Canucks Watch: Finding ‘O’ in off-season priority No. 1

Since this may very well be the last installment of this column before the end of the Vancouver Canucks season – or not – we figured we’d look at the long-term future instead of the short-term.

Because, after all, trying to figure out all the permutations down the stretch for the Canucks to make the playoffs is bound to give a guy a headache. Just let them play out the games and see where the dust settles Sunday night.

But next year, well, we can look at that without getting much of a migraine. And from a perspective of having money to spend to get the offensive help the Canucks so desperately need, things actually look reasonable for them. The only thing not working in their favor is a dearth of offensive talent available in free agency.

It has generally been accepted the ceiling for the salary cap next season will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $56 million. If that’s the case, the Canucks will have about $21 million in cap room and will be basically set on defense and in goal.

As it stands, the Canucks have defensemen Kevin Bieksa ($3.75 million), Willie Mitchell ($3.5 million), Sami Salo ($3.5 million), Mattias Ohlund ($3.5 million), Lukas Krajicek ($1.1 million) and Alex Edler ($550,000) under contract for 2007-08 for a combined $15.773 million.

And while they might be in the market for a backup goalie, Roberto Luongo is under contract for a $6.75 million salary cap hit.

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They also have seven forwards – Daniel and Henrik Sedin ($3.575 million each), Ryan Kesler ($1.75 million), Taylor Pyatt ($1.575 million), Jeff Cowan ($725,000), Mason Raymond ($883,333) and Alex Burrows ($483,333) – signed for next season.

That puts the Canucks at $35.216 million committed for next season and a fair bit of money to spend. The only problem is that in unrestricted free agency – excluding captain Markus Naslund – the only elite offensive players potentially available are Daymond Langkow, Marian Hossa and Mats Sundin.

Where the Canucks might want to direct their dollars is at an emerging offensive player who is potentially entering restricted free agency July 1. The potential jewel of that group is Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks, a player the Canucks would do well to seriously consider if the Ducks don’t reach an agreement with him.

And there are others, including Jeff Carter, Wojtek Wolski, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Joe Pavelski, Nigel Dawes, Andrei Kostitsyn and Brooks Laich.

Whatever the Canucks do, it’s clear they’re going to have to use their ample cap room to find someone, anyone who can consistently create offence.

This column also appears in the Vancouver Metro newspaper.

Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to His blog appears Tuesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.

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