BOSTON – Sunday musings going into Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final:
If the Vancouver Canucks manage to turn the tide of this series by winning the Stanley Cup on the road Monday night, they’ll be able to savor their victory before undoubtedly bidding farewell to some of the players who helped them win it.
The Canucks basically have about $18 million in cap room to spend on 10 players who were on their roster for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final.
And while it certainly won’t be Chicago Blackhawks-like in its severity – the Canucks will likely wait until after the Stanley Cup parade (if they win) to start dismantling – it will be noticeable. The big difference is most of the Canucks who leave will do so as unrestricted free agents, whereas the Blackhawks were able to parlay their salary dumps into a couple of trades.
Likely the most dramatic moves will come on a defense corps that has been lauded all year for its depth of talent. Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo, Christian Ehrhoff and Andrew Alberts are all slated to become unrestricted free agents July 1. The big decision for the Canucks seems to come down to whether they’ll give a big-money, long-term contract to Bieksa or Ehrhoff. The speculation is the Canucks will try as hard as they can to keep Bieksa.
Among forwards, Chris Higgins, Raffi Torres, Tanner Glass and Jeff Tambellini are also scheduled to become UFAs July 1.
As far as restricted free agency goes, two-thirds of the Canucks third line, arguably their best all-round line throughout the series so far, is up for new contracts. Game 5 overtime hero Maxim Lapierre and Game 1 hero Jannik Hansen will both become RFAs and will have arbitration rights.
Hansen is an intriguing case. He’s coming off successive campaigns in which he signed one-year deals and will undoubtedly want a significant bump from the $825,000 he made this season and the security of a multi-year deal. His speed and skill have been on full display in the Stanley Cup final and the feeling is that if he were on a team with less depth than the Canucks, he would be a front-line player.
Amid speculation he is playing injured, Ryan Kesler didn’t join his teammates for practice Sunday morning, but Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said there is nothing major to it.
“He’s fine, just gave him a day off,” Vigneault said. “That’s all.”
An interesting little verbal jousting match between the two goalies has emerged in this Stanley Cup final. Much has been made of Roberto Luongo’s comment concerning the goal that Thomas failed to stop in Game 5 and Saturday Luongo pointed out that Thomas had yet to say anything positive about him during this series.
“I guess I didn’t realize it was my job to pump his tires,” Thomas said. “I guess I have to apologize for that.”
Despite road teams having a lot of success in the first three rounds of the playoffs, home teams have held a mind-boggling 28-8 record (.778 winning percentage) in the Stanley Cup final, including a 5-0 mark in this series and a combined 11-2 mark in 2009 and 2010.
TD Garden has obviously been a nightmare for Luongo in this series, but he said Game 6 is all about having fun.
“I think all year long I’ve been comfortable on the road and at home, so that doesn’t make a difference for me,” Luongo said. “I don’t want to start making excuses for what happened here in the first two games. As a team, we got away from the game plan, myself included.”
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