Falling in the shadows
By Josh Martin, Sports Editor
Approaching August, my patience for the Canucks is growing thin: they have yet to get rid of the monstrous burden on their backs—Roberto Luongo—and they still need to land that top-six forward… Shane Doan, anybody? With big-name free agents slowly getting plucked by their newly respected teams, time is becoming the biggest issue for the Canucks who have only made one significant signing this off-season with defensemen Jason Garrison. And with the loss of fan-favourite Sami Salo and his cannon on the point along with the injury to Ryan Kesler—which will likely have him out until November to December—they are no longer looking like a Stanley Cup contender, especially with other teams making such a splash in the free agent market.
Minnesota arguably made the biggest splash this off-season, acquiring the top two free agents who were available—defensemen Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise. Suter was a cornerstone to the Nashville Predators success and worked as captain Shea Weber’s henchman, while Parise captained the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals. Both players signed twin $98-million 13-year deals with the Wild and will instantly upgrade the team, joining other notable stars Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu, and Pierre–Marc Bouchard. This all means that the Northwest Division just got a lot more difficult for the Canucks, who have taken home the Division title for the past four seasons, without breaking a sweat. The Wild are going to be a viable force for the next decade.
The Carolina Hurricanes have also made it clear that they’re serious about making a run at the cup this year with the additions of forwards Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin. Staal who had 25 goals and 25 assists in 62 games with the Penguins last year will be joining his brother and captain Eric Staal with the ‘Canes. He also signed a 10-year extension worth $6 million a year. Now they just need their other brother, Marc Staal of the New York Rangers to join the team and they’re set.
Imagine all the brothers playing on the same line!
Semin joins the team as well, coming off a disappointing season with the Washington Capitals having scored only 21 goals and 54 points. A far cry from his career-best 40 goals and 84 points back in the 2009-10 season. He will be getting a fresh start with the team after signing a one-year deal worth $7 million.
The New York Rangers can’t stop smiling and are looking like Stanley Cup favourites as of right now with their recent acquisition of superstar forward Rick Nash. A frustrated Nash wanted out of Columbus—a team which he was tired of leading after nine long and grueling NHL seasons—to a team where he could actually play in the playoffs for a well respected hockey organization. New York landed him and they now look extremely dangerous.
Nash joins an all-star cast made up of Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, Michael Del Zotto, and Venezia Trophy winner (as the goaltender who is adjudged to be best at his position) Henrik Lundqvist. They are going to be high-flying, fast-paced, and ridiculously talented; a sure force to be reckoned with. Look out for the Rangers this year.
With all of these teams upgrading tremendously, the Canucks have quietly lost that Cup contender status that they held with pride over the past two seasons. But maybe that’s what they need. It didn’t exactly work out for them did it? Back-to-back Presidents’ Trophy titles didn’t really help them a whole lot down the line. But right now, if the season started the Canucks aren’t looking any better than they were the past two seasons. In fact, they’re looking worse. Something has to be done.
The Luongo trade is going to happen sometime this month and if the Canucks are lucky enough they will get something decent in return because of the sizable contract that he carries. And if Shane Doan, who the Canucks have been interested in signing, decides to go elsewhere, the Luongo trade is the last card they have left in trying to make their team stronger, especially since most of the big fish in free agency has been caught.