Canucks living in interesting times
Like a lot of NHL clubs, this off-season is going to be especially interesting for the Canucks.
According to Capgeek.com, the Canucks have 17 players signed to NHL contracts that total just north of $55 million. Assuming the team opens the season with the roster maximum of 23 players, that gives them about $9.2 million in cap room to sign those six players, based on the past season’s numbers.
But those numbers will change because the cap ceiling – released in late June — is expected to go up for next season, from $64.3 million to somewhere in the $69 to $70 million range and then, when the NHLPA invokes as expected its escalator clause, it could end up north of $72 million.
Good news for spenders, like the Canucks? Not really. Because the ceiling will very likely be going down again after the league and the players’ – hopefully – get together and hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement this summer ahead of its Sept. 15 expiration. We do know neither side has had discussions with the other yet, so there is no official list of issues for either group. But you can bet reducing the players’ share of revenues – currently at 57 per cent – will be amongst the owners’ goals. That would lower the cap ceiling. So, unless the parameters change, expect teams to leave themselves some cap head room this summer. A lot of it.
The Canucks have 10 forwards under contract – two or three fewer than they’ll likely carry – but both Mason Raymond and Dale Weise are restricted free agents who require qualifying offers for the team to keep their rights.
Of course, Ryan Kesler being out until at least November after major shoulder surgery creates the expectation the Canucks will be forced to deal for a centre to: a) fill his spot until Kesler is back and b) drop down to the third line to take over that spot in November – with the assumption that 34-year-old Samuel Pahlsson isn’t re-signed and fourth-liner Max Lapierre can be that guy to start the season. Prospect Jordan Schroeder will get a look there, but it’s a risky proposition going into training camp with your only candidate having zero experience at the NHL level.
It gets interesting on defence, where the Canucks have six D-men under contract: Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Keith Ballard and Andrew Alberts. They also have unrestricted free agents Sami Salo and Aaron Rome to make decisions on, while Marc-Andre Gragnani is an RFA. Do they bring back Salo, who was surprisingly healthy the past season but turns 38 in September, for another year or turn the page and get younger? The low-maintenance Rome is an able depth player, but can the Canucks do better?