Vancouver Canucks free agency rumours: Gagner, Hunwick, Miller

Mar 10, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Sam Gagner (89) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Buffalo Sabres in the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Sam Gagner (89) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Buffalo Sabres in the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

The pursuit of Sam Gagner’s services continues once again for the Vancouver Canucks.

The Vancouver Canucks made some noise in the free agency market earlier with the news that former first overall pick Nail Yakupov was interested in Vancouver. The Canucks certainly have the cap space to make some noise come July 1st. But who should they target and how much commitment are they ready to make?

Are you ready for July 1st? Canucks GM Jim Benning certainly sounds like he is.

Jim Benning outlines his plans

When asked by Sportsnet‘s Iain MacIntyre, GM Benning had this to say about the club’s endeavours in the open market.

"“We have now some young players knocking on the door looking for jobs, so we’re not going to be in on the high-end (free agents). Who knows? But we’re not looking to do that at the start.“If these young players come to camp and earn a spot on the team, we want to make sure there’s room for them to play and keep developing. With the injuries we’ve had to our group the last couple of years, we want to add to our depth. When I say that, I mean complementary players.”"

This certainly echoes the sentiments of many fans in this city. There is not much room, if at all, for bottom-six forwards and top-six defensemen.

Unless a top-six scorer or a top-four blueliner is willing to come on a short-term deal, the Canucks have no reason whatsoever to waste money and roster spots on veterans that can be easily replaced by the younger pieces already in the organisation.

Now, for the rumours and the rumblings!

Sam Gagner 2.0

What’s free agency without a bit of Sam Gagner? The former Edmonton Oiler is on the move again.

More from The Canuck Way

One year ago the Canucks tried to sign Gagner in free agency, only to see him sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets at $0.65 million and score 50 points.

After a season in which he proved himself a valuable offensive asset and a responsible forward (with a +5.8 relative Corsi-for percentage), Gagner is hitting the open market once again.

You bet he’s looking for a raise.

The Vancouver Canucks are interested in him once again, per Sportsnet‘s Elliotte Friedman.

"Sam Gagner makes a lot of sense as a right-handed power play option to replace Artemi Panarin in Chicago. He was dynamite with Columbus in that role. It is believed Vancouver also has interest in his services."

The 5-foot-11 centre would certainly add an offensive punch to the forward group in Vancouver, likely slotting in as a power play specialist with limited use during even strength.

Do the Canucks have the depth to shelter Gagner during 5-on-5 play? They certainly need to improve their dreadful power play, but will Gagner be worth the price tag when the Canucks will need to give him limited minutes?

Also, Gagner is 28 years old by the season opener. Does that bode well with a rebuild?

Matt Hunwick: Benning looking for familiar faces

Last year, Benning stayed true to his Boston Bruins connections by signing Loui Eriksson in free agency. He seems to be interested in bringing another player that he knew when he was the assistant general manager in Boston.

Matt Hunwick played his first four NHL seasons with the Bruins. The 32-year-old defenseman spent this past season playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, gaining a reputation as Leafs coach Mike Babcock’s favourite.

With that in mind, Hunwick is not an offensive blueliner. At 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, he is a mobile defenseman and a puck-mover. For the Canucks, he would be a solid top-six option who brings leadership as someone who served as the assistant captain for Toronto last year.

Ryan Miller: Off to Anaheim?

Another bit from Elliotte Friedman’s “30 Thoughts” revealed that netminder Ryan Miller may be on his way out from Vancouver.

"Goalie market: there is a lot of expectation of Ryan Miller to Anaheim for approximately $1 million, although I’m not sure if bonuses will be added to that."

This would indicate that the Canucks will have to sign a free agent netminder come July 1st. It is unlikely that Vancouver can do anything to keep Miller from playing closer to Hollywood, where his wife is.

Other rumblings…

We may have a Jordan Weal sighting in Vancouver on Wednesday. There seems to be a mutual sense of interest between the Canucks and Weal.

Next: Free Agency Rumblings - Yakupov, Weal & Alzner

The Vancouver Canucks have the cap space to sign some of these players and to make things happen come July 1st. Whether it be bigger names like Gagner or smaller names like Weal, the Canucks are going to make a splash to hopefully add to the rebuild.