The Vancouver Canucks didn’t make a big splash in the free agent market this offseason, but then again, they didn’t need to.
When you have a team that was only one win away from winning the Stanley Cup, you shouldn’t need to make many changes. Instead, GM Mike Gillis focused on keeping several key pieces of the team in Vancouver in order to re-load for another run at the Stanley Cup in 2012.
But while the Canucks let the other NHL teams go after the majority of free agents earlier this summer, there are still some serviceable players who remain unsigned. You might think the Canucks have no need for these players, but there are still a few question marks on the roster heading into training camp in a couple of weeks.
Will the team sign another defenseman to help fill the void left by Christian Ehrhoff? Will they add another forward to help defend against the current injuries to Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond along with potential injuries that may occur during the season?
With every question comes a potential solution, and that’s where these free agents come in. I’ve compiled seven unrestricted free agents who I feel could fit in and contribute to the Canucks success if given the opportunity.
Of course, there needs to be a realistic chance of these players actually signing in Vancouver as well, which is why you won’t see Teemu Selanne’s name on this list, as he’ll either stay in Anaheim or retire.
Maybe the Canucks will take a chance on one of these players, or maybe they won’t. But you can never have too much depth in your system, and that’s why it might be a good idea to look at one or more of the following free agents:
Trent Hunter is big, he plays physical, and he has a history of producing solid offensive numbers.
Those numbers may have dropped off over the last few seasons, but that’s more because of his health problems than his actual play on the ice. Hunter hasn’t played a full season since the 2007-08 campaign, and at only 31 years old, he might be worth a look if he’s healthy.
But health is still a concern for Hunter as he hasn’t played a game since November 24th due to a torn MCL. The Canucks will obviously have to ensure his knee is fully healed before they make a move on him, but if it does heal before the regular season, then Hunter could definitely have a positive impact on the team.
After a down year on the scoring sheet, the notoriously frugal Nashville Predators bought out the contract of J.P. Dumont, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Dumont’s point totals may have declined over each of the last three seasons. However, he’s only 33 years old, and he’s just two years removed from a solid 45-point campaign, so there’s no reason to think his scoring days in the NHL are over.
If he’s willing to accept a salary, Dumont could make a decent addition to the Canucks forward group. He is seemingly at the same stage of his career as Marco Sturm in terms of age and production, and the Canucks signed Sturm to a $2.5 million deal.
Dumont isn’t worth that much money, but there’s no reason why he can’t contribute to an already deep team.
Chris Campoli helped the Canucks win their opening round playoff series by assisting on the winning goal in Game 7 while playing for the opposition, so imagine how much he could help the team if he actually played for them!
In all seriousness, though, Campoli is one of the best defensemen who remains unsigned, and the Canucks could legitimately use his help. With six years of NHL experience, he would be a solid third-pairing D-man if the price is right for the Canucks.
At the very least, he’d give the Canucks more depth on the blue line for the impending parade of injuries that seem to hit their defensive core every year.
Of the many veterans on this list, John Madden is the oldest at the age of 38.
Madden would add some much needed grit and experience on the fourth line, which is something missing from the Canucks right now. Aside from Maxim Lapierre, there is no one who stands out as a sure thing to make the team as a fourth-line grinder.
Another reason to sign Madden is because he’s a center who has established himself as a good face-off man over the years. Sure, the Canucks might be set at that position for now, but what if someone gets injured? It happened last year with Manny Malhotra, and if it wasn’t for the acquisition of Lapierre at the trade deadline, the team would have been in big trouble heading into the playoffs.
As I stated in the opening, it’s never a bad thing to have too much depth, and Madden would certainly help solidify the Canucks at center ice.
It might surprise you to see Anton Stralman near the top of this list. After all, the reason he is an unrestricted free agent in the first place is because the Columbus Blue Jackets didn’t bother extending him a qualifying offer.
So why should the Canucks be interested in him? Well, he’s just two seasons removed from a 34-point campaign, and last season he had 18 points in just 51 games.
Stralman’s problems are in his own zone. His anticipation isn’t strong and neither is his body. He’d only be a third pairing D-man in Vancouver, if he were to sign here. But that’s all the Canucks need, so he might fit in nicely if he can gain the trust of head coach Alain Vigneault.
At the very least, Stralman is worthy of a two-way contract in order to provide even more depth and a D-man who can play the power play if needed. The Canucks have always had a propensity for signing Swedish players anyway, so why not give one more of them a chance?
It’s still unclear whether Cory Stillman wants to continue playing hockey at all, and that’s the biggest reason why he remains unsigned. He’s 37 years old and has fulfilled his dream of winning the Stanley Cup twice already, so no one would blame him if he retired tomorrow.
However, Stillman can still be a very productive offensive player, as he’s averaged nearly 42 points in an average of 62 games per season over the last three years. The question is, will the Canucks need him to play an offensive role?
They likely will to start the season as both Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond will probably start the season on injury reserve. But once everyone is healthy, Stillman’s role might become a little more complicated if he should sign in Vancouver.
Bryan McCabe is probably the most surprising name still on the free agent list.
He might be 36 years old, but he is still a physical player who can move the puck and be a legitimate scoring threat on the power play.
The New York Rangers might not have room for him on their roster, but if the price is right, he’s the best free agent left that can pick up the slack left by Christian Ehrhoff.
Some of you may forget that McCabe once played for the Canucks for one and a half seasons from early in 1998 to 1999 (that’s him in the opening slide photo). Since then, his offensive skills have become more refined, and he’s still capable of putting up 30 points from the back end, which is exactly what the Canucks need.
They can hope for the rest of the defensemen to collectively pick up the scoring slack left by Ehrhoff, but a much better option would be to bring in a proven veteran to fill that role.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to let me know what you think about any of these free agents in the comments section below.
You can also follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/adam_graham