Though the Vancouver Canucks are in the midst of a rebuild, there are so many quality free agents in next year’s market that they could help them contend in the future.
This year, Benning chose to play it safe and went bargain hunting, where he found Sam Gagner, Alexander Burmistrov, Michael Del Zotto, Patrick Wiercioch and Anders Nilsson. Of the three, Gagner was the most “expensive”, signing a three-year deal worth $9.45 million.
Benning appears keen on saving up the Canucks’ cap space as this team enters the first year of an official, full-scale rebuild. And though Benning did the right thing not throwing around a ton of cash this offseason, he should think about being a buyer in the 2018 free agent market.
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Unlike the past two free agent pools, 2018 is actually loaded with superstars, quality secondary scorers and second-pairing defencemen.
The Canucks could certainly use players in all those areas, which is why Benning should try to make room for one or two free agents.
Yes, I know it’s been a long time since this team spent a ton of money on a free agent where it actually panned out.
From Mark Messier to Jason Garrison to the aforementioned Eriksson, the Canucks haven’t been the smartest with their free agent cash.
But here me out when I explain here as to why the Canucks should take the chance to add some big names in next year’s market.
Championship teams get active
The Canucks just need to look at recent Stanley Cup champions, who added some great yet expensive players to win championships. The Chicago Blackhawks wouldn’t have won three Stanley Cups (2010, 2013 and 2015), if they didn’t hand Marian Hossa a lucrative 12-year deal worth $63.3 million.
The Los Angeles Kings signed shutdown defenceman Willie Mitchell back in 2010, and he was crucial in helping them win the Stanley Cup in 2011 and 2012.
Also, the Boston Bruins signed Michael Ryder and Zdeno Chara, who both played big roles in helping Beantown win the Stanley Cup. Don’t forget the 2008 Detroit Red Wings, who signed Brian Rafalski and helped them win their fourth championship in seven years.
So you see the trend? Stanley Cup winners add impact players in free agency when they’re available. The Canucks shouldn’t feel obliged to only build their team through the draft.
The talent pool
Next year’s free agent pool includes John Tavares (whom the Canucks surely won’t pursue), future Hall of Famer Joe Thornton, power forward Rick Nash, Minnesota Wild standout Mikko Koivu and the Sedin twins (whose futures in Vancouver are unclear right now).
But wingers like James Neal and Patric Hornqvist could be great additions to the Canucks. The former has a nice 30-goal history, and the latter is one of the league’s best two-way forwards in the game.
On defence, the Canucks could find one or two capable shutdown defencemen. Jack Johnson, Alexei Emelin, Josh Gorges, Brayden McNabb and John Carlsson are among the many blueliners who could help Vancouver become better defensively.
Plenty of cap space
According to CapFriendly.com, the Canucks have $8.125 million in cap space right now. But $14 million will be coming off the books if Vancouver makes the right call and trades the Sedins at next year’s deadline and/or they don’t re-sign them after their contracts expire.
If Erik Gudbranson doesn’t re-sign, the Canucks will also have $3.5 million cleared. Trading Alexander Edler (two years left at $5 million a season), would save Vancouver plenty of cap room. These scenarios could mean that Benning would have over $20 million in cap space to work with.
What’s cap space if you don’t use it? Benning doesn’t have to chase the big fish like Tavares or Thornton. But he can easily add one or two top-six wingers and/or some beef on his defence. This class is loaded with players who could fix the team’s weaknesses.
So in 11 months’ time, the Vancouver Canucks should be really active in free agency, as it could give them the chance to contend for championships sooner rather than late.r