Friday, February 25, 2011

One Game Until Trade Deadline

The Vancouver Canucks have one more game, Saturday vs the Bruins, to evaluate their roster before Monday's NHL trade deadline. Usually at this time of year there is a wide range of opinions on what the Canucks need and what they're going to do. This year things are a little different. The Canucks have the best record in the NHL with few holes in their lineup - this has led to a general consensus on what the Canucks should do at the deadline.

The Bottom Six

Nearly everyone agrees that the Canucks should make an addition to their bottom six. The fourth line right wing has been a revolving door all season with no one stepping up to take the job. The fourth line centre position hasn't been much better.

The big question this week was if Cody Hogdson and Victor Oreskovich were the answer to those problems. On Hogdson the answer we received was that whether or not he is capable of doing the job, the coach does not have any confidence in him during a close game. It's clear that if the Canucks want a 4th line that they can have confidence in at anytime, Hogdson is not the answer at centre ice. As for the right wing, it's safe to say that Oreskovich opened some eyes with his performance against the Blues. Oreskovich has often looked unsure, but this was the game where he finally demonstrated that he was "getting it". In limited action he showed that he can get the puck out of his zone, he has the ability to carry the puck and make a play with it, and he can get in and hit people without getting caught out of position.

So where does that leave GM Mike Gillis? It's clear that he needs to explore every option at the centre ice position. If one of the top 3 centres goes down there's not much depth. They need someone who can step up and be dependable on one of the top 3 lines. Could Hogdson be that guy? Maybe, but this is Vancouver's best ever chance at a Stanley Cup, now is not the time to depend on maybes. As for the wing, if an upgrade comes along Gillis would take it for the right price, but as of right now they could live with Oreskovich on the 4th line.

The Salary Cap, Toughness and Mason Raymond

The other big question surrounding the Canucks is how much cap space do they actually have? With all due respect to, a great resource, no one outside of Canucks management and the NHL cap offices really knows how much cap space the Canucks have. (Teams wouldn't hire capologists if they could just logon to Capgeek). With that said, it's a safe guess that the Canucks cap room is well south of $2m and probably around $1m give or take $500k.

If the Canucks want to do more than add depth on the bottom 6 they are going to have to move some salary out. Samuelsson, Malhotra and Torres were specifically acquired to help the team win in the playoffs, they're not going anywhere. There's only one non-core player on the roster who has a salary that would make a significant difference. With a cap hit of $2.55m that guy is Mason Raymond. If the Canucks want to make any kind of significant move Mason Raymond would have to be involved.

Are the Canucks actively looking to move Raymond? Probably not. But as mentioned before, the Canucks chances of winning a Stanley Cup are better then they have ever been. If the opportunity is there to make a significant move, Gillis would absolutely be willing to move Raymond.

So what could that move be? Well, if there's one weakness in the Canucks game it's the lack of sandpaper and grit in their top 6. If the Canucks could find a big gritty left winger - who makes less than $3m - they would likely jump at the opportunity to upgrade on Raymond. Mason Raymond is also very marketable. His cap hit is manageable, he has a good skill set and is only 25.

The Dream Trade

I'll close with my dream trade. It's highly unlikely, but the pieces fit:

To Atlanta: Mason Raymond + pick(s)/prospect(s) : To Vancouver Andrew Ladd

It would be interesting to see Ladd on Kesler's wing given their past, but Ladd is the exact type of forward the Canucks could use in their top 6. Would Atlanta do it? Who knows. Ladd is a restricted free agent set to double his salary. With their ownership situation they may not want to pay Ladd that much. Raymond is someone who can play in their top 6 now and he is under contract at a reasonable level for next year, before hitting restricted free agency. The question then becomes what would be needed in addition to Raymond. That would likely be at least a 1st round pick or Hogdson and maybe something else. Would Gillis pay that price? I guess we'll find out by Monday...