As the 2011 Free Agent Season officially opens on July 1st, questions are abound in Vancouver as to how they can improve their roster to make another run at the Stanley Cup.
Let's take a quick look at what freedom the Canucks have to spend, what areas could use some help, and who is available.
As it stands, the Canucks have $52,508,000 locked up for the year, with approximately $12,000,000 remaining in salary cap space.
How many roster spots do they have to fill? Well, with a glut of forwards already under contract, the Canucks are only obligated to sign 3-4 more forwards to fill out their roster. However, injuries to Mason Raymond and some question marks around Cody Hodgson's ability to crack the opening night line-up (especially due to Vancouver's depth at center) may encourage the Canucks to find a scoring winger. As is, the team will look to re-sign Jannik Hansen, Viktor Oreskovich, and fill the remaining voids by locking up incumbent UFA's Tanner Glass, Jeff Tambellini, Raffi Torres or Chris Higgins.
Turnover on the bottom six forwards is quite high, so expect some new faces to fill most of the spots previously claimed by the UFA's mentioned above.
On defence, the Canucks are fairly set. With the recent signing of Andrew Alberts, the Canucks may sign Sami Salo but still have considerable depth with Aaron Rome, Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev joining mainstays Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, and Dan Hamhuis.
Goaltending will likely see now changes, with Luongo and Schneider providing a steady presence in net.
With so much money left to spend at the forward position, will the Canucks make any splashes in the free agent pool?
A top six winger would be nice, or at least a top 9 forward with some size and grit. Last year PuckWatch successfully predicted the signings of Dan Hamhuis, Manny Malhotra and to a lesser extent Raffi Torres. (Sure we were wrong on Matt Lombardi, but who remembers that?)
Who should the Canucks go after this time around?
There may be some good affordable defenceman like Anton Babchuk, but the Canucks needs really are at forward. With Brooks Laich re-signing with Washington, it seems as if there's only slim pickings left.
Worth a Shot?
Too Small / Injury Prone / Not what the Canucks need
Not Worth the Money
4th Line Options
Personally, a guy like Anthony Stewart or Benoit Pouliot would be a good pick up. They'd be cheap, have size and some skill and may be able to pitch in. Aside from that, there isn't much.
The Canucks may be more interested in bundling Keith Ballard with a prospect, or trading Cody Hodgson and or Cory Schneider for a solid blueliner or a top six scoring forward.
July 1st will be very interesting for Vancouver fans. Will the Canucks be among the movers and shakers?