Canucks: Five Things You Need To Know
By Pierre LeBrun
The window won't be open for too much longer, but the Vancouver Canucks remain a contender despite their first-round loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Kings last spring.
With the Roberto Luongo trade situation hanging over the team as camp opened, the Canucks certainly aren't done tinkering with their roster after adding top-four blueliner Jason Garrison in free agency last summer.
Head coach Alain Vigneault was brought back with a new contract despite the playoff collapse and that's only fair given his impressive track record in Vancouver.
But as always in hockey-mad Vancouver, a market still devoid of a Cup title, the pressure will be insane to get there again this year.
1. Bobby Lu In Limbo
Roberto Luongo won't end the season as a Canuck, but the question is how long Vancouver will take before pulling the trigger. Respectfully opening himself to a trade after last season to open the door for the emerging Cory Schneider, the veteran Luongo has been a pro about his situation and showed up to camp while awaiting his trade. The Canucks insist they'll be patient and won't give Luongo away for the sake of moving him. But he'll be dealt, no question.
2. Canucks' Slow Start?
Only four Canucks played overseas during the lockout, and that's including Schneider, who played only a month, and Mason Raymond, who played only a week. So this is not a club that has its game legs under it. It's a recipe for a slow start as the shortened season beckons, especially given the injury to Ryan Kesler.
3. Kesler Hurt
Did we mention Kesler? The second-line center was slated to miss at least the first three to four weeks of the season, but it would be up to two months as he recovers from offseason surgeries to both his left shoulder and left wrist. The Canucks aren't particularly deep at center after star Henrik Sedin and Kesler, having lost No. 3 center Samuel Pahlsson. And with Kesler out for a while, who steps up? The options are Chris Higgins, Jordan Schroeder or Andrew Ebbett? All of which reinforces the point that the Canucks need to acquire decent forward depth in return for Luongo.
4. Cory's Shot
After two NHL seasons as Roberto Luongo's backup, which followed three AHL seasons of tutelage, the 26-year-old Schneider finally gets his shot, which Canucks fans have been clamoring for. His NHL numbers certainly suggest he's No. 1 material -- a sparkling .928 save percentage and 2.24 GAA in 68 career contests in the big show. But a funny thing happens when you're suddenly handed the No. 1 job: pressure comes with it. All eyes will be on the likeable New England native to see how he copes.
5. Garrison's Home
Vancouver's big offseason addition was blueliner Jason Garrison, who signed for big coin at six years and $27.6 million. The local product -- a native of White Rock, B.C. -- essentially replaces the departed Sami Salo in a Canucks blueline corps that remains a strength of the team (Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, Alexander Edler, Andrew Alberts, Keith Ballard, Chris Tanev, Cam Barker). Garrison was third among NHL defensemen with 16 goals in Florida last season and his big blast will mesh well on the power play with the precision passes of the Sedin twins. This was a solid signing by the Canucks.
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.
Experience: Entering 10th full NHL season
Stanley Cup titles: 0
Infirmary: Ryan Kesler
Recent comments from Kesler's agent, Kurt Overhardt, to TSN.ca do nothing to inspire confidence: "Our goal for Ryan is that he's able to play the next 10 years, not the next two months." That doesn't sound encouraging when, in this case, two months can represent more than 60 percent of the season. That said, Kesler is worth the risk at some point in a fantasy draft because of his on-ice ability to stuff most categories. If you are feeling confident in your draft after 80 forwards are off the board, consider stashing him away for the stretch run. If he returns during fantasy playoff time, he is going to do damage for your team or one of your opponents. -- Sean Allen
Who's On The Move
The offseason signings/acquisitions and departures for the Canucks:
• June 15: Re-signed LW Aaron Volpatti.
• June 29: Re-signed G Cory Schneider.
• July 1: Signed D Jason Garrison.
• July 2: Re-signed C Andrew Ebbett.
• July 5: Signed D Derek Joslin.
• July 9: Re-signed LW Mason Raymond.
• July 25: Re-signed RW Dale Weise.
• July 30: Re-signed RW Guillaume Desbiens.
• Sept. 14: Re-signed LW Alex Burrows.
• D Sami Salo (unrestricted free agent, signed by Tampa Bay)
• D Aaron Rome (unrestricted free agent, signed by Dallas)
• D Marc-Andre Gragnani (unrestricted free agent, signed by Carolina)
• RW Mark Mancari (unrestricted free agent, signed by Buffalo)
• RW Byron Bitz (unrestricted free agent)
• RW Mike Duco (unrestricted free agent)
• RW Victor Oreskovich (unrestricted free agent)
• C Samuel Pahlsson (unrestricted free agent)