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Vancouver Canucks Free Agent Prospects: Forwards

Mac DCorrespondent IJune 29, 2011

Vancouver Canucks Free Agent Prospects: Forwards

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    As highlighted yesterday, the Vancouver Canucks don't need to make any moves on the defensive end. They could improve their depth, or investigate a top-four defenseman, but the Canucks already have Kevin Beiksa, Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler, Keith Ballard, Aaron Rome and Chris Tanev all under contract.

    Today we'll look at the forwards out there and look at who on the team deserves to be re-signed. We'll also speculate on who the Canucks will make offers to in order to fill out the remaining spots on the team.

    The slideshow is divided up into the current top six forwards, the top six UFA forwards, current bottom six forwards and the bottom six UFA forwards.

Sergei Shirokov (RFA)

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    Age: 25

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $1.3 million

     

    After playing the last two seasons in the AHL (152 games played, 44 goals, 103 points) Shirokov will hope to continue on to the NHL as a starter. The Canucks let a highly skilled player go last year in Michael Grabner (178 games played, 67 goals, 118 points) after having a successful AHL career but not getting much of a chance in the NHL.

    Grabner went on to score 34 goals (52 points) with the Islanders this year and was a Calder Trophy Finalist. The Canucks will not want that to happen again and should retain Shirokov. He's expected to fetch between $1-1.5 million.

     

    Shirokov has signed with a KHL team

Chris Higgins

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    Age: 28

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $1.6 million

     

    Acquired at the trade deadline, Higgins (14 games played, 2 goals, 5 points) missed the first few weeks because of injury and everyone thought he would be used as a third/fourth liner to help bolster the bottom six.

    After injuries to others and shuffling around the lineup, Higgins found himself on the second line between Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond. It wasn’t until the playoffs that Higgins stepped up, scoring three game-winners.

    He isn’t a liability defensively and can play on the penalty kill. He doesn’t take many penalties either. The Canucks have expressed interest in retaining Higgins as a player who can play on the bottom six and fill in on the second line when needed, but no deal is on the horizon. He's expected to fetch $1.5-2.5 million.

     

    Canucks re-sign Higgins to a 2 year $3.8 million deal

Simon Gagne

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    Age: 31

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $5.25 million

     

    With the uncertainty regarding Mason Raymond, the Canucks need a top six forward to play with Ryan Kesler. Gagne is a proven veteran who can score goals and put up points while not being a penalty hazard.

    He just got off a five-year deal worth $26.25 million, but injuries have slowed him down. In that five year period he averaged just 50 games a season, but still averaged 23 goals and 48 points. If he can remain healthy, he would be a great addition.

    The price will have to be right, but the situation works well for both Gagne and the Canucks. Gagne is expected to fetch between $3-4.5 million.

     

    Kings sign Gagne for 2 years $7 million ($3.5 million cap hit)

Villie Leino

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    Age: 27

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $800,000

     

    If the Flyers are unable to sign Leino before July 1st, he'll attract a lot of attention. He had a coming out party during the 2010 Playoffs (19 games played, 7 goals 14 assists, 21 points) and continued that last season (81 games played, 19 goals, 34 assists, 53 points, 22 PIM, +14).

    Leino would complement Kesler well. He is a cheaper and more durable version of Gagne, which would help the Canucks on their second line and power play. He's expected to fetch $2-3 million.

     

    Sabres sign Leino for 6 years $27 million ($4.5 million cap hit)

Jussi Jokinen

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    Age: 28

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $1.7 million

     

    After scoring 30 goals (65 points) two years ago, Jokinen dropped to 19 (52 points) but played in 11 fewer games. He has not stayed in one spot very long, playing in Dallas for two and a half seasons, Tampa Bay for part of a season and Carolina for another two and a half.

    He is comparable to Leino in almost every facet (except for Jokinen’s superb shootout abilities) but is a little more proven. Again, he would fit well on the second line. He's expected to fetch between $2 and 3 million.

     

    Re-signed by the Hurricanes for 3 years worth $9 million ($3 million cap hit)

Nikolai Zherdev

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    Age: 26

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $2 million

     

    Zherdev has bounced between the NHL and Russia three times now and hasn’t been able to stick in one spot for long. He is a former fourth overall selection, and the talent is there, but the work ethic and consistency are sometimes not.

    Zherdev can score 20 goals in a season (and has three times) and has size at 6’2, but if he gets pushed around, will he bottle up or fight through it? He's expected to either fetch between $2 and 3 million or go back to Russia for the fourth time.

Tomas Fleischmann

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    Age: 27

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $2.6 million

     

    Slowly improving every year in the Capitals high-flying offense, Fleischmann improved his goal totals from 10 to 19 to 23. However, once the Capitals installed a more defensive system (23 games played, 4 goals, 10 points) his play suffered, which ended with him being traded to Colorado (22 games played, 8 goals, 21 points).

    He is fast and skilled but he does not bring a complete game and shouldn't be more than a last resort for the Canucks. He is expected to go for between $2 and 3 million.

     

    Panthers sign Fleischmann for 4 years $18 million ($4.5 million cap hit)

Jannik Hansen (RFA)

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    Age: 25

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $825,000

     

    Hansen has been one of the Canucks' most consistent players, and has improved in each of his seasons with the team (6 goals 21 points, 9 goals 15 points).

    He finally broke out last year (9 goals 29 points) playing on the third line with Manny Malhotra and Raffi Torres. He can hit, play the penalty kill and move up in a top-six role when needed. His work ethic and motor are both things you look for in a player. He had nine points in the playoffs, including two game-winners. GM Mike Gillis has made it a priority to re-sign Hansen. He's expected to sign for somewhere between $1-2 million a year.

Max Lapierre (RFA)

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    Age: 26

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $900,000

     

    After playing for three teams last year, Lapierre was finally accepted in Vancouver, where he started on the fourth line but moved up to the third when Manny Malhotra was injured. He can win faceoffs and play the penalty kill while being an agitator.

    GM Mikie Gillis said that along with Hansen, he wants to retain Lapierre for the fourth line and penalty killer role. He'll probably sign for something between $800,000 and $1.2 million.

     

    The Canucks re-signed Lapierre to a 2 year $2 million contract ($1 million cap hit)

Victor Oreskovich (RFA)

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    Age: 24

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $575,000

     

    Oreskovich was part of the Keith Ballard trade, and brings size and weight (6’3, 215lbs) and the ability to fight (he went on record saying he'd like to drop the gloves 10-15 times a year). He played 16 games in the regular season and 40 in the AHL, but played 19 in the playoffs.

    With a year in the system, he will most likely find a permanent home on the fourth line with his ability to bring energy through hitting. He also has some offensive skills. Re-signing him will be easy, as he'll only get between $500,000 and $600,000.

Raffi Torres

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    Age: 29

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $1 million

     

    Torres took less money ($2.25 million cap hit over the previous three years) to play on a contender. His goal production slipped to 14 (29 points), but he played on the third line which restricted his offensive chances (he had averaged 20 goals over the past five seasons).

    His physical play and playoff experience make him very valuable. He can get more money and more ice time on other teams, but the chances at a Stanley Cup may not be as good. The Canucks have expressed an interest in bringing Torres back, but a deal is not close to being done right now. He's expected to fetch between $1-2.5 million.

     

    Coyotes sign Torres to a 2 year $3.5 million ($1.75 million cap hit)

Tanner Glass

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    Age: 27

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $625,000

     

    Glass has been nothing but a class act in Vancouver. He understood his role and played it to a T. He would drop the gloves when needed to and could bring the physical play on the forecheck. He was also good for double digit points a year.

    However, with Oreskovich now on the team, Glass has become expendable, as Oreskovich is a larger, better-equipped player in the same role. He can stay for the same price, but his playing time  will take a hit. He's expected to fetch between $600,000-800,000 and will most likely find somewhere else to play for more, but he would be accepted back.

     

    Winnipeg signs Glass to a 1 year $750,000 deal

Jeff Tambellini

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    Age: 27

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $500,000

     

    It was a dream come true last year when Tambellini’s agent said there was an offer on the table from the Vancouver Canucks. Tambellini didn’t care how much it was for, and he took the chance to play for his hometown team.

    He had his most productive season ever in his career last year (62 games played, 9 goals, 17 points), but there isn’t any room in the lineup left for him. If he doesn’t mind signing another two-way deal and being a call up when needed, he will most likely move on to another team for a better shot at playing in the NHL reguarly. Tambellini is expected to fetch between  $500,000-750,000.

     

    Tambellini is expected to play in Europe next season

Rick Rypien

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    Age: 27

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $550,000

     

    After the incident with the fan in Minnesota, Rypien had played his last game for the Vancouver Canucks. He has been in rehab more than once dealing with substance abuse and personal reasons.

    When he plays, he is one of the best pound for pound fighters in the game and will probably be given another shot somewhere else. He's expected to fetch the league minimum on a two-way deal somewhere else. 

     

    Jets sign Rypien to a 1 year deal worth $700,000

Arron Asham

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    Age: 33

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $700,000

     

    The Canucks need another gritty winger who isn’t afraid to drop the gloves with experience to pair with Oreskovich on the fourth line. Asham fits that role and then some.

    In 692 games played, he has amassed 864 penalty minutes, but has also scored 87 goals. If he plays a whole season, he's good for double-digit goal totals. He has also played in 59 playoff games and scored nine goals (17 points) with just 40 PIM showing he can control his emotions but bring them when needed.

