Mike Gillis knows exactly what he wants to build the Vancouver Canucks into a Stanley Cup contender – but what that is is not always clear. He demonstrated that this past week by letting go of six players as well as resigning goalie Cory Schneider.
Defencemen Aaron Rome and Marc-Andre Gragnani and forwards Andrew Ebbett, Ryan Parent, Victor Oreskovich and Mike Duco will not be given extensions or qualifying offers from the Canucks. Assistant general manager Laurence Gilman mentioned last week that there was a possibility that one of these players could receive a qualifying offer, but that comment rang hollow as each of these players and/or their agents have received the news of their now non-existent contracts with the Canucks.
“I wish I knew what they were thinking. But hopefully there are teams out there who value him,” Rome’s agent Kevin Epp told the Province.
Rome and Ebbett are the strongest of the six players who were let go. Ebbett was kept out of games after he suffered a broken collerbone in January, but had five goals in 18 games and even played on the top line for a while. While he is no superstar, Ebbett is a good player a team can depend on to play well.
None of these six players played the entire season and most of them played very few games, some none at all this season, such as Parent, who has not played a game for the Canucks since the 2010-11 season. It is not surprising that Gragnani will be leaving; although he has only been a part of the Canucks for a few months he was a bit of a disappointment and did not play at all in the playoffs. As for Oreskovich, he only played one game for the Canucks this season and has since been replaced on the fourth line by Dale Weise and the recently resigned Aaron Volpatti.
However the big news in the Canucks community this week is the resigning of goalie Cory Schneider. Made official Friday, Schneider’s new contract consists of three years at approximately $12 million. Gillis reportedly never considered offers from other teams and always intended to keep Schneider.
“They present a great opportunity to win and that was more of a factor than anything,” Schneider told canucks.com of the team after his contract announcement. “I’ve really gotten to know my teammates and the staff and the city and I really enjoy it.”
Of course, Schneider’s upcoming career with the Canucks brings Roberto Luongo into the picture – or out of it. Schneider and Luongo will be fighting for the position of Vancouver’s number one goaltender if Luongo is still with the Canucks in the fall. However, Luongo’s future is still up in the air.
Three other players the Canucks will likely focus on resigning in the next few days are Dale Weise, AHL goaltender Eddie Lack and Sami Salo. Weise and Lack have already been extended qualifying offers. With the absence of Oreskovich and Ebbett, Weise should find a permanent spot on the fourth line next season. The 23-year old played 68 games in what was his second year in the NHL finishing with four goals and eight points.
Lack has shown a lot of promise while playing with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. He is not ready for the NHL yet, but could play an important role for the Canucks in the future should Luongo leave the team in the next two or three years. Lack and Weise are the only RFAs left for the Canucks to deal with, not including Mason Raymond,who will undergo arbitration sometime this month.
As for the Canucks’ UFAs, there are seven left. Sami Salo’s contract is the most important. At this point in his career – close to the end of it – it is unlikely that Salo will want to move someplace else and despite his age he has proven to be an effective and dependable part of the Canucks defence. He played 69 games this season and ended with 25 points, even coming back from a concussion he received in January in the Canucks’ sole game of the season against Boston. The other UFAs are Nolan Baumgartner, Byron Bitz, Matt Climie, Mark Mancari, Steven Pinizzotto and Steve Reinprecht.