On Friday, the Canucks signed right winger Mikael Samuelsson to a 3 year contract paying him $2.5 million a season. This brings a few different things to the team. For one, it brings probably the last big name free agent to the Canucks this offseason because they have almost used up all of their cap space. It also means that the Canucks will have a Stanley Cup winner, a rarity on any Canucks team in the last 10 years. Consider this, since the Sedins entered the NHL in 2000, the Canucks have only had 3 Stanley Cup winners play for them: Mike Keane, Jiri Slegr, and Ryan Shannon. Of those three, only Keane had true Cup experience, as Slegr and Shannon rarely played.
Mikael Samuelsson is an interesting player. He was essentially a third liner on a very good Red Wings team the last four years, was among the NHL leaders in shots on goal, and played the point on the Wings’ power play. He was also a player who didn’t hit his prime until age 29 (his first season with the Wings). Before he joined the Wings, his best NHL season was a 22 point season with the Rangers in 2002-03. Since joining the Wings, he has averaged about 40 points per season. The question Canucks fans might be asking is: can Samuelsson thrive in any system or is he simply a product of the big red machine in Detroit? Clearly he learnt how to play in Detroit, but I also think he’ll bring that same 40 point total to the Canucks.
So how does Samuelsson fit-in with the Canucks? The team sees him as a top 6 forward, which is a need with Sundin still contemplating his future. He is also a right-handed shot (despite what many internet sites may tell you), and has prior experience playing on a line with the Sedins in the 2006 Olympics. Count on him getting a look with the Sedins this upcoming season, especially if they can’t regain the magic they found with Alex Burrows.
The Samuelsson signing now brings the total of forwards committed to for next year to 11. Consider that they should re-sign Kyle Wellwood and Jannik Hansen, plus Cody Hodgson should be a lock to make the team, bringing the total to 14 forwards (the maximum that they would likely carry). So does this mean that Mats Sundin will not return? Some media types in Vancouver would have you believe this, but hearing Mike Gillis’ recent comments lead me to think that he would make room for the big Swede, should he decide to return. Regardless, look for a forward to be moved for some help on the blueline, especially if Michael Grabner is ready for prime time. Stay tuned…
Did we mention he’s clutch?