The Vancouver Canucks are committed to giving young players such as Cody Hodgson and Michael Grabner opportunities to make the team this season, but age and experience will also be served when the NHL team begins training camp next month.
The Canucks are speaking with free-agent defenceman Mathieu Schneider about a contract, and have signed veteran forward Dave Scatchard. Schneider, who turned 40 this summer, is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, but Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said he has been assured the 20-year NHL veteran is healthy enough to participate at camp.
"Obviously, everything is always conditional on passing a physical," said Gillis, who used to represent Schneider when he was an NHL player agent. "I believe he'll be ready to go."
Scatchard, meanwhile, has not played in the NHL since 2007, and spent the 2007-08 season playing just 11 games for two AHL teams. The 33-year-old centre, a former Canuck who has been battling neck and jaw ailments, has signed with Vancouver and will be one of several "senior players" brought to camp.
Gillis said that the Canucks will sign a minimum of two, and perhaps as many as four, older players who are "trying to rekindle their careers."
He said the team's demanding preseason schedule - nine games in 13 days - meant that quality minutes would be available for players who could force their way onto the team. Gillis also said he wanted young players such as Hodgson, a centre and the organization's top prospect, and Grabner, a scoring winger at the AHL level, to be pushed.
"We're confident guys are going to emerge," Gillis said.
Schneider, who has played for eight NHL teams, would be the seventh NHL-calibre defenceman on Vancouver's camp roster and would certainly help the team's power play. He split last year between the Montreal Canadiens and Atlanta Thrashers, scoring 32 points, including 18 on the power play.
The Canucks have about $3.5-million (all currency U.S.) in salary-cap space, and had always intended to add another defenceman before opening camp at the University of British Columbia on Sept. 13. Schneider made $5.75-million last season, but stands to earn much less on a one-year deal in Vancouver.
On defence, the Canucks lost stalwart Mattias Ohlund to the Tampa Bay Lightning in free agency, while signing Aaron Rome, who played eight games for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season. Should the team arrive at terms with Schneider, Gillis said he would feel comfortable with the team's depth on the blueline.