nhl free agency

Nail Yakupov Could TOTALLY Redeem Brandon Sutter

There is a saying “two wrongs don’t make a right” and going H.A.M. to acquire Nail Yakupov on July 1 might not be a great way to follow the previous few opening days of free agency for the Vancouver Canucks. Last year Loui Eriksson was the new face that joined the Canucks for a lot longer than anyone probably expected for a rebuilding squad.

The St. Louis Blues failed to qualify Yakupov on Monday and of course, anything remotely resembling possibility was dug up from the depths of Twitter. This one was just above the surface:

Not to say this isn’t something to look into but Yakupov hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire since he entered the NHL. It could be argued that there were too many cooks in the kitchen in Edmonton and St. Louis just didn’t fit. The Canucks have been known to give Russians a chance and one that potentially can score goals on the cheap is intriguing.

What isn’t intriguing is the reality of Brandon Sutter still wearing a Canucks jersey going into the 17/18 season.  The predictions haven’t come out yet but I doubt Jeff Paterson is predicting an Art Ross trophy for Sutter let alone a goal total equalling his jersey number. Sutter has been arguably THE most underwhelming player on the Canucks in the last few seasons… and that’s saying something.

Recently moved Luca Sbisa even had a run as an effective player for the Canucks last season and lottery winner Jayson Megna surpassed most of the Canucks roster based on some kind of algorithm only Willie Desjardins seemed to understand. It was revealed Sutter was playing through a nagging wrist injury all season which is somewhat impressive as he still managed to get 17 goals.

Can Nail Yakupov actually redeem Sutter? It’s possible. They put a man on the moon at least once or so I’m told. Yakupov reminds me of what Phil Kessel went through prior to joining the Penguins. A star player from the get-go but was never a player that could handle being the “it” guy. Kessel went to Pittsburgh as a depth scorer and he flourished.

Yakupov isn’t going to help anyone win a Cup next season but the transition to a new team in a role he can handle is sometimes the start those types of players need. Pittsburgh will end up adding him at the deadline anyway.

He may or may not be available on the cheap after his stock took a nose dive. A first overall pick that doesn’t get qualified is a tough pill to swallow, especially for a young Russian player that is known for being flashy. A slice of humble pie might be the reset he needs to bounce back and for the Canucks, why wouldn’t they take a chance on him?

This team as they said is lower-case R rebuilding so a season to rack up some stats could put him back on the radar and it gives Sutter a winger he can set loose. It’s almost as if they can redeem each other. It would be welcome to not only the Canucks and their fans but both players that clearly need to get back to being players they believe they can be.

A healthy Sutter with a guy he can build a rapport with might even work out and then what happens?

Anything in the $3 to 3.5 million range would be acceptable and it adds some depth to the wings to gradually bring in Nikolay Goldobin or Jake Virtanen when the time is right. Yakupov isn’t a bad hockey player, players that go first overall aren’t bad hockey players (obviously not including Patrik Stefan). He’ll probably never be a superstar but if anyone can mine out 20-25 goals a season for a few years, that’s a deal.

Jim Benning picked up Markus Granlund and Sven Baertschi through the trade market but Yakupov could be a quiet deal that doesn’t need to steal the headlines. Everyone will wonder if it’s throwing money away but seriously, the Canucks can’t get any worse. Benning held onto Sbisa until Vegas was awarded a team so this wouldn’t be the worst thing he did.

The off chance Yakupov DOES succeed is worth the risk at the very least for one year. He also wore #10 because he wanted to be Pavel Bure. Float him $3.5 for that alone.

photo – edmontonjournal.com

Canucks Can Get Spark Back Through Rebuild

Aside from fast-forwarding five years in the future, there isn’t an instant fix to getting the spark back when it comes to the Canucks. The last era of the Canucks began its ascent around 2006 and the pinnacle as we all know was in 2011. That era wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for the one right before it during the West Coast Express run and it began forming a reality when the Sedins were drafted in 1999.

