Hello everybody. I’m back. It’s been a while since my last blog, and I’m sure you can understand why. The Canucks exciting and exhausting Stanley Cup run ended one month ago today. That was followed up quickly with the NHL draft, the NHL awards and the start of free agency. I was exhausted. I needed to re-charge. And no, the signing of Marco Sturm didn’t exactly give me the kick start I needed. But I’ve recovered and I’m back for some fun summertime blogging. You know what’s great about summertime blogging? RUMOURS. Mike Gillis and the brass are pretty tight lipped, so there aren’t many juicy ones out there.
This Friday is one of the most exciting days of the year for hockey fans, July 1st, the start of free agent season! Only trade deadline day and the draft (especially this year with Jeff Carter and Mike Richards getting traded) can come close to matching the intrigue of July 1st. Last year Mike Gillis signed Dan Hamhuis, Manny Malhotra and Jeff Tambellini on the first day of free agency. The previous year Gillis re-signed Daniel and Henrik Sedin, just hours before July 1st.
Earlier this week we took a look at the Canucks goaltenders and defencemen, deciding who is likely to return and who is likely to move on. Today, we look at the Canucks’ forwards. Mike Gillis doesn’t have a lot of work to do with his forwards, but he does have options. His most important forwards are already under contract for next year, so it’ll be just a matter of tinkering with his depth forwards. Given the lack of production from his second line at even strength, he may want to find a better winger to play with Ryan Kesler.
Due to the Canucks long playoff run, the team is in for a very short offseason. The NHL entry draft is in four days and free agency begins in only eleven days. Mike Gillis has some work to do, as all GMs do. Luckily for the Canucks, most of their core is locked up long term, but there are a few key players that will become restricted free agents. Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo, Andrew Alberts, Raffi Torres, Chris Higgins, Tanner Glass and Jeff Tambellini are all unrestricted free agents on July 1st. Maxim Lapierre, Jannik Hansen, Victor Oreskovich and Alex Bolduc are all restricted free agents.
The biggest game the Canucks franchise has played since game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup finals did not disappoint on Tuesday night. It wasn’t easy, but the Canucks finally got their revenge over their arch rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks. It took good goaltending from Roberto Luongo, a smart defensive corps and a gritty effort by their forwards to edge the Blackhawks, 2-1 in overtime.
For the first time in the Canucks-Blackhawks Trilogy, we will have a game 7. And it will happen in the most improbable way. As you must know by now, the Canucks have squandered a 3-0 series lead and now face elimination on Tuesday night.
Just when you thought the trade deadline was going to pass with Canucks general manager Mike Gillis doing nothing, he pulled off a pair of deals. The Canucks sent Evan Oberg and a 3rd round pick to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Chris Higgins. Gillis also acquired Maxim Lapierre and minor leaguer MacGregor Sharp (part of the all-name team) from the Anaheim Ducks for Joel Perreault and a 2013 3rd round pick.
We’re now less than 24 hours away from the NHL trade deadline (the deadline is at noon on Monday) and there are plenty of rumours going around. The latest has the Canucks interested in Marty Reasoner. I first brought up this idea 11 days ago, and it’s nice to see that it looks like Mike Gillis has listened. Matthew Sekeres reported that the Canucks have indeed inquired about Reasoner, but he and the Panthers are talking about a contract extension. Sekeres also offered up this tidbit, that the Canucks tried to acquire Reasoner at last year’s trade deadline, but the Thrashers (his team at the time) wanted a 2nd round draft pick for him.
One of the most exciting days on the NHL calendar is just around the corner. That day is trade deadline day, and it’s less than two weeks away. We have already gotten a taste of deadline day in recent days, with the Leafs and Senators beginning to offload players.
Ok ok before you freak out after reading the headline and trash me in the comments section, let me explain. Michael Grabner is not the second coming of Brett Hull. Far from it. So why bring it up? Let me explain… In case you haven’t noticed, former Canucks 1st round draft pick Michael Grabner is on quite a tear right now. After a slow start to the season, Grabner has 15 goals and 6 assists in his last 15 games. That’s brought his goal total up to 24 this year while playing on the Islanders third line. And that’s what makes this all the more impressive for Grabner. He hasn’t been given prime time minutes. He has received minimal power play time and is averaging only 14 minutes a game. Yesterday he netted a hat trick in only 15:06 of playing time. ‘Grabby’ is now on pace for 35 goals this year, imagine what that would look like playing 17-18 minutes a night? Imagine what he could do after he matures a little more. Somewhere Dave Nonis is saying “I told you so”.