I'm not going to lie, I wasn't planning on spending my Canada Day inside watching TSN's 47 different panels break down the Phil Kessel trade and pay lip service to everything else. Not only are we no longer with the Vancouver Sun, the Canucks weren't expected to be particularly active in free agency, preferring to look for bargains, which are generally found later in the summer.
But then my boys came down with a contagious virus, scuttling any plans to go out to Canada Day celebrations. So I was stuck inside for the day, flipped on TSN, signed in to Twitter, and got swept up in the wackiness of free agent frenzy.
Now, what was once a liveblog is now a recap. Follow along with me as I experience the ups and downs of Jim Benning's second go-around at free agency.
8:21 am - Most upsetting thing about Free Agent Frenzy so far? The Q-Ray commercials. Like, people know that's a scam, right? "Ionized" bracelets don't work.
All I'm hoping for from the Canucks today is that they re-sign Yannick Weber. Otherwise, not giving him a qualifying offer is going to look awfully silly.
8:30 am - Jason Botchford is TSN's man in Vancouver for Free Agent Frenzy and he went bold with a purplish-pink shirt and a bright purple, blue, and pink tie. It's a great look, but it clashes badly with the Canucks' green and blue behind him on the wall. You have to colour-coordinate with your surroundings, Botch. You don't have to match, you just have to go.
8:57 am - Nevermind, the most upsetting thing about Free Agent Frenzy is the Conservative attack ads on Justin Trudeau. Not for any political reason, really, but because they're just so bad. Trudeau wants to get rid of income splitting for families, a policy that only affects, like, the top 5% of income earners? He must want to get rid of pension splitting for seniors too!It's like hockey's version of Hollywood Squares with @botchford hanging in the lower left pic.twitter.com/QIyTNvwjXq— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) July 1, 2015
That's just bad logic, not to mention flatly contradicting the facts. Man, I don't even like Trudeau, but these attack ads make me want to like him.
Anywho, enough politics; back to the FRENZY!!!
Okay, so nothing's happened since all the re-signings and extensions this morning.
9:03 am - Yesssssssss
9:06 am - Seriously, that's an amazing deal for Weber, who's likely to be a top-four defenceman for the Canucks next season and be a trigger-man on the point of the first-unit power play. $1.5 million for one year is cheap as anything.Hearing Yannick Weber will re-sign in VAN for one year and $1.5M— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 1, 2015
Of course, it makes sense for Weber as well, as with Bieksa gone, he has a great chance to establish himself on Dan Hamhuis's right side at even-strength, rack up some points with the Sedins on the power play, and cash in as an unrestricted free agent next year.
9:11 am - Oh no...oh no..."I'm going to spend a full 82 games as a right-handed trigger on the 1st PP unit with the Sedins then make $4 million a year for the next 5"— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) July 1, 2015
TSN just reported that the Canucks signed Mike Weber to a one year, $1.5 million deal. That's...embarrassing. They look utterly confused. Ray Ferraro just had to scramble for something to say about Mike Weber and had nothing.
Mike Weber, meanwhile, is still under contract with the Buffalo Sabres.
9:28 am - TSN apparently doesn't have enough cameras or something, because they keep swooping in on the panels with a steadicam rig, giving TSN's coverage a bit of a P.T. Anderson feel.
9:45 am - There have been a bunch of signings, with some good defencemen taken off the market. Matt Hunwick to the Leafs, Andrej Sekera to the Oilers, and Francois Beauchemin to the Avalanche.
The Hunwick signing is a great one for the Leafs, I like the Sekera deal for the Oilers, and the Beauchemin signing makes sense for the Avalanche, even though it's probably a year too long. I'm confused, teams are making reasonable deals. Where's all the stupid money?
9:52 am - Looks like the Canucks are losing Brad Richardson. Hard to be too broken up about it with the Canucks wanting to make room for youth, but I liked Richardson. I always thought he was underrated offensively (and a little overrated defensively).
Brad Richardson is close to signing a three-year deal with ARI. AAV of $2.08— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) July 1, 2015
There's just no way the Canucks could afford to pay Richardson over $2 million for three years.
9:59 am - Hey, the Canucks did a thing! Another thing! They've done two things!
#Canucks sign d-man Matt Bartkowski.— Irfaan Gaffar (@sportsnetirf) July 1, 2015
10:01 am - Completely overshadowing the Bartkowski signing, the Penguins have acquired Phil Kessel from the Leafs. There were rumblings of this during the draft, but I honestly didn't think it would happen.
There are going to be a lot more pieces to this trade, but Crosby just got himself a sniper. The Penguins should be an exciting team next year.
10:04 am - The Matt Bartkowski is an interesting one. He's 27 and has played just 131 NHL games. He doesn't have any offensive upside -- he has yet to score a regular season goal in his career, though he does have one in the playoffs -- but he's reasonably effective defensively.
Here's a visualization of his impact over the last three seasons. You can see that he's a borderline top-four defenceman and legitimately a very good bottom pairing defenceman.
Here's the thing: Bartkowski is a left-side defenceman. Does he slot in ahead of Luca Sbisa on the depth chart or will he be the seventh defenceman? With Corrado and Clendening both waiver eligible and Weber re-signed, will the Canucks carry 8 defencemen on the roster?
10:15 am - The Bartkowski signing is a pretty inexpensive, one-year deal. You can see now why Jim Benning didn't give Ryan Stanton a qualifying offer. With this in the works, they simply didn't need him anymore. It's too bad, really, because I don't think Stanton is really as bad as he performed last season.
Vancouver signs Matt Bartkowski, one-year, $1.75M. #TSN— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) July 1, 2015
10:20 am - The Leafs get Nick Spaling, Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, a 1st round pick, and another unknown pick for Phil Kessel and a couple minor league players. The Leafs are retaining $1.25 million of his contract as well.
Have to like that trade for the Penguins. The retained salary eases their cap somewhat and they desperately needed a goalscoring winger. They got an elite one.
The Leafs, though, get a nice prospect in Kapanen and a first round pick to get another. There's some potential for the future. They also lose Kessel, which was apparently important to them. Culture change, I guess.
Man, the Penguins are going to be fun to watch.
10:32 am - The Flames continue to build on their excellent draft weekend, signing Michael Frolik for $4.3 million for five years. Pretty nice signing to boost their top-six. Flames could be good next season, folks.
I don't think the Canucks are in as much trouble in the Pacific Division as others think, but they're still going to be a bubble team.
10:39 am - According to TSN, the Bartkowski deal is not a one-year, $1.75 million deal. It's actually a two-year, $1.2 million deal. But, according to the Canucks' press release, it is a one-year deal. Is it for $1.2 or $1.75 million? Who knows?
Frankly, after the Mike Weber blunder earlier today, I'm leaning towards TSN getting this one wrong. They're scrambling to get all the details on the Phil Kessel deal and likely don't have time to get the Bartkowski deal right. They're dropping the ball on their Canucks coverage today. Haven't even seen Jason Botchford since they introduced him and his pink shirt this morning.
10:51 am - More Canucks news, more or less.
#Canucks sign goalie Richard Bachman.— Irfaan Gaffar (@sportsnetirf) July 1, 2015
Richard Bachman should head to Utica to split starts with Joe Cannata. With Joacim Ericsson heading to Europe, the Comets needed another goaltender and Bachman has been pretty good in the AHL, but not so good that Cannata won't get any playing time. He was lights out against the Comets in the playoffs, though, so that might have played a role.
Bachman also has a bit of NHL experience, with mixed results, but he could get some time with the Canucks next season if injuries strike. Willie Desjardins is somewhat familiar with Bachman from his time as the head coach of the Texas Stars, so might have put in a good word.
11:01 am - Joe Haggerty is reporting that Zack Kassian is getting traded to the Canadiens. I'm prepared to be very upset, but I'll wait until someone else reports it.
Hearing from a source that Zack Kassian has been dealt to the Habs— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) July 1, 2015
11:03 am - ARGH!!!!!!
VAN has traded Zack Kassian. Trade call pending.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) July 1, 2015
11:06 am - I'm going to miss Zack Kassian a lot. He was a bit of unpredictable chaos on what was often a very predictable team last season. He's also still just 24. This could really look bad for the Canucks in a couple years. Heck, one year.
On the other hand, maybe Kassian never puts it all together. Maybe all the concerns about his character aren't overblown. Maybe the return from the Canadiens makes it all worth it?
But no matter what, the Canucks are going to be a more boring team next season without Kassian.
11:20 am - You have got to be effing kidding me.
#Canucks acquire @BrandonPrust8 from Canadiens for Kassian & 2016 5th rounder. Release - http://t.co/i9gzp7rwsM pic.twitter.com/n1sA4SUjBe— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) July 1, 2015
11:25 am - There's no spinning this one. This is a terrible trade. Jim Benning traded Zack Kassian, who is a 24-year-old power forward brimming with potential, for Brandon Prust, a fourth-liner who is a pending UFA. To make it even worse, the Canucks threw in a fifth round pick.
Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh.
Let's get younger! Trades 24 year old Zack Kassian for a 31 year old Brandon Prust.#Canucks— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) July 1, 2015
11:31 am - Seriously, I can't emphasize this enough: Prust is a pending UFA. The Canucks traded Kassian and a pick for a pending UFA.
