2014 Canucks Development Camp invitees: Defence

The Canucks 2014 prospect development camp kicked off today and we’re looking at the 16 undrafted and unsigned invitees on the camp roster. On Friday, we looked at the four invitee goaltenders and today we’ll be profiling the defencemen. The Forwards will come later this week.

There are five invitee defencemen coming to camp: three from the NCAA, one from the WHL, and one formerly of the WHL who just spent a season in the KHL.

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Canucks sign up for one more year of cheap Chris Tanev

Two days after the Canucks management team showed that they don’t ascribe to a traditional 9-to-5 workday by re-signing Zack Kassian in the evening, they proved they don’t take weekends off either, re-signing Chris Tanev to a one-year deal on Saturday. According to Elliotte Friedman, the contract is for a mere $2 million, well below what I was anticipating.

It’s a superb deal for the Canucks for this coming season, as Tanev will likely skate with one of Alex Edler or Dan Hamhuis on the first or second pairing. That also explains why Tanev and his agent were willing to take a cheaper contract on a one-year deal, as Tanev will endeavour to prove that he’s worth far more to the Canucks long-term and make more money in the end.

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2014 Canucks Development Camp Invitees: Goaltenders

The Vancouver Canucks open their summer prospect development camp on Monday at UBC, with 35 players on the camp roster. The majority of those players are in the Canucks’ system already, either draft picks or undrafted free agent signings, but 16 of them are undrafted and unsigned invitees.

These invitees always intrigue me, as they represent a low-cost way to supplement a prospect pool. The Canucks, under Mike Gillis, have done well in acquiring undrafted free agents, with Eddie Lack and Chris Tanev being the biggest successes. While neither of them were invitees to one of the Canucks’ camps, other players in the system, like Evan McEneny and Ronalds Kenins, were.

So, every year I research the invitees on the roster and write a brief profile on each. For this year’s development camp, let’s start with the goaltenders, as just one of the five attending is a Canucks prospect, this year’s 2nd round draft pick, Thatcher Demko. Of the other four, two come from the NCAA and two come from the WHL.

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Benning and Linden re-sign Zack Kassian, have no respect for regular work hours

Rumours had been cropping up since Wednesday that the Canucks and Zack Kassian were close to agreeing on a deal, but when Thursday afternoon passed without a contract signed, it looked like the deal wouldn’t get done until Friday.

Instead, as the regular 9-to-5 stiffs headed home from work, Benning and Linden powered through, blowing through naptime, and getting a deal done by the early evening. If it wasn’t for the always alert Elliott Pap, who scoffs at the idea of going home at 5 PM, we wouldn’t have had to wait upwards of 12 hours to find out about Kassian’s new contract.

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35 players to attend Canucks prospect development camp, starting Monday at UBC

The Canucks’ annual summer prospect development camp opens Monday at UBC, with a total of 35 players scheduled to attend. Of those 35 on the camp roster, 19 are Canucks prospects, including all 7 draft picks from this year, though they spelt poor Mackenze Stewart’s name wrong.

That means that 16 players on the camp roster are unsigned and undrafted invitees, hoping to catch the eye of the Canucks’ management team to earn a contract or, at the very least, earn another look in the future, either at training camp in the fall or further down the line.

PITB will have full profiles of each invitee over the next couple days and will do some more in-depth posts on the new Canucks prospects during the summer, but for now, here’s the camp roster with a couple notes.

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Canucks get their goal-scorer, sign Radim Vrbata

On July 1st, Jim Benning was quick to say that he wasn’t done in free agency with the addition of Ryan Miller. He said they would continue to look at the secondary free agent market — the lesser lights, as it were — for scoring help. Considering the Canucks were third last in goalscoring last season, it was a necessary move to ensure that the Canucks top offensive prospects weren’t going to be asked to do too much, too soon.

Vrbata was obviously not the biggest name in free agency and is an obvious step down from the likes of Mike Cammalleri, Thomas Vanek, and Paul Stastny. He also doesn’t fill the vacant second-line centre role, meaning Nick Bonino will likely start the season there. He is, however, a legitimate top-six forward on a short-term deal, so there’s a lot to like.

The only issue is that he isn’t a second-line centre, but he does replace Ryan Kesler in one way: he wore 17 with the Coyotes.

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PITB’s 2014 free agency day meta-liveblog spectacular!

The first day of free agency is frequently an underwhelming proposition for the Canucks. They generally haven’t had much cap space and Mike Gillis, apart from his notorious $10-million offer to Mats Sundin, avoided targeting big names.

But now the situation is very different. Not only do the Canucks have a new GM, they have massive amounts of money available to spend after buying out David Booth and trading Ryan Kesler and Jason Garrison.

