Roberto Luongo will likely be involved in trade speculation throughout the season. (Getty Images)
Vancouver Canucks hockey fans hoping GM Mike Gillis would shop around this summer to bolster his lineup were left disappointed when his only acquisition of note was veteran winger Marco Sturm.
Gillis, however, recently told the Canadian Press he believes the Canucks are “a really strong team” and didn't see any significant weaknesses.
His critics will undoubtedly point to the lack of second line scoring depth, a problem aggravated by right winger Mason Raymond's ongoing recovery from a back injury (which will keep him out until at least November).
Another, potentially misplaced, concern is the Canucks lack of size and grit on their forward lines. Gillis dismissed these trepidations by expressing confidence his team had enough skill and toughness.
The Canucks GM didn't rule out further additions if the right offer came along, but pointed out the kind of players who would be a good fit on the Canucks simply aren't available.
Another factor is salary cap space. Presently the Canucks have a little more than $2.3 million remaining, which at this time of year isn’t enough to land the kind of impact player to mollify Gillis' critics.
The Canucks performance throughout this season will determine what moves, if any, Gillis needs to make. If Vancouver remains among the top teams in the West, he'll likely wait until the trade deadline nears to add depth for another run at the Stanley Cup (as he did in 2010-11 when he picked up Christopher Higgins and Maxim Lapierre).
Some fans have called for Gillis to shop one of his two goalies and the invitation of former NHL netminder Manny Legace to training camp has given rise to wild speculation Roberto Luongo or Cory Schneider will be dealt.
Luongo carries a massive contract with a no-movement clause, so the odds of dealing him are remote at best.
Schneider has been touted as a valuable trade chip, but currently there's no market for goaltenders, certainly not enough of one to fetch a return worthy of addressing the Canucks perceived weaknesses.
If Legace performs well during training camp, he'll either get a spot on their farm team as a depth goalie or his performance might entice a rival club to send him a contract offer.
PANTHERS SPENDING STARTS A TREND
The Florida Panthers payroll sat well below the cap floor heading into the summer, forcing them to make considerable waves in the trade and free agent market to become cap compliant.
Following their early summer spending spree, which included trading for Brian Campbell and Kris Versteeg, plus signing UFAs Ed Jovanovski, Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall and Jose Theodore, their current payroll ($49.8 million) sits barely above the mandated salary cap minimum of $48.3 million.
Depending upon where the salary cap is set for 2012-13 (and assuming we’re not in the midst of another labor war), there could be five other teams that will need to follow the Panthers lead next summer and spend big to reach the cap floor.
Capgeek.com presently lists five teams – the Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators, New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes and St. Louis Blues – with payrolls between $20 and $29 million committed to 2012-13.
The Avalanche currently have $20.6 million invested in seven players, the Predators have $23 million tied up in nine players, the Islanders $25.3 million in nine players, the Coyotes $23.8 million in 11 players and the Blues $29.7 million in 11 players.
Those numbers will, of course, change over the course of the season as players are re-signed or others brought in. Another factor that could affect how much they'll spend will be where the cap floor number is set after the next round of CBA talks.
If the floor doesn't drop significantly (and depending on re-signings and additions), one or more of those clubs will be a big spender next summer.
ZYUZIN SETS EXPECTATIONS TOO HIGH
Former NHL defenseman Andrei Zyuzin, who's spent the past three seasons in Russia's Kontinental League, is reportedly seeking a return to the NHL.
Zyuzin received a one-year contract offer from the San Jose Sharks, with whom he made his NHL debut in 1997-98, according to Dmitry Chesnokov of Yahoo Sports. Zyuzin’s agent claimed the offer was rejected because it was well below $1 million.
It’s doubtful Zyuzin, a 33-year-old with 496 games of NHL experience, will find a suitor if he's looking for $1 million or more.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.