One is from the heart of the Fraser Valley and the other has been here so long he’s practically a native son, so it’s only fitting that potential UFAs Brendan Morrison and Markus Naslund will have to accept hometown discounts if they have any hope of remaining with the Vancouver Canucks next season.
This season, the Canucks are paying Naslund and Morrison a combined $9.2 million and that’s far too much cap space to be paying two offensive players for not scoring enough. To be sure, injuries have conspired against Morrison, but he has not been putting up second-line center numbers for quite some time and Naslund appears to have fallen off the face of the earth when it comes to activating the goal light.
Both have a place with the Canucks, but certainly not at anywhere the kind of money they’re earning this season. Naslund, who is pulling down $6 million this year, will have to take a significant financial haircut, or at least he should have to if GM Dave Nonis is doing his job well.
Naslund is obviously comfortable in Vancouver and has experienced the best years of his career here. Prior to coming to the Canucks in one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history in 1996, Naslund was showing signs of being nothing more than a first-round bust.
To put it succinctly, the Canucks probably owe him about as much as he owes the Canucks. And that is, to be paid at market value, or even slightly below that in order to help Vancouver set aside money to pay the high-scoring forward(s) they so desperately need. Naslund is on pace for just 57 points this season, which would be his lowest offensive total in nine seasons.
Naslund will also be 35 when next season begins and he’ll be coming off his second consecutive mediocre season, so there’s little reason to believe the Swede will suddenly begin to light it up again in what is generally recognized as the twilight of his career.
Morrison, meanwhile, had been remarkably healthy until injuries derailed him this season. But since the lockout, Morrison has been unable to establish himself as anything more than a 20-goal, 50-point player on a team where he has had ample offensive opportunity and one where more is required of him.
Simply put, the Canucks don’t score enough goals to have almost 20 percent of their cap tied up in two players whose careers are in decline. That’s why both of them will have to accept pay cuts and diminished responsibility or the Canucks will have no choice than to wave goodbye to both of them this summer.
This column also appears in the Vancouver Metro newspaper.
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