Is it just me… or did the sweeping of the San Jose Sharks and the quick 2-0 series lead by the Chicago Blackhawks help ease the pain of the Canucks 2nd round playoff exit?
Now before I get any Phlyer fans jumping on my back about the Finals not being decided yet, I just want to reiterate that Chicago’s momentum through the last six games is quite noteworthy. Though none of the Hawks would admit it, I’m sure they breathed a sigh of relief that they were able to topple the Canucks and their gold-medal winning goaltender. As difficult as it might be to accept any consolation prizes, I still believe firmly that the Canucks game them the best fight thus far. After the Canucks’ Game 1 thumping, they most surely were not taking them so lightly, I assure you. All I’m trying to point out is that, if you’re going to bow out of the tournament, the sting is lessened when you have to concede to the eventual Champions. Two more wins in the next 5 games for the Blackhawks, and that’s the boat Canucks fans are in, like it or like it not.
As promised, there are still personnel issues to investigate for the upcoming Free Agency. Probably the single largest question mark is whether or not Willie Mitchell will be wearing the blue and teal next season. If you browse some of the comment forums on TSN or Canucks.com, it appears a slight majority believe he’s gone. Prior to the 2007/08 season, Willie signed a 4 year, $3.5 m (per) contract that has recently expired.
It’s my belief, though, that it’s not quite time to turn the page yet. Ultimately, it will boil down to what both parties intend to do, and how his kind of money would fit into their cap structure. According to nhlnumbers.com, the Canucks have 8 defensemen under contract for the 2010/11 season, with a combined salary of $16.238 m. In addition, Shane O’Brien and Michael Funk are Restricted Free Agents (RFA), meaning other clubs can tender Offer Sheets to them, with the caveat that the Canucks have the right to match that offer. If they chose not to, then the offering team has to pay Vancouver compensation in the form of draft picks, according to a chart value. In most cases, the chart value for RFA’s is quite high, prohibitive.
Simply put, though, I would think Mitchell to have some ‘unfinished business’ as far as the Canucks are concerned. The mechanics of being an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) are intricate, and the Canucks will no doubt not be alone in their pursuit of Mitchell. But Willie grew up in Port McNeil on Vancouver Island, and seemed quite at home playing 3 years with the Canucks. Who knew January 16th that he would be out the rest of the regular season and the playoffs with post-concussion syndrome? He wasn’t alone in voicing the opinion that Vancouver had a lot of pieces to the puzzle in pursuit of a championship. It’s hard to imagine that he feels any differently now, and has set up a nice life in Vancouver. Even if he were looking for additional money on a new contract, or be slanted in favor of a longer-term deal, surely Vancouver is still a strong possibility. Many on the forums say that the Canucks should shake hands, move on, and spend the money elsewhere. But replacing what Mitchell brings to the table will be a difficult task, and though this summers crop of (defensive) Free Agents isn’t slim pickings, it’s far from bountiful.
As mentioned, Shane O’Brien and Mason Raymond are two noteworthy RFA’s. The playoffs proved that players with speed, grit, and determination are best suited to succeed. O’Brien’s Irish heart brims with grit, while Raymond’s speed and flash have surely caught others’ attention. Of the two, Raymond is most likely to receive an offer sheet from another club, a la Ryan Kesler and the Philadelphia Flyers (Bobby Clarke). The Canucks matched the $1.75 m contract offer that some scoffed at during the time, but with Kesler’s production and growth, they soon realized $1.75 m was bargain basement. If Raymond receives an offer, it would probably be around that mark ($2 m or so). The other mitigating factor is how badly another club would want to bring on Raymond’s goal-scoring capability. They know they’d pay dearly for it, with a possible first round pick, and potentially another 2nd round pick leaving for compensation, depending on the size of contract. The new NHL puts a premium on young talent; whatever the case, the $760,000 Raymond made last season will look like a down payment on the new contract he signs, whichever team that might be. Below I’ve included the 2009 table for compensation upon signing a Restricted Free Agent.
- $994,433 or below – None
- $994,433 to $1,506,716 – 3rd round pick
- $1,506,716 to $3,013,434 – 2nd round pick
- $3,013,434 to $4,520,150 – 1st and 3rd round pick
- $4,520,150 to $6,026,867 – 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick
- $6,026,867 to $7,533,584 – 2 1st round picks, a 2nd and 3rd round pick
- $7,533,584 – 4 1st round picks
So, based on the above scenario, the $1.75 m contract the Flyers offered Ryan Kesler, they would have had to give up a 2nd round pick to the Canucks. As you can see, $3.014 m is the magical number, whereby a team would have to compensate the club that held that players rights a 1st and 3rd round draft pick. Again, the team owning the players rights ALWAYS has the option to match.
So less than a month from now hockey fans will start to feel the flicker of some hockey excitement again, with the NHL Entry Draft descending upon them June 25th. Shortly after that, July 1st will mark the start of Free Agency, and for a few weeks following, some NHL players will be finding themselves moving to new cities.
Join me June 25th (and of course, weekly before then) as Fansided.com and it’s writers (myself included) prepare not only a Fantasy ‘Mock’ draft live, but also play General Manager for a day and deliberate on who the Vancouver Canucks should select with their 18th pick in the first round, right here on The Canuck Way.