Photo Credit: Jay LaPrete/AP
By Scott Rosenhek
Canada’s 150th birthday kicked off with a bang today! The Vancouver Canucks have signed five players so far, taking full advantage of the $19.5 million in cap space. Here we go!
With Ryan Miller’s departure to the Anaheim Ducks, the Canucks were in need for a new back-up to Jacob Markstrom. At $2.5 million per year, this deal is pretty fair for both sides. Nilsson is another towering Swedish goaltender, at 6’6”. Nilsson had a 10-10-4 record, with a 2.67 GAA and .923 save percentage. At 27 years old, he plays a similar style to Jacob Markstrom and has the same weaknesses.
I am not an expert on goaltenders, but I have heard that both goalies can make poor reads of the play and get caught out of position. Nilsson has a slightly better save percentage from dangerous shots made in close, but both netminders are very similar players.
I like this deal since it gives Thatcher Demko time to develop, while providing a 1A/1B situation in net to keep things competitive. Hopefully the pair can push each other to be better and better by the season’s end.
There was a lot of smoke around Sam Gagner coming to Vancouver and we were proven correct. Gagner had a nice rebound season with the Blue Jackets, posting 18 goals and 50 points. He was used in a specialized role, playing as a 4th line winger with a special role off the half wall on the power play. Gagner was due for a raise from the league minimum and wanted term with his contract. At $3.15 million AAV (average annual value) for 3 years, the contract is pretty good.
From what I understand, Gagner is being brought in as a stop gap center if Henrik and Daniel Sedin choose to retire after next season. Gagner has usually played the wing, but brings that versatility. His play at even strength has its ups and downs, but you can’t ignore his offensive contributions. He should be a much better option on the power play over Brandon Sutter.
Michael Del Zotto
Michael Del Zotto has had issues with consistency as a professional hockey player. When he is on his game, his skills can give a boost to the power play and he can play with some snarl to his game. Del Zotto put up 6 goals and 18 points last year with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Injuries reduced his season to 51 games, so his offensive production is a plus. However, he does have trouble in his own zone, but the Canucks are desperate for a boost in offence and Del Zotto can provide that.
I believe Del Zotto was brought in to replace the loss of Luca Sbisa in the expansion draft. Although he is a little older, he is a major offensive upgrade for $600 000 less.
Alexander Burmistrov is an excellent reclamation project for the Canucks to acquire. He is a low cost (1 year, $900 000), 25-year-old depth forward. Although listed as a center, he has spent much of his career on the wing. He had 16 points in 49 games, but 14 of those came with the Coyotes in the 26 games he played after being claimed off waivers from Winnipeg.
Burmistrov slightly drives play and should be a solid option in the Canucks’ bottom six forward group. There is negligible risk for signing Burmistrov. If he somehow finds a new level of play, excellent. If not, then no harm is done to the team. Having him on the roster allows one of our younger players to prove they deserve a spot over Burmistrov or take an extra development year in Utica.
Patrick Wiercioch is a big defender from Burnaby, B.C. At 6’5”, 202 lbs, the Canucks were able to snag him at the league minimum. Wiercioch had the misfortune to be on that dreadful Avalanche team from last season, but still produced 4 goals and 12 points in 57 games.
Wiercioch is a solid third pairing option and his best asset is generating shots on the opposing goalie. This is why analytics favour Wiercioch in such a positive light. He requires waivers, so I don’t see him being sent down to Utica. Even as an extra defenseman, Wiercioch is a good, large-bodied, puck mover on the blue line.