NHL Free Agency 2012: What's the Vancouver Canucks' Next Move?

Carol SchramFeatured ColumnistJuly 22, 2012

Could the Canucks consider signing Evander Kane to an offer sheet?
Could the Canucks consider signing Evander Kane to an offer sheet?Bruce Fedyck-US PRESSWIRE

The Vancouver Canucks may not have made much of a splash during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the team is doing its best to stay in the headlines during the offseason.

The Roberto Luongo sweepstakes has obviously been front and center. (Click here to read my latest update on that situation.)

So far this summer, the Canucks have signed unrestricted free-agent defenseman Jason Garrison, but they let Justin Schultz slip away to Edmonton. They've also been featured players in the Shane Doan saga.

As Jason Botchford of The Province indicates, it continues to sound like Doan will do everything he can to stay in Phoenix. If he does decide to leave, chances are he'll go to an Eastern Conference squad where he won't have to face his old team that often. If this Eastern Conference squad really does pay him $30 million over four years, all the better for him. It certainly wouldn't make sense for the Canucks to match that deal and make Doan their highest-paid player.

Would Shea Weber have been worth the $110 million that Philadelphia offered him? Probably, yes.

Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman told Botchford, "We looked at it 16 ways to Sunday, but we couldn’t come up with a scenario where we were going to get the player. And if you can’t get the player, what’s the point?”

That's the murmur you'll hear all around the league until the Predators announce whether they'll match Weber's offer, let him go for four first-round picks or arrange some kind of deal with the Flyers where they trade the picks back to Philly in exchange for a package that would likely include players and draft choices. Such a package could ease the Flyers' salary-cap burden and would offer a suddenly depleted Nashville squad some immediate help on the ice.

While the Weber deal looks like it's structured in such a way that Nashville might have a hard time matching, every other offer sheet that has been thrown out in the NHL has looked the same way at first. Still, Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun points out that the only offer-sheeted player since 1997 who has ended up changing teams was Dustin Penner, when he was scooped away from the cap-strapped Anaheim Ducks by Edmonton.

If the Flyers do manage to secure Weber, expect more movement on the RFA front. Not knowing the terms and limitations that could surround contracts under the next collective bargaining agreement could provide a strong incentive for young stars coming off their entry-level deals to try to cash in now for the long term.

Looking at that crop of young studs, Evander Kane could be a hot target for the Canucks. Kane's a local boy who won a Memorial Cup with the Vancouver Giants, so his interest in Vancouver could be high. He has three years of NHL experience already under his belt, and he's just shy of his 21st birthday.

Under the current CBA, Kane would reach unrestricted free agency for the first time after seven years of service, which means he's essentially tied to Winnipeg for four more years. But the first whispers from the NHL are that they'd like to extend that term to 10 years. They'd also like to limit contract lengths to a maximum of five years. Will Kane wait to see how the chips fall, or is this sufficient incentive to sign a big deal now, for 10 years or more?

Would the Canucks—or another team—be willing to take the risk on such a young player?

Well, he's big and strong and scored 30 goals last year—something Shane Doan has only done twice in his entire career. And as a small-market team, Winnipeg might be vulnerable to a fat front-loaded offer sheet. It's hard to know if they'd be able to scrounge up the financial resources to pay Kane $10 million or more next year.

Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press reports that the Jets and Kane are currently trying to negotiate a John Tavares-like deal. Tavares' new contract goes into effect next year—it's a six-year, $33 million deal, for an average cap hit of $5.5 million.

These numbers seem reasonable for a young player with Kane's potential, but if Weber ends up moving to the Flyers, you can expect to see Kane and other RFAs presented with offer sheets in the coming weeks that will make our heads spin.

If the action so far this summer is any indication, the Canucks will likely continue to be in the center of the action.


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