Canucks Ramblings – UFA's and possible trades

The Vancouver Canucks are in a very interesting position this off-season and could potentially be looking at acquiring a new starting goalie and first line winger and possibly trading one of the most dominant players in the game.Up front, the Canucks have Todd Bertuzzi and Trevor Linden signed and are expected to resign the Sedin twins, Brendan Morrison, Matt Cooke, Artem Chubarov and Jarko Ruutu without issue. Of course, Bertuzzi may still have to sit out a few games to start the season due to his still pending suspension, but I don’t see this as affecting the team too much this off-season. I highly doubt Bertuzzi will be traded, the fans still love him to death in Vancouver and a change of scenery will NOT help him in this situation. Also, apart from Joe Thornton and Jerome Iginla, I can’t find too many players in the league who Nonis would deal Big Burt for anyway.

The Canucks first priority is to resign Markus Naslund. There is a good chance this will happen, as Markus loves the city and the Nucks will do everything in their power to bring him back. Peter Forsberg coming to Vancouver is a long shot at best, but is possible if he takes a pay cut to play with Markus and the other high profile Swedes already on the team. Paul Kariya has also been rumored to be interested in playing for the Canucks next year, which makes sense because Kariya is from North Vancouver. If Nazzy is resigned, Kariya might not be playing in his hometown next year, but if Markus signs elsewhere, you better believe Nonis will ensure he snags Kariya. Miro Satan has also been rumored to be interested in playing in Vancouver next year, but again, I only see this happening if Markus leaves. Other free agent forwards with a chance to be signed by Nonis this off-season include: Darren McCarty and Cory Stillman.

On the blueline, things are just as fascinating as they are up front. Ed Jovanovski, Mattias Ohlund and Bryan Allen will be back for sure, but one or both of Brent Sopel or Marek Malik may not be resigned. Scott Neidermayer has been rumored to be looking into playing in his home province and if he takes a pay cut that is a very real possibility. If the Canucks do not land Scotty, look for them to go after either former Canuck Adrian Aucoin or the Devil’s Brian Rafalski. The Canucks have a couple blueline prospects that might break the opening day roster as well, so I would expect them to sign one free agent defenseman at most.

The biggest question for the Canucks is in goal. Alex Auld may one day be a very good NHL goalie, but I don’t think that day is here yet. Also, as much a I like Dan Cloutier, he has been unable to lead us past the first round of the playoffs and I doubt he will be resigned. The Canucks are interested in Nikolai Khabibulin, but so are about 10 other teams and there is only a minute chance he will be playing in Vancouver next year. Sean Burke, however, is a much more realistic option in net. He has played for the Canucks before and still has a few good seasons left in him. I also expect he would come at a relatively cheap price (at least compared to the Bulin wall). CuJo has also been rumored as a possible successor to Cloutier, but I cannot see that happening. Two goalies with outside chances of winding up in Vancouver next year are Chris Osgood and Roman Cechmanek, but I think the Canucks would rather resign Cloutier than add either of those two.

In conclusion, much of what the Canucks do this summer rest on whether Nazzy returns for another season in Vancouver. If he does, Forsberg could join him and the forward lines will be basically set. If the Canuck’s captain leaves town, look for Paul Kariya to take his place. The money Naslund’s possible departure would save the Canucks would then be used to bring in either Neidermayer or Aucoin, or even a starting goalie. The only Canucks that are realistically on the trade wire are: Brent Sopel, Dan Cloutier and Sami Salo. It is easy to picture the Canucks making a big splash in the free agent market in the coming months, but it is highly doubtful a blockbuster trade will occur over that time period. Whatever happens, look for Nonis to make the club bigger and grittier to help the Canucks thrive in the post season (provided they make it there, of course) come next spring.