Who will they target? Paul Stastny to be the new second-line centre? Christian Ehrhoff to fix the power play? Ryan Miller to be the number one goaltender? Jarome Iginla to play with the Sedins? Who knows? But PITB will be here all day, not just blogging about free agency, but also blogging about TSN’s coverage of free agency. This is a meta-liveblog, see?

Keep refreshing throughout the day and comment as well, as your comments may make it into the liveblog itself.

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Tools, results, and why Jake Virtanen isn’t the next Cam Neely

When the Canucks selected Jake Virtanen 6th overall, there was a certain segment of Canucks fans that was disappointed and upset. To a certain extent, I was among them, as I was personally hoping to see William Nylander, but I certainly saw the upside and potential in Virtanen.

What Virtanen represents, in many ways, is a difference of opinion on drafting strategy, one that I liken to similar differences of opinion seen in baseball in the book “Moneyball.” It’s an issue of tools vs results.

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Recapping day two of the Canucks 2014 entry draft

Welcome to day two of PITB’s coverage of the NHL entry draft. Day one was a little bit disappointing, if only because the Canucks played things safe, picking a local goalscorer with size and a responsible two-way centre instead of the more dynamic and creative players that were available to them with their two first round picks.

The Canucks also cleared a lot of capspace, sending Ryan Kesler to the Ducks and Jason Garrison to the Lightning for a thoroughly underwhelming return. For some fans, their confidence in their new president and GM was shaken Friday night, while others were thoroughly enthused with Trevor Linden and Jim Benning’s first real test, praising their ability to get things done and finally picking someone from the WHL in the first round.

Day two somehow managed to be even more disappointing. Aside from a solid trade that netted the Canucks an NHL-ready 22-year-old prospect, the Canucks’ decision-making was suspect, leaning towards size over skill when the Canucks biggest issue in their prospect pool is the latter. Of course, there’s always the possibility that some of these prospects will prove me wrong, but I can’t help but feel the Canucks could have done a lot better in this draft.

PITB was there for the whole thing, with Daniel Wagner “in studio” and Harrison Mooney just off the draft floor in Philadelphia.

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Recapping the first round of the Canucks’ 2014 entry draft

We had no idea what to expect as Trevor Linden and Jim Benning took to the draft floor for the first time as the President and GM of the Canucks. Who would they pick at 6th overall? Nikolaj Ehlers? Michael Dal Cole? Jake Virtanen? William Nylander? We had no idea. Would they even pick at 6th overall or would they package the pick with prospects and players to move up to first overall?

Spoiler warning: nope.

PITB was there to cover the whole thing — Daniel Wagner “in studio” and Harrison Mooney in Philadelphia — and we liveblogged the entire first round from a Canucks perspective. Then, through the magic of changing the headline, adjusting the introduction, and reversing the order of the entries, the live blog transmogrified into a round one recap!

Did you miss the action? Want to relive it? We’ve got you covered.

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Canucks take Jake Virtanen, who is good at hockey, 6th overall

A lot of fans aren’t thrilled with the Canucks’ decision to select Jake Virtanen, simply because more creative players with higher upside like Nikolaj Ehlers and William Nylander were still available. It’s easy to let that disappointment override Virtanen’s many positive attributes, however, and his talent is getting lost in the kerfuffle.

The issue with Virtanen is that he’s a risky pick, comparing as well to the likes of Kyle Beach and Alex Picard as he does to Jeff Carter and Ryan Johansen. There’s hope that he could be the next Jamie Benn, but he could just as easily be a complete bust and he is, perhaps, a greater risk to be a bust than Nylander or Ehlers.

What he has in his favour, however, is a wealth of raw talent. He can skate, hit, and shoot at an incredibly high level. Those are reasons to get excited about Virtanen, along with the fact that he’s a local kid out of Abbotsford, BC.

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Canucks trade Ryan Kesler to Anaheim for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, and 24th overall pick

In the 2010-11 season, Ryan Kesler had 41 goals and 73 points en route to winning the Selke award for best defensive forward in the NHL. He then scored 19 points in 25 games in the playoffs, most of them in an electrifying performance against the Nashville Predators that saw him score the series winning goal while basically playing on one leg.

On the trade market, that Kesler could have netted the first overall pick, a top pairing defenceman, a blue chip prospect, raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens. Toss in a third round pick and the Canucks probably could have traded Kesler for any other player in the league.

That’s not the Kesler that the Canucks traded on Friday before the 2014 draft. The Kesler they traded is 30-years-old, is just one year removed from significant shoulder and foot injuries, and managed just 43 points in 77 games last season, albeit under the offence-destroying John Tortorella.