Success doesn’t happen overnight.

What the Canucks DO have in their possession are many successful models that have preceded them both in their own organization and in the rest of the league. The current lineup isn’t all that enticing and the prospects that are developing won’t truly come to fruition for a handful of years still. In typical Canucks fashion, management has a flair for the dramatic and that might just be what this team ultimately needs.

Trading Edler/Tanev right now

We get it, Alex Edler doesn’t want to leave. He said he wants to see the rebuild through and although that’s quite noble, that’s not how these things work. Edler has worked to get an NTC and he has every right to use it but the NHL has burnt itself by having this as part of the CBA. A modified version should be discussed in the next go around but that’s not what we’ll discuss here.

Chris Tanev needs to be moved before his modified no-movement clause kicks in July 1. The Canucks need to keep the ball in their court and maximize whatever power they have while the getting’s good. There have been rumours the Canucks could make a pitch for Jonathan Drouin in Tampa and everyone loves a change of scenery reclamation player. It frees the team of broken sticks and injuries that seem to be more common than not.

Trading either/both of these players is a significant move in the rebuild direction, happens all the time. At some point, they’ll both be moved anyway so why not actually get something for them? Vancouver has always made a splash in the trade market when no one is paying attention and it’s possible they set the summer up with the first domino.

Be the big player on July 1

Again, the Canucks usually get “their” guy but it’s been pretty obvious their guy is the wrong one. Loui Eriksson was a terribly kept secret and despite articles that myself and other Canucks blogs have published, he isn’t a long-term fit in Vancouver. T.J. Oshie might not be a home run either but offering short-term big money can give the Canucks a more reasonable threat up front and balance the top two lines to the degree people will actually notice them.

Keeping Ryan Miller for another two years isn’t a splash but it gives him stability for his family and it would be silly to pull the plug on a guy after he finally has shown results. Kicking him to the curb just starts the process over and it’s unlikely Jacob Markstrom can handle the load as the number one guy. At some point, Thatcher Demko will be ready to take over and two years from now he should be groomed well enough to make a charge in the NHL.

Going the offer sheet route is dangerous and can potentially create some enemies, which again points to making a splash via the trade market. Jim Benning has better than good rating as a trade partner, not great, but better than good. Hopefully, someone needs a defenseman.

Trade up in the draft/trade to add another first rounder

There seem to be a plethora of players at the 5th spot and the names could change instantly with the parity that are picks 3-10. Nico Hischier would be the guy I can see Vancouver targeting which probably means they’d need the first overall pick to solidify their player. If taking Hischier isn’t a reality then snagging another top-10 guy should be.

It’s not a secret a few of the teams in the top five are shopping their pick. Why not take advantage of teams that don’t necessarily need the players the Canucks clearly do? Every GM before Benning in Vancouver has worked some magic at the draft and this feels like a good time to put his signature on this team. Acquiring a center and a defenseman would be a shrewd move and with the players mentioned above, Benning could send one of them away to get a stud that can help the team move forward.

Olli Juolevi has a shot to make the Canucks this October and he is just one year removed from his draft year. Talent and circumstance have created an opportunity and freeing up at least one older guard get the team that much closer to contention.

I’ve heard there are some Kelowna Rockets that potentially could be had in the second round, just saying.

The Jersey

It’s already been designed and I don’t believe there has been a release date for the new Adidas NHL jersey but creating a demand for the new jersey and all the merch that goes with it keeps the spark alive. When the team released the current version of the Orca when the Reebok Edge uniform came out, it was the middle of summer but the fans ate it up.

With no alternate this season, the Canucks will need to be relevant once again to get back their fashion crown. The shame is there are so many other versions and color schemes that the Canucks will never have the look/feel that Edmonton, Calgary, Washington, and so many other teams get when they trot out one color and one color only.

If Johnny Canuck has arrived, fans will be able to tolerate a less than exciting product on the ice if they feel they look cool off it.

