There was a lot wrong with the Vancouver Canucks this past season. Their goaltending was mediocre, the defense had its share of holes and the offense was sorely lacking. But Canucks GM Jim Benning has attempted to address all three areas in one fell swoop with a trio of signings in free agency.
Starting with the attack, the Canucks have tried to address the lack of offense with the signing of Sam Gagner, 27, to a three-year, $9.45-million deal, and the hope is that Gagner’s 18-goal, 50-point resurgence in 2016-17 is a sign that he’s found his scoring touch again after some trying seasons in Edmonton, Arizona and Philadelphia over the past three campaigns. Anything that resembles his past season’s production would be an incredibly welcome addition in Vancouver, too, because the Canucks were almost bereft of point production this past season.
Vancouver’s offense was the 29th-ranked in the NHL in 2016-17, putting up 178 goals over the course of the season, and the only team to manage fewer goals was the historically poor Colorado Avalanche. Leading the attack in Vancouver were Bo Horvat, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin, but the trio managed 52, 50 and 44 points, respectively. That means Gagner, who was inked to a meager one-year, $650,000 deal by the Columbus Blue Jackets last summer, would have been one of the Canucks’ top scorers.
Gagner isn’t the only addition that will help that attack, though, as Vancouver has landed Michael Del Zotto on a two-year, $6-million contact. Del Zotto won’t be confused with a top-tier shutdown defender, but his offensive capabilities make him a really intriguing acquisition. The 27-year-old rearguard has had some up and down seasons in the past few years, but he’s capable of putting up big numbers as an offensive rearguard. An example of his potential? During the 2014-15 campaign, Del Zotto notched 10 goals and 32 points in 64 games.
However, it’s no given that Del Zotto will produce at that level. Over the past two seasons, Del Zotto has scored a combined 10 goals and 31 points in 103 games, so he can be hot and cold as far as offense goes. Regardless of what he puts up, however, Del Zotto is a power play quarterback and that’s something of which the Canucks were in dire need. Vancouver had the 29th-ranked power play, operating at a mere 14.1 percent, in 2016-17, and boosting that is of utmost importance if the Canucks want to get out of the league’s basement offensively.
Finally, Vancouver has managed to bolster their crease by inking Anders Nilsson to a two-year, $5-million deal. Nilsson may not have been the most sought after goaltender on the free agent market — Steve Mason, Brian Elliott and Ryan Miller were the most notable names — but the now-former Buffalo Sabres netminder might be a sneaky-good addition in Vancouver. This past season, Nilsson managed a .923 SP in 23 appearances for the Sabres, and he’ll no doubt push Jacob Markstrom.
To say any of the deals make the Canucks a playoff team would be a stretch, but all three additions fill holes that Vancouver needed to address and only stand to help the team stay somewhat competitive during its transition period.