Add in Kesler’s insistence on a limited list of trade targets and it’s not surprising that the trade return is underwhelming. Fans were expecting the moon and the Canucks didn’t land any stars.

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Willie Desjardins meets the media, says very little, but hopes to do a lot

In a shocking move that absolutely no one saw coming, Trevor Linden and Jim Benning announced the hiring of former Texas Stars head coach Willie Desjardins to be the next head coach of the Vancouver Canucks. This came completely out of left field and no one could have possibly anticipated it.

Really, though, this was largely a formality where Linden, Benning, and Desjardins got the opportunity to say nice things about each other and give vague, nice-sounding answers to the questions posed by the assembled media. Desjardins sounded thoughtful, intelligent, and passionate about the game, but so did John Tortorella one year ago.

The most substantive information we received came just after the press conference. For example, it was revealed that Willie Desjardins signed a four-year contract. That’s two more years than what Pittsburgh offered and his contract will expire the same time Tortorella’s would have if he wasn’t let go.

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Eight important facts about the Canucks’ 2014-15 schedule

The NHL released their 2014-15 schedule on the weekend, because what better time to make a major announcement for your league than on a Sunday during the biggest sports tournament in the entire world?

That’s a rhetorical question. Please don’t start listing better times in the comments or we’ll be here for all week and we’ll miss the draft.

This is about the time we start looking for the big games on the schedule: meetings with the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks, Roberto Luongo’s return to Vancouver as a Panthers, and Ryan Kesler’s return to Vancouver as a big pain-in-the-neck. But really, the answer to the question, “Which games should I watch?” as a Canucks fan is, “All of them, because I am a glutton for punishment.”

So let’s look at the schedule a bit differently: how much will the Canucks travel? How many back-to-backs will they have? And how much do those factors matter? Is this a friendly or unfriendly schedule for the Canucks? Here are 8 important facts about the Canucks’ 2014-15 schedule.

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Booth buyout, Kesler trade will give Canucks a terrifying amount of capspace

For years, the Canucks have been one of the biggest spenders in the NHL, spending right up to the limit of the salary cap. With Laurence Gilman’s cap wizardry navigating the way, the Canucks have deftly used every trick in the book to squeeze their roster under the cap, sometimes making it just by the skin of their teeth.

That’s no longer a major concern. With Roberto Luongo’s $5.3 million already off the books, David Booth’s $4.25 million cap hit bought out this week, and Ryan Kesler’s $5 million contract almost certainly about to go elsewhere, the Canucks are in unfamiliar territory.

With technically only five roster spots to fill, the Canucks will have over $21 million in cap space heading into free agency. While that’s not including any potential return in the Kesler trade and some of that money will be eaten up re-signing Mike Santorelli and restricted free agents like Zack Kassian, Chris Tanev, and — maybe — Jordan Schroeder and Yannick Weber, that will still leave the Canucks with plenty of room to spend big money on a big-name free agent or two.

This is absolutely terrifying. Why? Because it is remarkably easy to royally screw up in free agency.

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The Prospector: introducing Jeff Costello, catching up with Joacim Eriksson, Joseph LaBate, Patrick McNally

With the NHL finally over officially, it’s time to look to the future. The NHL draft is just a couple weeks away, where every draft-eligible prospect will be endlessly compared to current NHL superstars and past Hall-of-Famers and fans will look for every scouting report they can find to assure themselves that their team’s newest prospects are surefire franchise players.

Before we get too wrapped up in that, however, let’s take a look at some of the players already in the Canucks’ prospect pool who may have slipped under the radar since being acquired or drafted by the team. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Canucks Prospects YouTube account, we have a plethora of highlight videos available. We’ll look at four players today, three of them from the NCAA.

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Adorable kids think Canucks need more practice, have no faith in Eddie Lack

Canucks fans all seem to agree that hiring John Tortorella was a big mistake. But here’s a question that most fans haven’t asked: could a small child have done a better job at coaching the Canucks than Tortorella?

The answer might just be yes. At least, that’s the impression I got from reading the advice a number of elementary school kids sent to Trevor Linden. The first piece of advice offered by the vast majority directly contradicted one of Tortorella’s biggest coaching philosophies: practice more.

They also differed from Tortorella in how much trust they put in Eddie Lack. Tortorella repeatedly started Lack after the Olympic break, including in the Heritage Classic, alienating Roberto Luongo and leading directly to his trade to the Florida Panthers. The kids, on the other hand, don’t seem to even consider Lack a goaltender , with many under the impression that the Canucks have no goalies at all.

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Stick in Link: Oral history of 1994, moving on up, and coach Desjardins?

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond every Tuesday and Thursday. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Canucks won’t be trading the 6th overall pick [Report]

There was a lot of fuss made last week over rumours the Canucks would be trying to trade up in the upcoming draft. Some of that fuss was made by us.

