Among the most glaring weaknesses of the Jim Benning-Trevor Linden management team has been their inability to assess value in free agency. The most glaring example is, of course, Loui Eriksson’s six-year, $36 million contract, which will likely prove to be unmovable for the club. However, one could also point to the recent signings of Michael Del Zotto, Sam Gagner, and Anders Nilsson as overpayments, while some even bring up the Ryan Miller contract in the discussion. The club even tried to lock up Milan Lucic, who has proven to be disastrous in Edmonton. There are some plauers on the market this summer that could have their names on that list this coming summer, and the Canucks should look to avoid this at all costs.
Some of the high-profile names that look to be available come July 1st include Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, Vegas Golden Knights winger James Neal, and Washington Capitals defenceman John Carlson. While all fine players in their own right, it makes no particular sense for Vancouver to target any of them. All three will command big money on the market, and but would only make a considerable difference on a team closer to contention.
Indeed, spots that would be taken by any of those three, or others, should be prioritized for younger pieces. The likes of Elias Pettersson and Adam Gaudette will, at the very least, challenge for spots next season, and the team should be forward thinking in this respect. If a forward of that caliber is brought in, a top-six spot will almost certainly be reserved them. This makes things complicated logistically, particularly if the Henrik and Daniel Sedin are brought back, which seems fairly likely at this point. On defence, it’s a similar story. The likes of Troy Stecher and Derrick Pouliot will look to adopt bigger roles next year, which will be limited by the signing of a big-name UFA. Additionally, top prospect Olli Juolevi looks to challenge for a full-time roster spot, which, again, will become increasingly unlikely with the restriction of lineup slots.
Beyond a lineup-based situation, such a move would make little sense from a cap or long-term vision perspective. The team is already strapped by the likes of Erik Gudbranson, Brandon Sutter, and the aforementioned Eriksson, players who find themselves largely in depth positions. Should a van Riemsdyk or a Neal not work out, or fall off - something not out of the question at 28- and 30-year-old respectively - you can add their names to that group. For a team supposedly in the midst of a youth movement, it would be a lot of cap space dedicated to individuals not necessarily helping contribute to the holistic vision for the club.
The Canucks organization has largely lacked an identity for a number of years now. If they choose to target a brand name in free agency this year, that trend looks to only further continue. It is certainly in their best interests to hold off from doing so, and to put full emphasis on building a championship roster down the road.