NHL'er Posted June 28, 2015 Share Posted June 28, 2015 BY BEN KUZMA, THE PROVINCE JUNE 28, 2015 3:25 PM SUNRISE, Fla. — They didn’t make a big weekend draft splash and will probably make just a ripple when the free-agency market opens Wednesday. Welcome to the reality that is the Vancouver Canucks. After an unspectacular draft in which they failed to acquire a second-round pick, traded Eddie Lack, failed in a pursuit of Milan Lucic and couldn’t come to trade terms in moving Kevin Bieksa to San Jose, comes the sobering realization that circumstance and a salary-cap crunch will have general manager Jim Benning shopping in the bargain-bin aisles. No big-ticket items. No Ryan Miller. No Radim Vrbata. “We’re going to look at some players,” said Benning. “We’ll meet Monday and we won’t be in the high-end free agency market, but if there’s something that makes sense and we can improve our team, we’re going to look to do it.” With moving Lack and still having Bieksa on the books, the Canucks have $6.18 million US in cap space under the new $71.4 million ceiling. They have 11 projected roster forwards already under contract and need to come to terms with restricted free agents Sven Baertschi, Linden Vey, Alex Grenier and possibly Brandon McMillan. They need to do the same with RFA defencemen Yannick Weber, Frank Corrado, Adam Clendenning and goaltender Jacob Markstrom. They also have to make a decision on unrestricted free agent centre Brad Richardson — Benning would bring him back if there’s cap space — while UFA winger Shawn Matthias appears headed for the open market. The big problem for Benning, or any of his peers, is that you can’t build long-term success through free agency because of cost. You do it through drafting well year after year. The Canucks might be able to plug some less-demanding holes — like finding a cheap UFA stopper to pair with Joe Cannata in Utica with Markstrom moving up and RFA Joacim Ericsson bolting to the KHL — but when it comes to next season, the Canucks will need to find support pieces. However, that’s the problem. They don’t have a true second-line left winger and they’re gambling on Baertschi finally maintaining a consistent NHL presence. They will bump Bo Horvat to second-line centre and Linden Vey to fourth if Richardson isn’t retained. And they will promote Corrado and Clendenning as roster regulars with the eventual departure of Bieksa and that alone should raise some alarm bells. The Canucks were horribly inept in their own zone. They were 19th in goals-against during the regular season, but it was in the postseason where a lack of mobility and the ability to defend down low against the Calgary Flames was exposed. They allowed 18 goals in the six-game exit and weren’t able to handle the Flames’ aggressive forecheck to trigger the transition game and had all kinds of problems battling physically in front of Ryan Miller and Lack. And the Flames have added Dougie Hamilton to their impressive and mobile back end, so good luck with getting to their net or tempering their transition game. The Canucks don’t want to stray from their mandate to get younger and quicker. But they may have to find a bridge free-agent defenceman who won’t break the bank and allow time for Ben Hutton to develop. Or, they could get bolder and find a fix for now and the future. The most obvious target is Cody Franson. He’s 27. He’s from Sicamous and the right-shot defender would welcome a return to the west coast. He also made $3.3 million last season and could hit a home run on the first day of free agency. But he would also instantly move into the top four and more than make up for the loss of Bieksa. A cheaper option would be Matt Bartkowski, 27, who earned $1.25 million last season. Management has a previous connection with the Boston Bruins blueliner and he was a trade-deadline consideration. Coming off a poor season in which he was often a healthy scratch, after playing in the top four in 2013-14, he could be an affordable target. So could San Jose Sharks blueliner Matt Irwin, 27, who made $1 million last season. The Canucks could also try and land a defenceman for Bieksa and how free agency plays out for certain suitors will affect any return. At the draft, Benning pushed hard to move Bieksa after he agreed to waive his no-trade clause. A deal with the Sharks seemed imminent Friday, but something got lost in translation. The big draft-floor buzz was that the Canucks thought they were getting a 2015 second-round pick and that the Sharks were offering it in 2016. The Canucks’ response was to add more to sweeten the deal if they had to wait a year to select. Benning said a second-round pick was his rationale. “That’s going in,” he said. “The market dictates it. Johnny Boychuk went for two second-round picks. Kevin is a little bit older, but that’s what our asking price was and I don’t think it’s too much. I think it’s fair and that’s what we were trying to get.” Bieksa is 34 and Boychuck 31. The Bruins actually received two second-round picks in 2015 and 2016 plus a conditional third-rounder from the New York Islanders in 2015, so you can understand why Benning pushed hard to get more for Bieksa. Now he has to push to remove the ugly optics of a player who isn’t part of his plan and has agreed to leave. http://www.theprovince.com/sports/Vancouver+Canucks+Benning+likely+bargain+shop+when+free/11173939/story.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter #tbt #gillismoneyball "It is what it is" - Jarred McCann. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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