Most of the rumours surrounded the idea that the Canucks could package their first round pick at 6th overall with a roster player or prospect to trade with the Florida Panthers for their pick at first overall. Since the Panthers are reportedly looking for a top-four defenceman, Jason Garrison, Alex Edler, and Chris Tanev were quickly tossed into the rumour mill. Ben Kuzma decided, for some reason, that it made sense to package Bo Horvat with the pick. It doesn’t, for the record.

In any case, the entire speculative discussion is now a moot point, as Jim Benning apparently has no intention of trading the 6th overall pick.

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Spitballin’ on Dan Bylsma, Ryan Kesler, and Simpsons-themed Canucks logos

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few quick topics.

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Canucks interested in Sam Reinhart; should they trade for the first overall pick to get him?

The first overall draft pick has been traded just five times in NHL history. Somehow, the Florida Panthers have traded away three of them.

The first of those trades can be somewhat excused, as it came months before the draft, well before the Panthers knew they were going to win the 1998 draft lottery and select first overall. They traded their first round pick, along with Dave Lowry, to the San Jose Sharks for Viktor Kozlov. The Sharks eventually traded the pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who used it to select Vincent Lecavalier.

The other two trades were made on the day of the draft. In both 2002 and 2003, the Panthers traded down from the top pick to the third overall pick. In 2002, the Columbus Blue Jackets used the first overall pick to select Rick Nash. In 2003, the Pittsburgh Penguins used it to take Marc-Andre Fleury.

Once again, the Panthers hold the first overall pick and rumours are swirling that they are once again willing to make a trade. If they go through with it, it would be an astounding fourth time the Panthers have traded the first overall pick. The thing is, it actually made perfect sense to trade the pick in 2002 and 2003 and the same is true this year.

The rumour mill, in the meantime, has kicked into high gear, with Gary Mason of the Globe and Mail suggesting the Canucks are “desperate” to move up in the draft in order to select Sam Reinhart.

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Should the Canucks add a goaltender in free agency?

Jim Benning has a lot on his plate this off-season: determining the Canucks’ draft board, re-signing key restricted free agents, and deciding which unrestricted free agents to target to upgrade and support the Canucks’ lineup. One of the areas of the lineup that may need an upgrade, which would have been laughable just one year ago, is in net.

The prospect of acquiring a goaltender in free agency was raised during an interview with Benning on Sportsnet 590 and he didn’t shy away from the possibility. “We’re going to look at every avenue we have to make our team competitive,” he said, before giving Eddie Lack a vote of confidence. “For a first-year goalie last year, he had a good season, and we hope that he can take it to the next step this year.”

Hoping that Lack can be a reliable starter is not the same as believing he will be, so adding a veteran number one goaltender on a short-term contract to give Lack more time to develop as a backup is worth considering. That’s just one of three scenarios, however, that could see the Canucks adding a goaltender in free agency. They could also add a goaltender to platoon starts with Lack or upgrade their backup role currently occupied by Jacob Markstrom.

Let’s look at the players available in free agency that would fit these scenarios and whether its worth it for the Canucks.

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Eight players the Canucks might select at 6th overall

There’s only so much that Jim Benning can do in the month leading up to the draft, of course. Overhauling the scouting department won’t accomplish anything as the scouting is already done. At most, Benning can come in with some different criteria and move some names around on the Canucks’ draft board. Where this can make the most difference, however, is in the first round.

Consider 2008, when Mike Gillis vetoed the recommendation of Delorme and the scouting staff to draft Kyle Beach, selecting Cody Hodgson instead. Picks in later rounds are more dependent on scouts, but everyone has seen and studied the players who will get picked at the top of the draft and the General Manager has the final say.

Who will Benning choose with his first draft pick as a General Manager? As we’ve done before, here are the draft-eligible players ranked 6th overall by both the mainstream media and various prospect blogs.

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Stick in Link: Coaching candidates, Kesler rumours, and draft analysis

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond every Tuesday and Thursday. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Canucks are hiring the right people despite themselves

From a certain perspective, the Vancouver Canucks have had a horrible start to the 2014 off-season. First, they fired the winner of the 2011 NHL General Manager of the Year award and got rid of a Stanley Cup-winning head coach after just one season on the job.

Then, the Canucks appointed a former player with no front office experience who had been away from the game for six years President of Hockey Operations and he hired a first-time General Manager largely because he worked for the organization that beat the Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

When you look at it that way, things are going all wrong. And yet, when you fill in the details, everything’s coming together pretty well.

The Canucks may not be making intelligent decisions, but they seem to be making the right decisions. In other words, they’re hiring the right people even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.

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