Thursday, August 04, 2005

On to the Restricted Free Agents

Back in July I posted what I thought were the top five issues facing Dave Nonis. Well yesterday Nonis took care of issue #1 by signing Markus Naslund to a 3 year contract. Issue #2 was resolving the Todd Bertuzzi situation. Unfortunately the league is still dragging this thing out, but there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel and we should expect some kind of announcement this week. The answer is anyone's guess. However with Naslund back for three years, and positive comments from Naslund, all indications point to Bertuzzi wanting to remain in Vancouver so it is now up to the league to resolve this issue for Nonis. That brings us to issue #3...

The Restricted Free Agents

The Canucks list of restricted free agents begins with three key players, Brendan Morrison, Mattias Ohlund and Dan Cloutier. Brendan Morrison has expressed a desire to sign a long term deal to stay in Vancouver, while Mattias Ohlund has no desire to leave. I would expect these two to sign for atleast 3 years, they should not be a problem. Dan Cloutier also want's to remain in Vancouver, however given the question marks surrounding him, it is likely that he will once again ink a one year extension.

Up front, Nonis must take care of the Sedins, Matt Cooke, Artem Chubarov, Jarkko Ruutu and Jason King. It would probably be in the Canucks best interest to sign the Sedins to long term deals, by doing this they can afford the uncertainty of arbitration. Chubarov and Ruutu should not be a problem, although with Kesler, King and Bouck ready for everyday jobs at some point they could start to become too expensive in this salary cap system. The most interesting RFA up front is Matt Cooke. Cooke is a guy who signed a 4 year deal for very cheap, and has since outperformed his salary. Cooke chose long term security over the risk of a short term deal with the possibility of playing well and getting a bigger payday. I believe Cooke was qualified somewhere around $600k. Obviously Cooke deserves more than that and Dave Nonis said so during his press conference yesterday. Cooke should get a raise and will likely get a long term deal in the neighborhood of 3 years. The final RFA is first round bust Nathan Smith. Smith was nearly out of the Canucks plans until his good play in the playoffs with Manitoba. Smith should be back with the Moose next year and could get a shot at the big club should there be injuries.

On the blueline Sami Salo and Bryan Allen will get deals, especially now that they are two of the four remaining NHL defensemen on the roster. I hate to 'toot my own horn' (ok so I probably do) but I predicted that "I think it's unlikely that Nonis will keep Malik around." and that Brent Sopel "is fairly expensive considering what he brings to the table. Nonis could save a few bucks by letting him go, but I think it's more likely that he will be re-signed and then traded if Nonis feels he can find an improvement." I was half right on Sopel, he was not re-signed but he was traded, of course the improvement has yet to come but I'm sure Nonis is on it.

So what's next? Back in July I said "How much Nonis has available under the cap will depend on how he deals with issues 1-4." Barring a trade Dan Cloutier(Issue #4) will be back between the pipes. So that takes us to issue #5, the free agent market.

Clearly the Canucks do not have much cap room so there will not be a star free agent signing, unless Paul Kariya signs at a significant discount. With the loss of Malik and Sopel there is now a gigantic hole on the blueline which must be addressed either via trade, or free agency, or both. The other hole is the second line right wing slot. Nonis must figure out a way to fill the defense out with some toughness and he must find a winger for the Sedins. These two problems have existed for several seasons with Brian Burke failing to find the fix. The Canucks cannot ignore these issues for yet another season. Something must be done.

Dave Nonis has opened up a big hole by trading Sopel, he has time to address the issue but he may have to make some tough decisions on some of the RFA's.

1 comment:

Wes said...

Markus is back, can I get a "HALLELUJAH"?

:)