We interrupt talk of the World Cup and lingerie models to discuss the Canucks recent player movement. Today is the start of the free agency period, enabling teams to sign (typically older) players who have reached the end of their contracts. It’s a frenzy of deal making and over-spending general managers.
The Canucks made two sizable deals today, signing BC-born, hard-nosed defenceman Dan Hamhuis to a six year, $4.5 million/year deal and BC-by-marriage (his wife is Steve Nash’s sister) defensive forward Manny Malhotra to three years at $2.5 million a year. They also signed spare parts Jeff Tambellini and Joel Perrault. Add the draft-day trade for Keith Ballard, and Canucks GM Mike Gillis has been a busy man.
To his credit, Gillis has recognized and addressed the team’s defensive deficiencies. The team simply couldn’t deal with the Blackhawks’ speed and size during last year’s playoffs. None of these players are going to pot a lot of goals, but goal-scoring hasn’t been a problem for the Canucks in recent years.
I like that both Ballard and Hamhuis are just 27, and coming into the prime of their careers. The team also got significantly meaner. The forwards aren’t a particularly physical bunch, but Ballard and Hamhuis can dish out punishment from the back-end (heh).
The team almost certainly bids farewell to concussed Willie Mitchell, Kyle Wellwood, Pavol Demitra (good riddance) and Andrew Raycroft (as I write this, I see he’s signed with Dallas), all free agents. With eight NHL already under contract (if they sign restricted free agent Shane O’Brien, that’s nine) they’ll almost certainly trade odd-man out Kevin Bieksa for help up-front and to clear up some salary cap space.
So, what might the opening night roster look like? I know Burrows won’t be back for the start of the season, but I’m slotting him in to make a fully healthy roster (knock on wood):
Sedin Sedin Burrows
Raymond Kesler Samuelsson
Hansen Malhotra Rypien
Rypien Hodgson Glass
If Gillis can trade Bieksa for a bonified third-line forward, then that’s an encouraging roster for the 2010 season.