*flips the pool*
11:34 am - Hey look, a distraction from my Kassian rage!
Taylor Fedun has been very good in the AHL after battling back from a badly broken leg in 2011. He has 11 NHL games under his belt and acquitted himself fairly well in them with 2 goals and 6 points. He's a good depth acquisition for the Canucks that will help the Comets a lot.
He's yet another right-handed defenceman in the system, which will make it tough for him to get a call up this season unless the Canucks face some serious injury troubles on the right side.
11:43 am - James Duthie just asked the reporter in Montreal, "What do you see as the reasoning behind Montreal's end of the move?"
Who knows why Montreal would be interested in acquiring a 24-year-old former first round pick with top-six upside who is an RFA at the end of his current, cheap deal? Why in the world would they want to acquire that player (and a pick) for a fourth-liner who fights and kills penalties and is a UFA at the end of his current, $2.5 million deal?
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE THE REASON?!?!
11:54 am - If you really want to trade Zack Kassian, fine. But if all you can get in a Kassian trade is Brandon Prust, it's simple: don't trade him during the off-season. Keep him, stick him with the Sedins, hope for the best, then trade him during the season.
I'm going to be upset about this for a while, in case you can't tell.
12:02 pm - How much money should be allocated to a team's fourth line? How much of a team's cap space can be spent on the fourth line before you hurt the rest of the team?
The Canucks will have Brandon Prust ($2.5 million) and Derek Dorsett ($2.65 million) on the fourth line next season. That's $5.15 million on the fourth line with just two players. That's already too much to spend on the fourth line and you still need to add a third player.
Fortunately, the Canucks have some cheap, young centres to potentially play between them: Linden Vey ($1 million), Brendan Gaunce ($863,333), Cole Cassels ($589,166), Alex Friesen ($575,000), or Joseph LaBate ($925,000). Lot of questions with any of those players -- Vey is sketchy on faceoffs and seems to be better on the wing and the others are all untested prospects -- but at least they'll have a cheap centre to balance out the expensive fourth line wingers.
12:11 pm - You know what makes me feel better? My three-year-old walking into the living room wearing a blanket as a cape and a pink toque on his head, excitedly shouting about how he "found a helmet."
You sure did, buddy. You sure did.
12:48 pm - I appear to still be upset:
If Derek Dorsett is such a great “culture carrier” for Canucks, why didn’t they sit him next to Zack Kassian so they could rub shoulders?— Borb McKenzie (@ADanielWagner) July 1, 2015
Why waste his culture carrying talents on a guy like Bo Horvat, who already had great character and work habits?— Borb McKenzie (@ADanielWagner) July 1, 2015
If Dorsett can only carry culture to players who already seem to have it, then why pay him a premium to be a culture carrier?— Borb McKenzie (@ADanielWagner) July 1, 2015
It’s almost as if being a “culture carrier” is a complete meaningless phrase. It’s almost as if paying extra for that intangible is dumb.— Borb McKenzie (@ADanielWagner) July 1, 2015
@ADanielWagner hard to know what happens in the dressing room. Maybe Zack wanted more than a shoulder rub and things got awkward.— Zac Goodman (@zac_goodman) July 1, 2015
@ADanielWagner he sat between them. just imagine 9 without DD's magical powers— Jason Botchford (@botchford) July 1, 2015
@botchford Good lord, he already was sitting next to Kassian? Apparently he dropped all the culture at Horvat’s stall.— Borb McKenzie (@ADanielWagner) July 1, 2015
1:10 pm - The quotes coming out of Jim Benning's press conference are just making me more upset and I've got two boys to get down for nap time. They tend to notice when I'm tense and absorb it, making it tough to get them to sleep.
1:19 pm - Jim Benning's press conference is now on TSN. It's just as frustrating hearing the quotes as reading them on Twitter.
1:25 pm - Jim Benning makes a baffling mix of great moves and mind-bendingly frustrating moves.
I love the Yannick Weber contract. It's a great "show-me" deal that gives him the opportunity to earn more money in the future, but keeps him cheap for one more season. I'm satisfied with the Matt Bartkowski signing, as he's a useful bottom pairing defenceman on a reasonable deal. Taylor Fedun and Richard Bachman are good AHL signings, providing some depth for the Canucks and support for the Comets.
Then there's the Zack Kassian trade.
The contract signings at the end of the season? Chris Tanev's extension was superb. Luca Sbisa's was horrendous.
Free agent signings last year? Radim Vrbata was a great signing. Ryan Miller was completely unnecessary and led directly to having to trade Eddie Lack at this year's draft.
It's so frustrating to see the same man make decisions that I love and fully support and decisions that I just outright hate.