head coach Alain Vigneault sat down after the Canucks were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the playoffs for a second consecutive year. They discussed what needed to change in order to help get the team over the hump. A more physical third line, defensive depth and penalty killing help were the three main priorities. They were all filled via free agency or trades, giving the Canucks their deepest team ever.
Manny Malhotra and Raffi Torres were signed in the offseason as free agents to help bolster the third line. Keith Ballard was traded for during the NHL draft, while Dan Hamhuis was signed on July 1st to help bolster the Canucks' blue line.
Malhotra and his faceoff prowess helped shore up the penalty kill. During the trade deadline, Gillis traded for Chris Higgins and Max Lapierre to provide more depth up front. When Malhotra received a career-threatening eye injury these two trades made Gillis look even smarter, as Lapierre filled in perfectly on the third line while Higgins replaced the banged up and injured Mikael Samuelsson on the second line.
The Canucks do not need to do a lot this offseason. They made it to the third round, meeting my expectations, and as a bonus made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
This past year was a big shake-up, with nine new faces that were regulars at one point or another during the season and playoffs. The team now has a season playing together, and the chemistry will only grow better as their role players get accustomed to playing with one another. The core is set and has been for the last three to four years, but now the role players are in place and the will only get stronger with a full season together.
The Canucks offseason priorities are to re-sign current players, a top-six forward and a bottom-six forward as well as depth where need be.
Here are the targeted defencemen for the Canucks.