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Canucks conundrum

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Eliminated from the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second straight year by the Chicago Blackhawks, the Vancouver Canucks can expect to face a summer of questions from the local fans and media over their failure to advance in the post-season.

Over the past two summers, GM Mike Gillis has shown a willingness to make bold moves to improve his roster and it’s possible he’ll do so again this year.

Don’t expect Gillis to ship out big names like Roberto Luongo, Ryan Kesler or the Sedin Twins as they’re signed to long-term contracts and are the core of the club, even if some Canucks fans feel they came up short against the Blackhawks.

Damien Cox of the Toronto Star was the first pundit out of the block to speculate over Gillis’ potential moves, wondering if coach Alain Vigneault’s inability to get the Canucks past the second round will cost him his job and if a puckmoving defenseman like Toronto’s Tomas Kaberle would benefit their roster.

It remains to be seen if Vigneault returns, but it’s doubtful Gillis will try to acquire Kaberle since his obvious blueline need is for more physical defensemen.

Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun suggests stripping Luongo of the captaincy would give the goalie one less thing to worry about. MacIntyre believes Gillis should focus on building up a bigger, stronger defense in front of Luongo as well as playing tougher at the other end of the ice.

MacIntyre also believes that by not re-signing UFAs Willie Mitchell, Pavol Demitra, Kyle Wellwood and Ryan Johnson the Canucks would have around $10 million of available cap space, minus the $2-$2.5 million raise for winger Mason Raymond.

Free agent blueline possibilities include Ottawa’s Anton Volchenkov and Nashville’s Dan Hamhuis, but unless Gillis is able to free up more cap space he’s unlikely to land either guy as they each could command more than $5 million per season.

It’s possible, however, Gillis will go over the cap this summer to land the players he needs and clear cap space later. Assistant GM Laurence Gilman told the Vancouver Province teams are allowed to spend up to 10 percent more than the cap in the off-season, provided they’re under the cap by the start of next season.

• Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom is still refusing to comment about his future plans, but those within the organization, including coach Mike Babcock, are confident he’ll return next season.

When asked if he truly believed it, Babcock replied, “Of course I believe it, or I wouldn't have said it.”

Lidstrom also confirmed his son was enrolled in a Swedish school this fall, but he told The Sporting Newsnot to consider it as confirmation he’ll retire, saying he was merely keeping his options open and if he decides to return his son will go to school near Detroit.

While Lidstrom might return, fellow UFAs Andreas Lilja and Kirk Maltby might not.

Lilja expressed a wish to re-sign with the Red Wings, but Maltby mused about the possibility of signing elsewhere for next season if he cannot land a new contract in Detroit.

Lilja’s return will depend on how much he’s seeking and how much the Wings are willing to spend.

Maltby’s been a member of the Wings since the 1995-96 season and was a valuable part of their four Stanley Cup championship teams. But age and physical wear have taken its toll on the 37-year-old, meaning he might not find another NHL team to pony up if the Wings take a pass.

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays and Thursdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.

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