Addressing The Forward Ranks

Who wants to help these guys? (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

The more pressing issue before July 1st is for Vancouver to address their big three UFAs on defense: Juice, Hoff and Balls of Steel. All the chatter seems to indicate Juice is all but wrapped up and Salo is ready to take a discount for at least one season. Where Hoff lands is anyone's guess, but even if he walks that means Vancouver still has five of their six (I can count Ballard here right?) and a few rookies to play with for the sixth slot. All in, there's reason to be positive for the blueline.

Up front the Canucks have no wingers (healthy or otherwise) for the KesLord, Manny is missing a left winger while his right winger is an RFA and the fourth line is non-existent. The latter will work itself out over time and isn't a priority, but assuming Higgins and Torres hit the road, those holes need to be addressed fairly quickly. We saw what happens when the Sedins get neutralized and Kesler is tasked with more Selke responsibilities than normal; someone has to pick up the slack. We also saw how valuable the third line can be when both the Sedins and Kesler are off their game, to speak nothing about injuries. So where do they go?

Replacing Torres can play itself out several ways, the obvious one being he re-signs. He certainly had consistent minutes under Vigneault and some chemistry with Malhotra and Hansen, but like Raycroft before him, Torres can also use this rebound year to cash out. If Torres leaves another scenario that's been beat to death is move Hodgson to Money's wing and give him anything more than fourth line sheltered minutes. If Higgins re-ups I wouldn't mind seeing him complete the third line either. Besides Samuelsson there isn't much internally to work with internally; I don't think Oreskovich (RFA) is ready for increased duties and Tambellini isn't a priority to return.

Finding a scorer for Kesler isn't an easier. If Gillis doesn't have the stones to wheel and deal, then he's looking at a mixed market of humanity. The LW RFAs (Parise, Ladd notably) have been rosterbated to death. The best LW UFA names floating around are Brooks Laich, Jussi Jokinen, Ville Leino, Simon Gagne and Tomas Kopecky. Leino and Jokinen should be re-upped this week, Gagne is too expensive on top of being too brittle and I'll pass on Kopecky thanks. Laich is a bigger body that certainly fits the mold of a player GMMG would rip the heart out of a dove for, but he'll have no shortage of suitors plus I'd rather see him with Malhotra than Kesler. Digging a bit deeper there are guys like Sean Bergenheim, Fabian Brunnstrom (just kidding), Brandon Dubinsky (yes please) and Alexei Ponikarovsky (noooooo). For shits and giggles Niclas Bergfors, Michael Ryder, Scottie Upshall and Joel Ward are available on the right side.

What say you sports fan: if GMMG had to dive on two UFAs wingers starting this weekend to fill in Torres and Higgins respectively, who would you want to see? If I was the big cheese, I'd make Kesler's linemate the top priority, chat with him and then move whoever it takes to bring in a proven scoring threat. If that means losing Hodgson or worse still Schneider, so be it.

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