The Canucks have a problem and it’s one they haven’t had in a long time. According to GM Jim Benning, it’s a nice problem to have.
The team has a bunch of prospects challenging each other and the team’s veterans for spots on the roster. Fans are clearly hungry to see younger players in the lineup this season, even if it means some growing pains.
I asked my Twitter followers if they had any problems with following season-opening roster.
Extras: Kenins, Virtanen, Corrado
Some offered minor, non-inveysive changes:
@omarcanuck Swap Horvat and Sutter…
— Ethan (@EthanMarkRuby) September 30, 2015
But most others offered predictable responses such as these:
@omarcanuck I don’t like how Vey has been, I’d like to see McCann there
— Shawn (@chzbf) September 30, 2015
@omarcanuck vey out. McCann in. Sbisa out. Hutton in. Higgins out. Virtanen in.
— Andrew (@Booner72) September 30, 2015
“Egg Murdah” quickly explained the challenges with allowing the youth to play.
@omarcanuck benning got so many character gritty guys to mentor the kids, he didn’t leave any room for the kids.
— EggMurdah (@EggMurdah) September 30, 2015
Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen have made fans drool during the preseason but keeping the young forwards in the NHL is tougher than it looks. Because of their age, neither can be sent to Utica, and if they’re sent back to Junior, they can’t be called up during the season.
And if the Canucks try to ship Linden Vey to Utica, they risk losing him on waivers.
There are two possible outcomes if they attempt to send him down:
- Vey clears waivers and plays in Utica, the Canucks continue to pay him his full NHL salary ($1,000,000) while only $100,000 would count against the salary cap.
- Vey gets picked up off waivers, making his cap hit and salary the responsibility of the team that takes him.
During the many sports-radio and Twitter conversations, most talk about option two (Vey getting nabbed off waivers) as if it’s the worst-case scenario.
Really, it may be the best outcome: the Canucks would be rid of a player whose presence stands in the way of their prospects, they wouldn’t be on the hook for his salary, and if McCann plays how he has in preseason or improves, they get an upgrade in skill.
Hockey analyst Ray Ferraro doesn’t see it happening. He said this on TSN 1040 yesterday:
“Every year, five to ten players get picked up off the waiver wire. Everyone’s always worried about losing their own players…. If they put Vey on waivers, do you think there’s going to be a stampede to the waiver wire for him? I don’t think so.”
The biggest argument for keeping Vey around is he cost the Canucks a second-round draft pick a year ago. Losing him would prove that trade a waste of an asset.
But wouldn’t sticking with a player who’s not performing be even more costly?
That would be like starting a high-paid goalie in a playoff game over one who’s playing better than him just because of his salary.
Or like keeping a defenceman who consistently screws up over a younger one with more upside and ability just because you signed him to a 3-year deal.
That’s the kind of thing Canucks fans don’t want to see happening with their team any more.
On defence, many view Luca Sbisa in the same light as they see Vey – he’s taking the spot they’d like to see filled by young Ben Hutton or Frankie Corrado.
Use caution when cutting Sbisa, though.
Vancouver will need depth at defence because injuries always happen – remember when Vancouver had to trade for Raphael Diaz two years ago, or when Sbisa was playing top-pairing minutes and Alex Biega was in the top four last year?
With one of the worst travel schedules in the league, the Canucks use 8-10 defencemen every year.
Luckily for the team, Hutton can be sent to Utica without going through waivers, unlike Sbisa and Corrado, so they’ll send him down until that inevitable injury occurs. When it does, he’ll be the first called up.
The forwards force a tougher decision on Benning’s hands. Hopefully he’ll make the right one for the team, not the one that justifies his past decisions.