Major New Additions: Loui Eriksson, Erik Gudbranson, Philip Larsen, Anton Rodin
Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Loui Eriksson
Sven Baertschi-Bo Horvat-Jake Virtanen
Jannik Hansen-Brandon Sutter-Anton Rodin
Emerson Etem-Markus Granlund-Derek Dorsett
Alex Burrows/Brendan Gaunce
Alex Edler-Chris Tanev
Ben Hutton-Erik Gudbranson
Luca Sbisa-Nikita Tryamkin
Philip Larsen/Andrey Pedan
First Call-ups: Mike Zalewski, Alex Grenier, Jayson Megna, Borna Rendulic, Alex Biega, Jordan Subban.
Strengths: Solid depth throughout the lineup, with multiple pieces that can slide up and down various lines. This team has three potential scoring lines and a solid top-four defense. They will be a much more physical team than last year, with Erik Gudbranson and Nikita Tryamkin leading the charge.
Weaknesses: The team still lacks an elite presence on both offense and defense. The Sedins were once elite and still show it at times, but cannot be expected to reach the heights of their prime. Loui Eriksson will help, but don’t expect a point-per-game from any of them. Alex Edler and Chris Tanev are both great defenseman, but neither is an elite minute-muncher.
Here’s hoping that Brock Boeser and Olli Juolevi can soon fill these gaps, along with whoever the team drafts in 2017.
Potential Waiver Losses: Alex Grenier is almost certainly not making this roster, but he might fit in on another 4th line somewhere and is a likely candidate to be plucked on waivers. The same goes for Alex Biega.
However, things might be even worse than that. With the current roster, the Canucks need to make a tough choice. If they carry 8 defensemen, then they will need to waive and send down one of the extra forwards. This would be one of Alex Burrows, Emerson Etem, Markus Granlund, or Derek Dorsett. Or they could send down Brendan Gaunce without waivers. It would most likely be Etem waived as Burrows and Dorsett are veterans with expensive contracts, and both Gaunce and Granlund can play center.
The team can avoid this if Anton Rodin flames out in training camp and doesn’t make the team, or if they choose to send down Jake Virtanen, who doesn’t need waivers. Another option would be a trade, such as cashing in on Jannik Hansen now as I have suggested in the past.
The Canucks can also avoid this by going with 7 defenseman and 14 forwards, but this would necessitate the waiving of either Andrey Pedan or Philip Larsen in addition to Biega. Unless Larsen completely sucks in training camp, neither player should be waived, and the Canucks usually carry 8 defenseman, anyway.
Projected Finish: The Canucks are definitely better than last year, with Loui Eriksson and Erik Gudbranson being improvements on Radim Vrbata and Dan Hamhuis. As well, replacing some of the dead weight with intriguing young players could pay off big time. A full season from Brandon Sutter will also be a huge help.
However, the teams around the Canucks don’t really show any signs of sliding in the standings. Edmonton and Arizona, our basement buddies, have both improved by leaps and bounds. The California teams look poised to continue their dominance. Only Calgary seems likely to challenge the Canucks for last in the Pacific Division.
I predict the Canucks finish right around where they did last year, or perhaps a few spots higher.
Predictable Deadline Deals: If Anton Rodin pans out at all, Jannik Hansen needs to be traded at the deadline. He would almost certainly be scooped up in the Expansion Draft and could net a huge return from a contender.
Players on expiring contracts like Ryan Miller, Alex Burrows, and Emerson Etem might make attractive rentals, especially if the Canucks retain salary on the first two.
I also expect Luca Sbisa to be traded sometime within the season as Andrey Pedan and Philip Larsen begin to outshine him on a consistent basis.