Simpson: Canucks face some tough decisions over summer

By: Scott Simpson, Contributing Writer

(CarsonBaller14/Flickr)

As they entered the 2011-12 NHL season, the Vancouver Canucks were on a mission to take care of some unfinished business in the Stanley Cup Final. A year hyped as “Cup or Bust” for the Western Conference’s top team instead ended with more question marks than answers.

After an early exit in the first round of the 2012 playoffs, symbolizing yet another year of underachievement, the Canucks management will surely have a busy summer ahead of them trying to get some of those questions answered.

Of course, the biggest off-season question is who will be the starting goaltender for the Nucks next season: Roberto Luongo or Cory Schneider? The question surfaced after head coach Alain Vigneault decided to start Cory Schneider in place of Roberto Luongo for the final three games of the first round series with the Los Angeles Kings (although both players would downplay the situation at the time.)

In Luongo, Vancouver has a goaltender that has 10 years remaining on a massive 12 year 64 million dollar contract. Remember that he carried the club to within a win of their first ever Stanley Cup title.

Schneider on the other hand, is the unflappable goaltender that, despite losing two of the three games he started in the 2012 playoffs, posted a goals against average of 2.00.

So now what you do with a number one goalie that clearly is unwilling to take a larger cut to the number of games he plays. Cory Schneider is a restricted free agent this summer and is due for a sizeable raise on the $900,000 he was making this season. With today’s teams dealing with a salary cap, cap space is so critical and this is why Roberto must be sent packing.

As for where Luongo will go, I see five destinations that make the most sense from a Canucks perspective: Columbus, Tampa Bay, Florida, Toronto, the wildcard being Chicago.

The most likely destination for Luongo would be Florida or Tampa Bay because the Canucks would only be haunted by Roberto once a year.

I think if Vancouver offers up Luongo and Mason Raymond, they could get Ryan Malone back. Depending on how Zach Kassian pans out, the Canucks could use another physical crash and bang type power forward who can contribute to the team’s secondary scoring.

Another area Vancouver needs to address is at the centre position. With Ryan Kesler sidelined for six months due to shoulder surgery and Samme Pahlsson an unrestricted free agent, the Canucks will certainly need to fill the void.

Although it’s merely speculation, many have suggested the San Jose Sharks will be looking to move some pieces, one potentially being veteran centre/wing, Patrick Marleau. That said, Marleau has been a Shark since he entered the league at 18 and it is still uncertain whether or not he’s even an option. Plus, his cap hit is $6.9 million and he’s not a UFA until 2014.

There’s no doubt that GM Mike Gillis will have some tough decisions to make, but what he renders over the summer is hard to say. One thing is for sure this offseason: at least one name will be added to the goalie graveyard that has become Vancouver.

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