    Asham would be the perfect fit on the fourth line, bringing more toughness and a veteran presence. He's expected to fetch between $700,000 and $1 million.

     

    Penguins re-sign Asham to a one year $750,000 contract

Zenon Konopka

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    Age: 30

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $600,000

     

    During the trade deadline, Gillis was ready to trade for Konopka, but settled on Max Lapierre. He brings skill during faceoffs and toughness, which the Canucks can use. He won 57.7% of his faceoffs (620/1075) and had 307 penalty minutes.

    He isn’t afraid to drop the gloves and stand up for his teammates while also being able to win key faceoffs in his own zone. He brings the toughness needed for the playoffs and can also win faceoffs in crunch time. With Lapierre signed, he won’t be able to play his natural position, but he would be much needed. He's expected to fetch between $600,000 to $800,000.

     

    Senators sign Konopka to a 1 year $700,000 deal

Brooks Laich

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    Age: 28

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $2.066 million

     

    One of the few players who could play defense in the Capitals run and gun offense, his offensive production slipped (21 goals 37 points, 23 goals 53 points, 25 goals 59 points) to 16 goals and 48 points, while he won 51.3% of his faceoffs.

    He wouldn’t play his natural position as Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kelser, Manny Malhotra and Max Lapierre man the middle. He is also due a pay raise, which would move him most likely out of the Canucks' salary cap range. He's expected to fetch between $3 and 4 and a half million.

    Capitals re-sign Laich to a six year contract worth $27 million ($4.5 million cap hit)

Sean Bergenheim

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    Age: 27

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $700,000

     

    After being drafted in the 1st round (22nd overall) in 2002 Bergenheim was unable to catch on with the Islanders. He failed to score more then 15 goals and even returned back to Europe for a year before coming back.

    He signed as a free agent last year with Tampa Bay as a third liner. By seasons end he had the best of his career (14 goals 29 points). However it was the postseason that had many people raise their eyebrows. Bergenheim scored 9 goals in 16 games for the Lightning showing his potential as a top six forward.

    With a dwindling free agent class the Canucks and others will be targeting Bergenheim hoping he can continue his playoff success as a top six/nine forward which fiits with Vancouver. Expected to fetch between $1.5-to-2.5 million.

     

    Panthers sign Bergenheim for 4 years $11 million ($2.75 million cap hit)

Joel Ward

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    Age: 30

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $1.5 million

     

    Undrafted Ward has proven himself as a solid two way player with strong emphasis on the defensive side and forecheck. He has played the last three seasons with the Predators averaging 13 goals and 33 points.

    His solid play on the penalty kill, hitting ability and motor are something coaches love and many got to see that during the playoffs. Ward scored 7 goals (13 points) in 12 games but really stood out against the Canucks.

    Again with a dwindling free agent class Ward will be highly sought after and the Canucks will most likely be one of those teams. Expected to fetch between $1.5-to-2.5 million.

     

    Capitals sign Ward to a 4 year $12 million deal ($3 million cap hit)

Patrick Eaves

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    Age: 27

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $750,000


    Eaves started out hot in his first NHL season in 2005-2006 (20 goals in 58 games), but since then he's yet to score more than 15 in four full seasons. His role as a third line/fourth line player with some offensive ability to go along with his penalty killing skills is highly valuable.

    If one of the current Canucks who play on the third or fourth line isn't re-signed, then Eaves will most likely get a call come July 1st. He's expected to fetch between $700,000 and $1 million.


    Red Wings re-sign Eaves to a 3 year $3.6 million ($1.2 million cap hit)

Jamie Langenbrunner

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    Age: 35

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $2.8 million

     

    A veteran of over 1000 games and two Stanley Cups, Langenbrunner will be counted on more for his experience than his scoring ability this late in his career.

    He can contribute on the third line on the wing in a more defensive role. He will be most valuable in the playoffs (137 games played, 86 points). Langenbrunner is expected to fetch between $1.5 and $2.5 million.

     

    Blues sign Langenbrunner to a 1 year $2.8 million deal

Eric Godard

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    Age: 31

    2010-2011 Cap Hit: $750,000

     

    Godard brings great size (6’4, 214lbs) and toughness (833 PIM in 335 games), which would be valued on the fourth line. He steps up for his teammates (he'll jump off the bench to protect his goalie) showing other teams to not try anything.

    He hasn't played a full season yet and has no offensive upside. He would strictly be a player who rotates into the lineup every other night with no full-time spot. When needed, he will fit his role. He's expected to fetch between $700,000 and $800,000.

Conclusion

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    The Canucks have eight of their 12 forward spots filled with some RFA's expected to re-sign. That leaves only two spots to fill with either current or free agents.

    The Canucks are set with another deep team as they look to continue their regular season success and take the final step in next year's playoffs.

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