Play the kids… ALL OF THEM!

The Oilers did it, the Penguins did it, heck Calgary has tried their hand at the youth movement and wouldn’t you know it, it’s paying off! There are arguably seven or eight prospects and current young stars that could occupy spots on this team. If Vancouver is going to lose at least let us watch the players we want to see.

Brandon Sutter is the opposite of flashy and he’s a liability as soon as he arrives at Rogers Arena. Luca Sbisa has a good shot at being claimed by Vegas, Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen are now gone and going the PTO direction again isn’t going to happen. The fans don’t mind a team that tries, or at least LOOKS like they’re trying. Travis Green has seen a handful of the players related to this topic and there may be some talent we don’t know exists yet.

Play the kids and bring on the actual rebuild, no more lip service.

The summer is long and staying relevant to Canucks nation will be a challenge this year but the Canucks have the tools to make the team fun again and some of the solutions aren’t all that hard.

photo – sportsnet.ca

Bowness Coverage – Post Draft, Pre Frenzy, Present Disappointment

This past week has really been a circus of emotions but that hasn’t stopped Canucks twitter and pretty much anything with a pulse from having a say. The NHL draft came and went with many storylines dictating the start to the summer, free agency begins July 1st and hopefully there is a shred of happiness that comes with that. Above all else, it seems Jim Benning may have some critics.

Early Saturday morning Eddie Lack was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for a 3rd round pick and a 7th next year. On Tuesday afternoon the move we all thought was coming before the draft finally happened, but to a team we never expected; Kevin Bieksa is a Mighty Duck in exchange for the Ducks 2nd round pick next year. 

That alone is a big pause for the cause. 

1) The outrage in Canucksland was heard when Lack was moved for a 3rd round pick, many believing he was worth more. Benning was approached with eight offers and Carolina had the best one. What makes me wonder is if that was the best he could do, why trade him at all? 

Going forward why not keep the combo of Lack and Miller? Big deal if Markstrom walks, at the very least they could have moved HIM for a pick. It hasn’t seemed to matter who is in charge of the Canucks when it comes to goaltending, no one has a clue how to approach it. 

By the time Thatcher Demko is ready, Eddie Lack would be finishing off his 3 or 4 year deal and no doubtedly we would have found someone to partner up with Eddie, quite possibly Joe Cannata or someone else in the system. Everyone knew Lack would be able to sign a very cap friendly, team friendly deal and give the Canucks quality goaltending. Miller is our stop gap and with that tandem they could have actually made it work.

The goalie problems will never end in Vancouver, but thats ok, we’re used to it.

2) Just when the summer was about to get real snarly for Kevin Bieksa, Jimbo made the move I guarantee he did not want to do. Canucks South gained another member on Tuesday when Bieksa was sent to Anaheim to join buddy Ryan Kesler.

Benning did secure the 2nd round pick he was asking for, sadly it was the same one San Jose was offering and you wait, it would have been A LOT better. Bieksa is now on one of the most dangerous teams in the league, one that will most likely destroy the Canucks 5+ times next year.

Jimbo did well to get value out of Bieksa before he entered free agency and with all Juice’s injuries its actually a pretty saavy move. Its a shame he didn’t get what he was offered last week, we could be talking about a good player instead of guy that was just there in round 2. But the draft isn’t a sure thing so I give you kudos Mr Benning.

3) Yannick Weber was not qualified by the Canucks this week which begs the question: WHY!!!!? He was one of the few bright spots the Canucks had last year, he actually made a few powerplays worth watching and we actually didn’t care his name wasn’t Shea. How Benning let this guy slip to not even have leverage to oh I dunno keep his rights at least is nuts. 

Am I wavering here? I can’t tell. Maybe Benning has bi polar disorder or schizophrenia? Make one bad move, then one good move then another bad one. By October, there might be nothing left to criticize: we’ll all be dead from sarcasm.

4) On the plus side, Alex Biega and Linden Vey signed, oh and so did Jacob Markstrom. All very cap friendly numbers and maybe all this hair pulling will end up being a good thing? We wanted a rebuild, we wanted the problems gone and in a roundabout way I think Benning might be doing it.

Im not having fun typing those words and by the time free agency is in full swing I could take back everything and call for his head. Being a Canucks fan isn’t easy, being a Canucks armchair GM is even harder.

5) Side bar – Mike Richards may have a very rough ride back to the NHL; and that’s if they even let him back. He was stopped at the border with oxycodone, a very strong pain killer, and with that, the Kings released him. Richards was given a second chance in LA and it looks like thats all he’s getting. How serious is this? We will probably find out in the coming weeks.

6) Kind of got away from the draft so lets get back into it. At pick 23 Nick Merkley, Kelowna Rockets star forward, was NOT picked by the Canucks. I cried for a short time and my wife pretty much wanted me to shut up but as life happens we ended up getting the better version of Mike Fisher aka Mr. Carrie Underwood. 

Brock Boeser is the newest Canucks forward and although I know jack squat about him, it sounds like he is all business, and his business is doing the hockeys. Getting through the hyped up first round was tough and from the looks of things we did better than Boston.

Mr. Minnesota is a 6 foot hulking winger who is a self professed “power forward” that goes to the net and gets dirty in the corners. Maybe we’ll be so busy hoping Zack Kassian turns into Milan Lucic that Boeser will be our diamond driller.

The past few years have been good to the Canucks in the draft and hopefully ol’ Eggs Benny gets lucky from this one. Years from now we may look back and see all of our fortunes started here; I’m wrong a lot so lets not dwell on this. 

7) Going into July 1 there are a few guys the Canucks could take a swing at and even though they aren’t winning a cup soon, they can take a chance on these fellas and maybe parlay them down the road:

Cody Franson – Vancouver is in the mix to bring the BC boy home but he may not come cheap. With Bieksa gone and not having to sign Lack, there may be a few bucks in the kitty to sign this dman. We don’t have what you would call a good defensive core so Franson would definitely help. WANT LEVEL – HIGH

Joel Ward – I’ve wanted this guy for probably 4 years now and even though he’s getting older he still has some skill a few of our boys could learn from. He’s beat us around the net when he played for Nashville so we know he gets dirty. Won’t cost tons so he’s potentially affordable. WANT LEVEL – MEDIUM

Mike Green – I guess Washington isn’t home for Mike Green anymore. He’s still a valuable defenseman in many peoples eyes and if he somehow came to Vancouver I’m pretty sure he bounces back. Losing Kevin Bieksa and gaining Mike Green? I like that trade off. WANT LEVEL – HIGH

Johnny Oduya – Something something Stanley Cups. He’s 33 but he’s been to the top of the mountain twice and that might be worth talking about in the dressing room. Is this the direction Benning wants to go though? Maybe a bit more than we need. WANT LEVEL – SEMI MEDIUM

Antoine Vermette/Justin Williams – Doubt either of these guys gets a contract but they are worth talking to. 

8) Is Jim Benning done surprising us? Are there any other guys tha have played their last game in a Canucks jersey? Burrows? Edler? Higgins? Sbisa? Don’t hold your breath, I don’t think we’re done.

9) Pass it to Bulis is done with the Vancouver Sun. Daniel Wagner and Harrison Mooney put me on the Stick in Link feature one Tuesday and the next thing I know I’m the GDT guy for Canucks Army. I owe tons to these two and I can only hope their podcast keeps going and they keep pumping out quality shenanigans. 

SALUTE!

10) I ended on a music feature last time and becaause its summer, this one is no different. Here’s one of my new favorites from an amazing band. I hope Canada Day puts a smile on my face for the hockey fan in me but honestly, spending the day drinking beer, swimming in the sun and painting an apple box with my two little girls is all I need.

Enjoy!