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

Philip Yo, CanucksCorner.com

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.

[tweetmeme]

The salary cap is leveling the playing field

So Canucks fan, admit it.

You heard me…admit that when you heard that Mats Sundin had signed with the Canucks a little part of you felt like yelling “In your face New York!” Poor Larry Brooks of the New York Post had Vancouver pegged for dead.

Thus, with the NHL holiday roster freeze going into effect Friday night at midnight and lasting through midnight Dec. 27, Sundin – who has a $10M offer on the table from the Canucks that he obviously is in no hurry to accept – is likely to remain unsigned until late in the month.

So did I. I get and respect that Sundin took his time deciding if he wanted to play this year. But once he decided and the longer this went on, I figured the Canucks were being kept around as insurance and as a bargaining tool.

In a pre salary cap era, the Vancouver Canucks would have had no chance of gettting Mats Sundin, because the the New York Rangers, or other teams would out bid everyone. Not knowing what really happened behind the scenes, it appeared on the surface that Sundin’s first choice was to sign with New York. It would also appear that the Rangers couldn’t clear enough cap space to make this happen, thus making the choice of the Canucks too good to pass up.

It’s kind of ironic that the Canucks honoured Trevor Linden the night before the announcement, who’s involvement with the current salary cap deal was monumental. Perhaps in an unintentional way it was Linden’s gift to the fans.

At this point Sundin is a rental player. There is no guarantee he signs for another season, and the Canucks won’t be on the hook for another year if either party wants to go in a different direction.

The signing has given the Canucks two lines that can score overnight. If the defense can get and stay healthy, and Luongo recovers and gets on a roll, this team could be a force to be reckoned in the west. With the cap room Gillis enjoyed now gone, and further tweaks to the roster will have to be through trades.

For years the Canucks were always the wiling partner who just couldn’t shell out that extra to lure free agents. Fans sat by and watched as the Colorado’s, Detroit’s and New York’s of the world loaded up already stacked rosters. Now the salary cap has leveled that playing field, and that’s a great thing for the league, and on Wednesday it was a great thing for Canucks fans.

Just ask the New York Rangers.