Vancouver Canucks Wheelings And Dealings: Signings And Free Agency

Craig MacTavish (Icon SMI)

With the 2012 NHL Draft and Free Agent deadline just days away, the Vancouver Canucks have made some minor moves in preparation for the new season.

The news broke last week that Chicago Wolves coach Craig MacTavish had left the farm team. MacTavish accepted a position in Edmonton as the new Vice-President of Operations after enjoying a one year spell as head coach in Chicago. A replacement for MacTavish has yet to be named but former Manitoba Moose player and coach Scott Arniel`s name has been mentioned in media circles recently.

The Canucks also announced an unusual decision regarding RFA winger Mason Raymond`s expiring contract. While many fans were expecting the speedy forward to leave the club this summer, the organisation has decided to take him to arbitration to adjust his salary. As per the Canucks official website;

“For the first time in team history the Canucks have activated a mechanism that exists in the collective bargaining agreement where, in lieu of tendering a qualifying offer to Raymond, the team will invoke salary arbitration to have his salary adjusted.”

Basically the club are looking to reduce Raymond’s salary from the $2.6 million he was paid last season to a maximum 15% less, as decided by an arbitrator, meaning Raymond will be guaranteed to earn no less than $2.21 million next season. The decision is a strange one from the club as popular fan opinion was calling for Raymond be traded due to his lack of production since his serious back injury. The Canucks have shown belief in Raymond but going down this route for contract negotiations is uncharted waters for the club and may backfire if Raymond is unhappy with the decision.

The Canucks have also re-signed tough forward Aaron Volpatti to a one year, $600,000 deal. The 6’1, 215 pound grinder was starting to find his game on the 4th line last year until suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. In a total of 38 NHL games, Volpatti has recorded 97 hits and sat in the box for 57 penalty minutes, good numbers on a team that it often criticized for being too “soft”.

Volpatti’s size and willingness to fight, makes him a decently priced, depth player for the team, especially when playing against tough opponents. Last season, he was credited with 5 fights, squaring off with combatants such as the 6’5 Brad Winchester and notorious tough-man Jordin Tootoo. Volpatti should bring some excitement to the bottom line and being a native of Revelstoke, BC will help him win over fans amongst the pool of depth 4th liners the Canucks possess.

Sami Pahlsson, acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets by the Canucks at the trade deadline late last season, was seen as a short-term replacement for the departing Cody Hodgson on the 3rd line. While the Swede showed glimpses of his ability, he did not do enough to impress the Canucks management with only 7 points in 24 games. The veteran 34-year-old is rumoured to have agreed terms with the Modo team in Sweden, the same club he played for before moving to the Boston Bruins in 2000/1.

The remaining UFA players in the Canucks system include:

Nolan Baumgartner, Byron Bitz, Matt Climie, Andrew Ebbett, Mark Mancari, Steven Pinizzotto, Aaron Rome, Steve Reinprecht and veteran defenceman Sami Salo.

Out of the above list, Andrew Ebbett and Aaron Rome are two depth players that many expect to be offered new deals, both having played regularly last season, Ebbett managed 19 games despite injury and Aaron Rome has been in and around the club for the past 3 seasons. The Sami Salo decision will be the players alone and if he did choose to continue playing, the Canucks would be very interested in retaining the 37-year-old veterans’ services for at least one more season.

The views of GM Mike Gillis on the upcoming NHL Draft and Free Agent deadline via Canucks TV: