Buyer or seller?
For the first time in the Mike Gillis era, the Canucks are sellers. Gone are visions of plowing deep into springtime hockey and in their place is a dream of a rapid rebuild, somehow leveraging the likes of Ryan Kesler for an injection of youth and promise that can revive this rapidly fading hockey team.
Goals. The Canucks have been comatose for two years. The team had been among the most potent in the league, three years ago, but halfway through the season following their near-Stanley Cup, the goal scoring vanished. This year, Kesler’s 21 leads the team but just barely cracks the league’s top 30. Linemate Chris Higgins is second among Canucks with 16, which ranks No. 78 in the league. Vancouver is fifth-worst in goals per game, and has the third-worst power play. The team’s first line, the Sedins and Alex Burrows, has not registered a single goal between them in 2014.
On the block
Kesler, to start. Reports this past week revealed the Canucks are considering an overhaul of their roster. The team’s bosses, from Gillis to coach John Tortorella, are at the start of long-term contracts, so can have some luxury to think beyond the present quagmire. The boss boss, owner Francesco Aquilini, wants results, and it’s become obvious the current roster isn’t delivering. Another possible name on the block is Alex Edler, though in both the case of Kesler and Edler, the ask is high – just as it was for Roberto Luongo, who Gillis eventually failed to trade in a spectacle that ended with the Canucks dispatching Cory Schneider for a draft pick.
Luongo. The goalie returned this year but never planned to finish his hockey life in a Canucks uniform. Being benched for backup Eddie Lack in Sunday’s Heritage Classic is the latest indignity Luongo has borne, and it once more stoked talk of his departure. The return would be little – but if the Canucks dispatch Kesler, Edler, and Luongo, the incoming younger players, prospects, and draft picks could be significant, alongside $15-million of salary cap space freed up, at the same time the cap is set to shoot higher. The Canucks also have a compliance buyout remaining, which looks like goodbye David Booth, another $4-million in cap space. So, all-in, while it appeared the Canucks faced the risk of becoming the Calgary Flames, a slow slide towards the bottom of the league, Gillis and company now are poised to conduct emergency surgery, a delicate procedure with numerous complications that could, maybe, conjure new life out of an aging hockey team.