For each player on the cap currently, here is my opinion on what the Canucks should do with them during the 2016 offseason.
Options: KEEP, TRADE, RE-SIGN, LET GO, SEND DOWN, WAIVE, BUYOUT
Ordered by cap hit:
Daniel Sedin, LW, 35
Contract: NMC, 2 years remaining at $7mil hit
KEEP: An obvious choice. The Sedins will retire Canucks, and ideally help mentor the incoming youth as they slide into secondary scoring roles.
Henrik Sedin, C, 35
Contract: NMC, 2 years remaining at $7mil hit
KEEP: See above.
Radim Vrbata, RW, 34
LET GO: Another easy choice here. Vrbata pouted his way through a season that was full of disinterest and disappointment. He’ll probably find NHL work, but it won’t be in Vancouver.
Brandon Sutter, C, 27
Contract: 5 years remaining at $4.375mil hit
KEEP: Sutter looked good as a Canuck when he was healthy, which wasn’t very often. His versatility and relative youth will make him a valuable “bridge” player as the team reboots.
Alex Burrows, RW, 35
Contract: Partial NTC, 1 year remaining at $4.5mil hit
KEEP: I don’t see the Canucks being in any dire need of cap next season, so why not keep Burrows around in a 4th line role? There are other ways to clear out roster spots, especially given the low or negative value Burrows holds on the trade market.
Derek Dorsett, RW, 29
Contract: 3 years remaining at $2.65mil hit
KEEP: Like Burrows, Dorsett won’t have much value on the trade market. Also like Burrows, Dorsett can still play a few valuable roles on the team. Dorsett’s willingness to play his role shone through in comparison to Brandon Prust’s sour attitude this season. One of Dorsett’s best traits is that he absorbs a lot of attention from opponents that might be directed elsewhere.
Jannik Hansen, RW, 30
Contract: Partial NTC, 2 years remaining at $2.5mil hit
TRADE: The first of a few tough calls. As mentioned above, the Canucks will be looking to open up some roster spots for younger players this offseason. While they could accomplish this by dumping Burrows, Dorsett, or others, trading Hansen allows them to clear space while gaining some serious value and opening up a meaningful role. Hansen’s return would ideally be a 1st round pick.
Chris Higgins, LW, 32
Contract: Partial NTC, 1 year remaining at $2.5mil hit
BUYOUT or TRADE (with retention): The number one priority with Chris Higgins should be getting him out of the way. He will not be on the NHL roster, and doesn’t do much good down in Utica. If we can trade him with a bit of retention, that is ideal, and if not, we should buy him out.
Brandon Prust, C, 32
LET GO: Prust will have a tough time finding NHL work next year, and it certainly won’t be in Vancouver.
Linden Vey, C, 24
RE-SIGN: Despite some negativity from the fans, Vey had a pretty decent season. He still has potential to develop into a regular NHL player, so why let that value go for free? No reason not to retain his services.
Sven Baertschi, LW, 23
RE-SIGN: Absolutely no reason not to re-sign Baertschi, who broke out in a big way this season.
Jared McCann, C, 19
Contract: 2 years left in ELC
KEEP, BUT SEND DOWN: I don’t buy rumours of McCann’s bad attitude. He seems like a great teammate, and should be kept barring an unbelievable offer. However, McCann should start next season in Utica. He has some high-end offensive potential, and playing on the top line in Utica should be great for developing it. Ideally, he works his way back onto the NHL roster by midseason.
Jake Virtanen, RW, 19
Contract: 2 years left in ELC
KEEP: While the same could be said about Virtanen as McCann, Virtanen’s physical game should be allowed to mature at the NHL level. He will have the opportunity to play himself up the lineup.
Bo Horvat, C, 21
Contract: 1 year left in ELC
KEEP: Horvat is untouchable.
Emerson Etem, LW, 23
KEEP: This one comes with a caveat. Etem is arbitration eligible. If he manages to lever his late-season surge into a large arbitration payout, the Canucks should walk away. If they can re-sign Etem at a reasonable rate, however, they should do it.
Anton Rodin, RW, 25
Contract: 1 year remaining at $950thou hit
KEEP: The Canucks didn’t sign Rodin to play in the minors. He will start the 2016-17 season in Vancouver.
Markus Granlund, C, 23
KEEP: Granlund is not arbitration eligible, and the Canucks will be able to re-sign him for fairly cheap. Granlund showed enough skill to earn an extended look at the NHL level.
Brendan Gaunce, C, 22
Contract: 1 year remaining on ELC
KEEP: Gaunce is one of the players that the Canucks should be clearing space for, so that they can see what he can do at the NHL level and not risk losing him to waivers.
