Canucks should focus on 2016 free agent class

Dec 20 2017, 12:00 am

What a week it has been for Canucks fans. From all the drama surrounding Eddie Lack and Kevin Bieksa at the draft, to the Zack Kassian trade, this offseason has been filled with drama and disappointment.

The return for these three players is underwhelming to say the least. The Canucks acquired a third round pick (Guillaume Brisebois), 2nd and 7th round picks next year and a 4th liner (Brandon Prust). The general consensus is that GM Jim Benning got hosed on the deals, but looking ahead, the team could be a major player at next season’s trade deadline as well as during the 2016 offseason.

Dan Hamhuis has been a very good defencemen for a long time and was part of the 2014 Olympic gold medal winning team. He will turn 33 in December and may not be a part of the team’s future plans, as he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Hamhuis will be high in demand at the deadline for any contending team, and if Benning plays his cards right (he hasn’t in any deal he has made thus far), the return could be a first round pick and a solid prospect. Case in point, at the past deadline, the Pittsburgh Penguins got Ben Lovejoy from the Ducks for young d-man Simon Despres and the Flyers sent Braydon Coburn to the Lightning getting 1st and 3rd rounders.

Another player who should be able to fetch a 1st or 2nd rounder is Radim Vrbata. The right winger put up 31 goals and 63 points this past year and if he keeps up that pace, he would be a great 2nd line addition for a team who is serious about winning a cup next year.

Throw in the expiring deals Brandon Prust, Matt Bartkowski and Yannick Weber, and the team will have roughly $15 million dollars in cap space heading into the 2016 offseason.

When Mike Green, Michael Frolik and Cody Franson are the “big names” available, you know this wasn’t a particularly strong free agent class, something we probably won’t be saying next season.

Some of the names that could be on the open market next season include: Steven Stamkos, Anze Kopitar, Jakub Voracek, Eric Staal, Dustin Byfuglien, Milan Lucic and Brent Seabrook. The last two of those are local boys and may want the opportunity to come back home.

Then there are the prospects the Canucks already have in the pipeline. When asked at Wednesday’s press conference about the team clearing space for next year, Benning said “we got some good young players in our system, when these guys are ready to play we want the room for them to step in…with cap room next year, we can be more active in the high end unrestricted market.”

Those young players include Jake Virtanen, Hunter Shinkaruk, Jared McCann, Brendan Gaunce and Cole Cassels. Add in Bo Horvat, who has the look of a top end NHL forward, and the future does not look so bleak.

So while this summer has produced some underwhelming changes for the team, 2016 promises to be better for the Canucks and their fan base.

DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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