Key Arrivals: D Jason Garrison.
Key Departures: D Sami Salo, F Sammy Pahlsson, D Aaron Rome, D Marc-Andre Gragnani.
Key Decisions: Re-signed RFA G Cory Schneider to 3-year, $12-million US contract; re-signed F Alex Burrows to 4-year, $18-million extension; retained head coach Alain Vigneault.
2011-12 record: 51-22-9, won Presidents’ Trophy. Eliminated in first playoff round by Los Angeles.
Last year’s story
Coming off an epic seven-game Stanley Cup final defeat to Boston in 2011, Vancouver won its second Presidents’ Trophy in a row. But the Canucks flamed out in the first playoff round, exiting in five games to the eventual-champion Kings. Meanwhile, a simmering goaltending controversy reached its boiling point after Game 2 of the playoffs, when coach Alain Vigneault replaced 0-2 Roberto Luongo with Cory Schneider.
Even though Schneider lost two of the next three games, it seemed the torch had been passed to the backup, who posted superior numbers in the regular season. Luongo appeared resigned to that fate when he indicated he’d be open to a trade, but he remains on the roster (for now).
This year’s outlook
Job No. 1 for GM Mike Gillis is to work out a Luongo deal. Given the veteran’s enormous contract (10 years remaining at an annual cap hit of $5.33 million), the return could be small. Schneider appears to be a capable replacement (.933 save percentage in 58 starts over the last two seasons), though it’s uncertain how he’ll handle the workload and pressure (and perhaps tougher opponents) that come with being a No. 1 goalie. Jason Garrison was signed away from Florida to bolster an already productive power play after potting nine goals with the man advantage last season (second-most among NHL defencemen).
Gillis didn’t add any impact forwards, but he’s still got a strong unit led by the silky Sedin brothers and the sandpapery Alex Burrows, who’s averaged 29 goals over the last four seasons. The big question surrounds the health of two-way centre Ryan Kesler, who’s recovering from off-season shoulder and wrist surgeries. There’s still no timetable for his return.