Ludwig Blomstrand, LW, 23
LET GO: It is abundantly clear that, despite ECHL success, Blomstrand is not going to get his chance in Utica. Let him seek opportunity elsewhere.
Ronalds Kenins, LW, 25
LET GO: Kenins regressed heavily this year at both the AHL and NHL level. He likely doesn’t have a future in the Canucks organization.
Alex Grenier, RW, 24
RE-SIGN: Grenier has continued to look great at the AHL level, and there’s no reason not to keep him around for another NHL audition. Worst case scenario, they lose him to waivers.
Alex Friesen, C, 25
RE-SIGN: Friesen is a valuable depth player who can help develop our prospects in Utica and serve as a call-up in a pinch. Has continued to improve each season.
Mike Zalewski, LW, 23
RE-SIGN: Zalewski earned an NHL contract with his offensive outburst in Utica this year, and it is worth keeping him around to see how he progresses.
Blair Jones, C, 29
LET GO: Utica will need some depth players, but there will hopefully be better options available.
Alex Edler, D, 29
Contract: NTC, 3 years remaining at $5mil hit
TRADE: If the Canucks re-sign Hamhuis, they should explore trading Edler. His contract should make him extra valuable, and if the Canucks can return a high pick and/or some quality prospects for Edler, they should pull the trigger.
Dan Hamhuis, D, 33
RE-SIGN: Hamhuis shows serious willingness to take a discount to re-sign with the Canucks, and the team should definitely take advantage of it. Hamhuis looked especially good after returning from his frightening injuries, and probably has 3-4 years left as a top-4 defenseman.
Chris Tanev, D, 26:
Contract: 4 years left at $4.45mil hit
KEEP: Like Horvat, Tanev should be untouchable. On a bargain contract.
Luca Sbisa, D, 26
Contract: 2 years left at $3.6mil hit
TRADE: If the Canucks can truly trade Sbisa as Jim Benning says, they should do it. He has been surpassed by younger players and his inability to stay healthy is all the more reason to part ways. I would be okay with a low value return, but ideally no salary retention.
Matt Bartkowski, D, 27
LET GO: Bartkowski may have been celebrated as a “tank commander,” but having him on the team has to be terrible for our goalies’ confidence. With Markstrom stepping into the starting role and Demko hopefully appearing soon, get Bartkowski far away from Vancouver.
Yannick Weber, D, 27
LET GO: Weber recently complained about his usage, but he really did nothing to earn more time. His 2014-15 season looks like an anomaly, and Weber shouldn’t be retained.
Nikita Tryamkin, D, 21
Contract: 1 year remaining at $925thou hit
KEEP: Tryamkin looked even better than expected in his brief NHL audition. The Canucks will plan on him playing a top-4 role next year.
Troy Stecher, D, 22
Contract: 2 years remaining at $925thou hit
SEND DOWN: Stecher, fresh out of college, should definitely start in Utica. Not everyone can be Ben Hutton.
Ben Hutton, D, 22
Contract: 1 year remaining at $896thou hit
KEEP: Hutton was an absolute revelation this season. He should be untouchable as well.
Andrey Pedan, D, 22
RE-SIGN: Pedan is another player who could benefit from an extended look at the NHL level. He will get it next year.
Alex Biega, D, 28
Contract: 2 years remaining at $750thou hit
KEEP: Biega is a cheap depth defenseman, who can always be waived if his play dips dramatically.
Taylor Fedun, D, 27
RE-SIGN: If Fedun is okay with staying in Utica, they should keep him. He provided valuable depth there this year.
Joe Cannata, G, 26
LET GO: Hopefully, the team will sign Thatcher Demko, and will need to clear a slot in Utica. Demko can share the crease with Richard Bachman.
Ryan Miller, G, 35
Contract: 1 year remaining at $6 mil hit
KEEP: Demko should do a year in Utica before playing a backup role in Vancouver, so there is no reason not to keep Miller for another season. Miller could even hold some value at the trade deadline.
Jacob Markstrom, G, 26
Contract: 1 year remaining at $1.55mil hit
KEEP: Markstrom looked ready to be an NHL starter this season, and will likely start at least 60% of the games next season.
(The following are prospects/minor leaguers without expiring contracts, and are unlikely to be dealt unless they are part of a larger package)
Jordan Subban, Guillaume Brisebois, Joe Labate, Ashton Sautner, Mackenze Stewart, Anton Cedarholm, Cole Cassels, Evan McEneny, Richard Bachman