You have to feel a little bit for Mike Gillis: while the players were clearing out their lockers and conducting final interviews with the press, Gillis was already back at work. The NHL Entry Draft is this Friday and free agency opens up on July 1st. Before then, Gillis will need to figure out what he wants to do with the players entering free agency from the Vancouver Canucks. We at PITB are here to help. Let’s first tackle the UFA Defensemen, as they will undoubtedly be the first priority. With the salary cap expected to rise to $64 million, the Canucks are in an excellent position to re-sign all of their UFAs, if they so desire.

Who should stay and who should go?

Kevin Bieksa

2010-11 Performance: No player on the Vancouver Canucks did more for his career in 2010-11 than Kevin Bieksa. Way back in November, I was already praising Bieksa for his defensive play. While many attribute Bieksa’s improved play on the presence of Dan Hamhuis, that article was written at a time when Hammy was out of the lineup with an injury. When Hamhuis returned, Bieksa got even better. He led the Canucks in +/- while playing against the toughest opposition of any defenseman not named Sami Salo. Despite the renewed focus on defense, he still scored 22 points in 66 games in the regular season and 10 points in the playoffs, where he was consistently one of the best players on the ice.

Do we really want him? Yes. My goodness, yes. And a deal is very likely to get done and soon. Bieksa has suggested that he would be willing to take less to stay in Vancouver, though he will certainly get a raise from his current $3.75 million. With an upper limit likely set by Hamhuis’s $4.5 million contract, Bieksa will likely re-sign in the range of $4.2 million.

 

Christian Ehrhoff

2010-11 Performance: Ehrhoff led all Canucks’ defensemen in scoring as he posted a career high 50 points. This scoring output vaults him into discussions as one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL, as he tied for seventh in scoring from a defenseman. He also logged big minutes, finishing just behind Alex Edler in TOI/game. Put into context, however, those numbers are slightly less impressive. Ehrhoff started more in the offensive zone than any other Canucks defenseman against weaker competition. That said, he’s a key component of the Canucks’ top-ranked powerplay; his few absences during the regular season and his shoulder injury in the playoffs exposed the unit’s dependency on his capabilities.

Do we really want him? Absolutely. The question is not whether the Canucks want him, it’s whether they can afford him. 50-point defensemen are not easy to find and there will be a high demand for his services in free agency. It’s not difficult to imagine a team offering him upwards of $5 million to lure him away from the Canucks, who will likely only want to go up to $4.5 million. The difficulty is that he is not replaceable: the closest thing to Ehrhoff in free agency is Tomas Kaberle. We don’t want Tomas Kaberle. If the Canucks don’t re-sign Ehrhoff, who takes his place?

Sami Salo

2010-11 Performance: Salo has slowly been changing his legacy from that of an injury-prone, made-of-glass liability to that of a battling warrior who refuses to let injuries keep him from playing the game he loves. While a lesser man might have taken his freak floorball injury in the off-season as a sign that it might be time to retire, Salo battled his way back and played the final 27 games of the regular season and 21 games in the playoffs. Salo skated against tough competition and added some firepower to the second unit and occasionally the first unit on the powerplay. Though he’s getting older, he was one of the few Canucks who didn’t seem completely exhausted and worn down in the Stanley Cup Final, even managing to post a plus-1 rating in the 8-1 Game 3 debacle.

Do we really want him? Yes, but only if he will take a substantial pay cut. He has indicated that he wants to return and take another run at the Cup, so it’s not a matter of if, but when a deal gets done. After making $3.5 million against the cap this season, the Canucks will likely try to re-sign him for around $1.5 million, which will make it easier to re-sign Ehrhoff and Bieksa.

Andrew Alberts

2010-11 Performance: Alberts was the quintessential steady seventh defenseman, who the Canucks were lucky enough to have as their eighth defenseman. Anytime the team needed a bit more size in the lineup, Alberts was ready to step in and he performed admirably when called upon. Despite playing only 42 games, he led all defensemen in hits with 113, one of them on the notoriously un-hittable Pavel Datsyuk. Beyond his general steadiness and overwhelming hittiness, however, he wasn’t anything special. He faced the weakest competition of any Canuck this season and still had the worst relative CORSI of any Canuck defenseman. On a team that prides itself on a smooth transition game, Alberts is about as smooth as the girl in the Keystone Light commercials. Yes, the girl. Loudly talking on a bluetooth headset in a liquor store? Not smooth.

Do we really want him? Maybe. He’s big, cheap, and provides a physical presence when necessary, which is nice. If, however, he wants more than $1 million, let him walk. Personally, I’d hope for the same $750,000 that Aaron Rome is making right now, but I suspect Alberts would go to free agency if that’s all he was offered. Alberts is far more replaceable than any of the above three defensemen.

