Philip Yo: Kesler Solidifies The Core, The Time Is Now To Win

Philip Yo,

There were some anxious fans worrying about what would happen with Ryan Kesler this summer. The gritty centre has been a huge part of the Canucks team over the last two seasons and was approaching restricted free agency this summer. There is no doubt that Kesler would be the recipient of numerous offer sheets. But worry not, Friday morning Mike Gillis made the surprise announcement that Ryan Kesler was re-signed for a 6 year term worth $30 million. The deal would give Kesler a $5 million cap hit over the duration of the contract.

Ryan KeslerRyan Kesler: Photo by csztova, on Flickr

The announcement was all the more surprising given the news reports that had surfaced throughout the season regarding the negotiations. However, it took just 24 hours for Kesler’s agent and the Vancouver Canucks to finally come to terms on the new deal. This contract means that Kesler will have the second longest active contract on the Canucks after Roberto Luongo’s 12 years. The Sedin’s will still have 5 years remaining on their contracts after this season.

The core players for the Vancouver Canucks over the foreseeable future will consist of the following:

Roberto Luongo, 12 years @ 5.33 million
Daniel Sedin, 5 years @ 6.1 million per
Henrik Sedin, 5 years @ 6.1 million per
Ryan Kesler, 6 years @ $5 million per
Alex Edler, 3 years @ $3.25 million per
Alex Burrows, 3 years @ 2 million per
Mikael Samuelsson, 2 years @ $2.5 million per

*2010-2011 Total Cap Hit:* $30.28 million

If the Canucks plan on winning a Stanley Cup soon, these will be the players who will make it happen. With a little over half of the expected salary cap locked up in these players, a lot of attention will turn to the upcoming prospects to help fill the holes and save cap space. Unfortunately, it looks like Mason Raymond could be a casualty of the cap after his breakout year. However, because this is just his first year of success, he may be willing to settle for a slightly lower cap hit.

Michael Grabner has been a name that has been bounced about in the Vancouver media for several years now. He showed early this season that he may have what it takes to survive in the NHL, but he’ll need to show that he can consistently deliver. With Samuelsson out, these next few weeks could be very telling for what lies in store for the Canucks next season. If Grabner continues his strong play from before his injury, the Canucks may go with Grabner next season. If he doesn’t, then they will most likely do their best to re-sign Raymond.

And then there is Cody Hodgson and Jordan Schroeder. Hodgson is coming off a serious back injury and has missed most of this season due to that. With a loss of almost an entire year of development it may be wise to have Cody spend a year in Manitoba. The same will likely happen with Schroeder who recently decided to go pro and end his NCAA career.

Whatever the case may be, the Canucks arguably have their strongest top six forward core in history. They also have their best goaltender in history holding down the fort in net. If the Canucks are to finally win a cup, these players are as good as any to make that happen.


Raycroft Looks For Clean Slate

Please join us at and welcome Philip Yoe to our writing team. In his first contribution he looks at the contributions of Andrew Raycroft, and how the goaltender is aiming to get his career back on track with the Canucks.

By Philip Yoe:

When news broke that Roberto Luongo would be out of action due to a hairline rib fracture, Canuck Nation collectively were ready to hit the panic button. But thankfully, Andrew Raycroft has since pulled everyone back from the ledge with his solid play. Raycroft’s performance in the games he has started since Luongo was injured has given Canucks fans all over a newfound confidence. Last year Luongo missed a total of 24 games when he tore a groin muscle in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Over that span the Canucks went 9-12-3 as Curtis Sanford, Jason LaBarbera and Cory Schneider all saw some action. Overall, the Canucks held their own in Roberto’s absence but definitely had a large amount of room for improvement.


Andrew Raycroft

This summer Mike Gillis signed Raycroft as a free agent netminder this summer and it raised a lot of eyebrows. Most had considered Raycroft a bust despite winning the Calder trophy in 2004 as the outstanding rookie of the year. That season Raycroft backstopped the Boston Bruins to 29 victories while holding a save percentage of .926 and GAA of 2.05. The next year was the NHL lockout and Andrew Raycroft landed with Tappara Tampere of the Finnish SM-liiga. He appeared in 11 games, winning four of those games. When the NHL resumed in 2005 Raycroft was nowhere the goaltender he was before as he won just 8 games out of 30 with the Boston Bruins with a 3.70 GAA and .878 save percentage.

Raycroft was eventually traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the rights to Tuuka Rask. Things did not improve for Raycroft in Toronto despite a decent first season that saw him pick up 37 wins in 72 games. Things got worse in 2007 when Raycroft was relegated to the backup role when the Leafs acquired Vesa Toskala from the San Jose Sharks. Raycroft appeared in only 19 games that season while winning just 2 of them. He was subsequently bought out by the Leafs and promptly signed a 1-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche as a backup to Peter Budaj in hopes of getting a clean slate. But yet again, things did not go well for the 29-year old Belleville native as he won just 12 games in 31 appearances with an .892 save percantage and goals against average of 3.14.

So jump to this past offseason, Jason Labarbera signed a contract with the Phoenix Coyotes while Curtis Sanford left to join the Montreal Canadiens. This left the Canucks with their 2004 first round draft pick, Cory Schneider, as their only option as a backup to Luongo. As a result, on July 6th, Raycroft was offered a contract by GM Mike Gillis and signed the 1-year deal with the Canucks. Reaction around the hockey community was mostly of confusion or mockery, particulary from fanbases of the Maple Leafs and Avalanche who had seen how poorly Raycroft had played on a regular basis. But after five starts, the ones getting the last laugh are Mike Gillis and the Vancouver Canucks.

Andrew Raycroft has compiled a very solid record of 4-1-0 in Luongo’s absence. He also leads the NHL with a 1.60 GAA and is tied for first with a .936 save percentage.

Has Raycroft regained the form that saw him win the Calder trophy 2004? Only time will tell as it is still just five games but he is off to a great start. Raycroft has given Canucks fans the confidence in the backup goaltender that has been missing since Alex Auld was still a Canuck. Auld, of course, was a part of the trade with Florida that involved bringing Luongo to Vancouver. Dany Sabourin, Curtis Sanford, Jason Labarbera and Cory Schneider have all tried and have not been able to perform as well as fans would have liked. Raycroft came in this summer with low expectations and has far surpassed those expectations. What happens from here is left to be seen, but surely should Luongo struggle or once again get injured, Canuck Nation will not need to hold their breath.