Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What Will (Should) Nonis Do?

Like I mentioned last night, assuming that the Canucks' restricted free agents accept their quaifying offers or sign deals close to their current salaries, their payroll may come in at around $28 million. With the NHL's team-by-team cap at $39 million, this leaves them approximately $10-11 million to re-sign Markus Naslund (maybe Brad May) and sign a free agent or two. So what will Dave Nonis do? Or better yet... I think I'll put myself in Dave Nonis' shoes tonight and make some decisions regarding some players.

Oh Captain My Captain

Absolutely have to convince Markus Naslund to re-sign with the Canucks. Nazzy is an all-NHL first team all-star and one of the best point producers in recent seasons. Not to mention that he is the team's captain, their heart and soul... and is immensely popular with the fans.

Even though he took some subtle shots to Canucks' management and questioning their committment to winning a Stanley Cup. However, most Canucks fans feel that his comments were because Burke wasn't willing to blow his budget nor his nucleus for one playoff run. (Read: Burke did not want his team to be the Leafs or the Rangers of the Western Conference). In fact, Burke's reluctance to overspend on players has put the Canucks in great shape post-lockout. Again, the Canucks can re-sign most of their Northwest Division title-winning roster and still have money left over, unlike their main rivals that have to shed salary in order to get under the cap. This will be the Canucks' main selling point to Naslund. Financially, every team can offer him the same contract. But if he truly wants to win, the Canucks can offer him another opportunity to play with basically the same team that just won the Northwest Division title.

Salary-wise, the benchmark is Jarome Iginla, who will probably be offered anywhere between $7 million to close to the maximum allowable salary of $7.8 million. Naslund, who would have made $5.65 million last season (or $4.25 million with the rollback), will command close to the same salary as Iginla. My guess is the Canucks can re-sign Naslund between $6-6.5 million.

The Partner-In-Crime

Bertuzzi will play for Vancouver this season. As far as we know, he hasn't asked for a trade. He willingly showed up for Brad May's charity game last December, and he knows that he will not be better received or better supported by any other NHL city. Bertuzzi is slated to make $5.3 million this season.

Key Restricted Free Agents

Of the Canucks' restricted free agents some will receive multi-year offers at slightly over their respective qualifying offers. Brendan Morrison ($3 million), Mattias Ohlund ($2.5 million), Matt Cooke ($1.3 million), the Sedin twins ($1.1 million each) and Bryan Allen ($1 million) are considered key pieces of the team and should be re-signed to 2-3 year deals.

In Clouts We Trust

Dan Cloutier ($2.3 million) should be given one more opportunity to prove himself in the playoffs. Though he has suffered some unfortunate injuries in the playoffs, Cloutier is also a back-to-back 30-win goalie. Martin Brodeur is the only other goalie in the league to do this in the last couple of years.

Nikolai Khabibulin, who just won the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay, is an unrestricted free agent but why spend $5-7 million on him? Signing him means that the Canucks will have to let go of key players to get under the cap. Other cheaper, free agent goalies like Cujo, Manny Legace and Chris Osgood are lateral moves. Alex Auld ($513K) will be the back-up goalie.

The 'D'

Ed Jovanovski ($4 million) is already signed for the season. Marek Malik, Sami Salo and Brent Sopel are restricted free agents. There are persistent rumors that the Canucks are after Scott Niedermayer, but unless he signs for much lower than market value ($4-4.5 million), he won't fit under the Canucks' cap. If Niedermayer does sign, then only one of Malik, Salo and Sopel can stay. My vote goes to either Salo or Sopel ($1.3 million).

The 6th and 7th defensemen spots can easily be filled by any combination of Nolan Baumgartner ($450K), a Moose call-up (Kevin Bieska, Kiril Koltsov or Tomas Mojzis) or a fringe free agent pick-up (Brad Bombardir).

The Rest of the Supporting Cast

This is where it gets tricky. Tyler Bouck ($450K), Ryan Kesler ($703K) and Trevor Linden ($1.5 million) are already signed, which leaves five or six roster spots to fill. (Are Bouck and Kesler ready for full-time NHL duty?)

Artem Chubarov, Jarkko Ruutu, Jason King and Brad May are all free agents. (Brad May is an unrestricted free agent.) Peter Sarno, Lee Goren and Jeff Hereema also all played well with the Moose last season that they may get some playing time with the big club.

Chubarov ($750K) and King ($600K), who suffered a nasty concussion last year, should stay. Bouck and Ruutu are redundant, but if Ruutu takes his qualifying offer ($456K) then he might also stay. Brad May is a fan favorite and takes some of the leadership pressure off Naslund, Linden and Bertuzzi. But unless he takes a pay cut at close to the league minimum ($500-600K), he may not be with the team next year.

The Lineup

Naslund ($6.5 million) - Morrison ($3.0) - Bertuzzi ($5.3)
Sedin ($1.1) - Sedin ($1.1) - King ($600K)
Cooke ($1.3) - Chubarov ($750K) - Linden ($1.5)
Bouck/Ruutu ($450K) - Kesler ($703K) - Sarno/Hereema/Goren ($450K)

Allen ($1.0) - Jovanovski ($4.0)
Ohlund ($2.5) - Salo ($1.3)
Bieska/Koltsov/Mojzis($450K)/free agent ($700K) - Sopel ($1.3)

Cloutier ($2.3) - Auld ($513K)

This roster leaves approximately $2.7 million in cap space. If the Canucks convince Niedermayer to sign, then he takes the remaining space. Otherwise, they can possibly drop a minor league player from the big club ($450K worth) and sign a good depth player. (Will Paul Kariya or Glen Murray sign for $3.0 million?)
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 8:11 PM


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