Nolan Baumgartner

2010-11 Performance: Baumgartner had a solid season for the Manitoba Moose, scoring 29 points in 66 games while serving as their captain. He never took the ice for the Canucks, though he came close in the playoffs, receiving a call while sitting by a pool in Laguna Beach. If both Edler and Alberts were too injured to play in Game 7, Baumgartner could have suited up with Keith Ballard.

Do we really want him? No. As much as it’s nice having a veteran option on the farm to call up in an emergency, there’s no need for the aging Baumgartner to take up one of the Canucks 50 contracts. Better to use that contract to sign a promising undrafted prospect out of college or Europe.

Nathan Paetsch

2010-11 Performance: Acquired in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Paetsch spent the season in the AHL. With no room on the Moose, Paetsch was assigned to the Rochester Americans until he broke curfew and was kicked off the team. He was then loaned to the Syracuse Crunch, where he played out the balance of the year.

Do we really want him? No.


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26 comments

  1. Timmy Wong
    June 22, 2011

    Who’s nathan paetsch?

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  2. Chinstrap Joe
    June 22, 2011

    Alberts becomes very expendable with the ascendency of Chis Tanev. Tanev may be the key to rehabbing Ballard’s play, too since Ballard seemed to play much better when paired with Tanev. Give Albert’s minutes to Tanev and you get a two for one…

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    • kim r
      June 22, 2011

      Forgot about him before my post. Excellent point. He may make Alberts expendable.

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  3. Danny
    June 22, 2011

    I think the Canucks should be willing to offer Sami Salo much more than the $1.5 million you suggested. With the salary cap rising by about $5 million, the Canucks aren’t in that much cap trouble (especially if the team decides to bail on Ballard – they can probably deal him for a 3rd round pick or something).

    Hamhuis – Bieksa
    Salo – Ehrhoff
    Edler – Tanev
    Alberts

    …and you have some cap space left over to look at trying to acquire a 2nd line winger to play with Kes.

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    • PetriSkriko
      June 22, 2011

      Yeah I can’t really see Ballard being back with the Canucks next year either. As the extent of the injuries to the blueline in the playoffs comes out, it’s mind-boggling that a healthy d-man making $4.2 mil was sitting in the pressbox.

      Unfortunately the other 29 teams in the league noticed this too, and probably aren’t too eager to pay that much for Ballard either. This leads me to believe it’ll be a Wade Redden-type situation where he and his bloated contract will wallow in the minors next year.

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    • Erwin
      June 22, 2011

      I’m willing to give Ballard a mulligan for ONE HEALTHY SEASON for various reasons:

      1) Losing him via trade/payout will hurt our cap. Plus I don’t think Gillis is good enough to get something better for Ballard’s salary range at this time.

      2) Ballard was a casualty of depth. If somehow we can’t keep one of the big 3 (Juice, Salo, Hoff), that’s exactly where Ballard will slot in for insurance. It’s been said he can play better with bigger minutes and more consistency on D-pair.

      3) Just remember how we felt about Bieksa about this time last year. NO ONE thought he was going to stay, and he was retained via Salo freak accident to redeem himself in a mighty way.

      4) HIPCHECK ENTERTAINMENT

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      • peanutflower
        June 22, 2011

        yabut, he could be a victim of depth next year if everyone is re-signed. Okay, I guess Alberts could go, but how on earth is Ballard supposed to crack the lineup? You have to wonder what words go on between AV and Gillis about Ballard. I really like the way he plays when he’s not making goofs, so I’m hoping they can keep him. Plus he gets an extra mulligan for being so nice about it.

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      • PetriSkriko
        June 23, 2011

        Four-point-two-miiiiiiillion dollars. To put that into context, Ryan Suter and Kris letang both make $3.5. Granted those are two young defensemen who have improved dramatically since signing their contracts, but in today’s NHL, anything over 4 mil HAS to be for a top-4 guy. By the end of the season Ballard wasn’t even a top-6. That’s ludicrous.

        And as for Bieksa last season, even though people were looking to trade him initially, he was still a big-minute guy and a really important piece with Salo out. Ballard is not an important piece if we get Bieksa and Ehrhoff back (not to mention Salo), so for $4.2 he should be sent packing, no question in my mind.

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      • far_raf
        June 23, 2011

        4) HIPCHECK ENTERTAINMENT = re-sign the guy, that was great entertainment.

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  4. kim r
    June 22, 2011

    Alberts has been very good at what he does – simple, stay at home work. Need that in the line up and he already knows the team and system and will be relatively cheap.

    Have to say and you may scrub this comment and understand if you do, but it’s a total pleasure coming here. There’s another blog that just went off the rails today with an inappropriate screaming headline and garbage article – bad timing, I told you so’s, referencing another bad article and playing to the trolls.

    When the rest of the media is trying to gin up hits with BS and sensationalism and nonsense, it is so very very refreshing to come here and get a thoughtful, timely post that just presents coherent thoughts and invites discussion.

    Thank you so very much. Please do not change. Sorry for the threadjack, but I wanted to say it after seeing that other article and then coming here to this.

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    • chris
      June 22, 2011

      agree 100%

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    • peanutflower
      June 22, 2011

      come on, what blog?

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      • Steve
        June 22, 2011

        Kurtenblog. Probably the best Canucks bloggers after Pass it to Bulis. I’m assuming kim r is the same person who had an embarrassing little war of words with the Kurtenblog on twitter.

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        • kim r
          June 23, 2011

          I wasn’t going to say it, but since you felt the need, IMHO he demeaned himself and the blog with a hit whoring, derogatory and unnecessary headline. He couldn’t defend himself to that charge and built strawmen and out and out lied about what my issue was. Now whether you agree with the screaming, derogatory headline and the obvious hit whoring, that’s up to you. He acted like a baby on twitter and couldn’t handle that actual issue and decided to out and out lie about what my issue was.

          Sorry you fell for it. The sad thing is that there was content in there that was somewhat valid, but between the headline and the whine of “do you really want to support this team” it was lost.

          And yes, that was me. I hope you weren’t one of the “fans” who felt the need to send abusive and ugly tweets because I had a disagreement with him.

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          • Steve
            June 23, 2011

            I wouldn’t attack you or anyone else on twitter. Three people asked in the comments which blog it was so I obliged.

            As a Canucks fan I didn’t particularly care for the title of the article or the content, but I think that’s probably due to my bias as a fan. Sensationalist or not that article has been written several times by different authors since the playoffs have started, however it is a lot more disturbing coming from a Canucks fan blog that I respect and I assume you previously respected.

            I wouldn’t give up on reading one particular writer or blog because of one bad article. It should take a mountain of garbage like Barry Rozner and Damien Cox have compiled to condemn them.

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            • kim r
              June 23, 2011

              I appreciate that and we agree on quite a number of things, it seems. It was a good topic with so many things to discuss and could still be fair and critical without the hysteria.

              You are right on the money with the respect part. There’s very few places that are sane and rational and still fair and critical and when one goes wonky I projected that disappointment. That’s my fault, though.

              And thanks for the kind words. After the debacle yesterday, it’s really appreciated. Sorry I couldn’t say this in email.

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      • Steve
        June 22, 2011

        Blog named after a famous Canuck that is associated with the competing paper. Wrong or right the article was fair IMHO.

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        • PetriSkriko
          June 23, 2011

          The Sun and Province aren’t competing, they’re owned by the same company. Sad but true.

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      • kim r
        June 22, 2011

        I shouldn’t say. It was another Vancouver one and quite popular. I don’t want to cause issues for this blog or bring any of the “fans” of that site here in a negative way.

        Long story.

        Just wanted to note that we are fortunate for the quality of work here compared to what’s out there.

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  5. Don Cherry's Tailor
    June 22, 2011

    Now I am curious about what “other blog” are you talking about.

    Seriously, this place is a haven of rationality, common sense, and humor.

    Maybe there is a reasonable explanation for why Ballard is not playing that management won’t tell the press but may tell other teams interested in him. We don’t really know if he is not “tradable”. BTW, he gives million-dollar interviews…but that still makes him 3 million dollars overpaid.

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  6. Steven K
    June 22, 2011

    Keystone Light girl is not well served by close-ups. Or HD.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      June 22, 2011

      Or talking for that matter. She strikes out completely.

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  7. Pilsnerpunk
    June 22, 2011

    I really liked the pairing of Hamhuis and Bieksa so I hope Bieksa stays with the team. I like Ehrhoff, but I don’t think him and Edler are an ideal pairing. Either of them would benefit from playing with a calm veteran influence like Salo or better yet a big punishing shutdown guy like Hal Gill (not available, but he’s steady, inexpensive, and has a cup). If Ehrhoff or Ballard were no longer on the team the Canucks could add that type of player and likely have a less expensive group than last year.

    It’s funny how similar Ballard’s situation this year is to Bieksa’s last year, so many people assume Ballard will either be traded or sent to the minors. The good news is Bieksa made a strong comeback. The bad news is the coaching staff love Bieksa and gave him every chance to do so. If the Canucks keep Keith Ballard I hope he at least gets a fair shake

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  8. MelT
    June 22, 2011

    I know this is about UFA’s, but what do you think about Ryan Parent? Will we see more of him next year?

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  9. Chicky
    June 23, 2011

    Poor Ballard, left hanging in the wind like a shirt on a wire. If we keep him, he needs to be paired with a newbie. He plays well, and doesn’t goof too badly when he was babysitting Tanev. Methinks he likes being in the “dad” role.

    That being said, I hope Gillis gets Tanev on the roster for next year. Kid has serious potential, as long as you don’t interview him. He gets kind of awkward, and has issues with space invaders (Kypreos post game interview comes to mind).

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  10. Shantini
    June 23, 2011

    Thanks for this! Also, that commercial is terrible.

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