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February 23, 2017 | 10:52am ET
Van-City Needs to Re-Vamp
By Hannah Spraker

ANAHEIM, CA -- Remember when we were all saying that Tampa Bay was going to win the Stanley Cup this year? Do you also remember when we said that Vancouver would finish last?

Well, I think Colorado has taken the fall for the Canucks, but there is still no doubt Vancouver's season, again, has been less than impressive.

Let's call a spade a spade -- even if they miraculously beat all odds and make the playoffs, the Cup just isn't close to their reach. How many times have we heard this season, "Team A and B are just five points out of a playoff spot?"

The league-wide parity gives some rose colored glasses, with the exception of the Central Division. Most teams are relatively close to either a wild card spot or a playoff spot, but for Vancouver... dream on.

The trade deadline gets everyone amped up, potential trade talks consume Twitter, and we eagerly await that trade notification when we wake up and check our phones.

This trade deadline has been particularly dead. Why? Well, for one, we have the expansion draft coming up in June. Teams are considering whom to protect and whom to expose, as well as juggling the salary cap, so this is definitely not your average trade deadline.

Second, they just cannot seem to get a grip. It's like a Jr. High clique; everyone thinks they're the cool one. Well, time for a wakeup call.

The Vancouver Canucks need to be thinking long-term here. A playoff run is nothing but wishful thinking, and with so many pending free agents, they don't have the luxury to sit and wait. Five UFAs and seven RFAs come July 1, this team is either going to flip or flop.

RFAs:
Nikita Tryamkin
Erik Gudbranson
Michael Chaput
Reid Boucher
Brendan Gaunce
Bo Horvat
Anton Rodin

UFAs:
Jack Skille
Alexandre Burrows
Jayson Megna
Philip Larsen
Ryan Miller

What Went Wrong?

So much. No doubt the Canucks need to rebuild their roster, but they have to go about it the right way. Thus far, the moves they have made haven't been all that great.

The Sedins are magnificent hockey players and icons for that organization, don't get me wrong, BUT they are 36 years old and on the decline. We can assume these guys will retire as Canucks, so it's about time they find the right winger to play alongside them. Jannik Hansen seemed to work, but the guy can't stay healthy. They need someone with a great deal of speed on that top line.

Injuries have cursed the Canucks. Hansen is a great asset, IF he's healthy. First it was the rib, then it was the knee. Brandon Sutter and Alex Edler sustained major injuries last year; Sutter with a broken jaw and a sports-hernia and Edler with a fractured leg. They both missed a considerable amount of time. Now, Erik Gudbranson who was a valuable stay-at-home D-man, is on IR with a wrist injury, and Sven Baertschi who is on pace for a record season is out with concussion symptoms.

Sutter came into the season healthy, and has not contributed as expected. The penalty kill is 24th in the league at 78.3%.

Not to mention, the powerplay unit is laughable, at 14.5% they are third worst in the league.

Speaking of Loui Eriksson... he was signed to a six-year contract, averaging a whopping $6 million per year last July with an NMC. He was expected to be the saving grace of Canucks offense. Well, that didn't really pan out. Eleven goals in 60 games, when just last season he was a 30-goal scorer. Could be labeled the only player who cannot play with the Sedin's and was taken off the powerplay, yep it's that bad. I have a feeling they're going to regret signing a 31-year-old to six years with an no-move.

Jake Virtanen... sigh. He's just not ready. He's only 20 years old, and at 6'1, 229 pounds, he needs to spend some time conditioning, but that physicality is something needed in the Canucks lineup.

Remember all the hype about Jacob Markstrom? Look, I know goalies and defenseman typically mature later than forwards do, but at 27, Markstom should have blossomed into that "goaltender of the future."

They didn't sell last year when they should have. More than likely they aren't going to be able to sell this year -- all of their trade bait guys have no-trade clauses and stated they want to stay on the island. However, it should be noted that Hansen was asked for the eight teams he would accept a trade to this week.

So Now What?

Gotta Start With Management

Management needs to realize that scratching and clawing their way into the playoffs is not going to work anymore. They have exhausted this strategy. What good is it to barely sneak in, to just get demolished by a more playoff equipped team in the first round?

Once management can swallow that bitter pill, the rebuild can begin. Then they can start buying and selling at the appropriate times, something they have not done in the past; example- Eriksson.

Forwards

Don't give up on Virtanen. He could easily resemble Anaheim's Nick Ritchie -- tried a partial NHL season, wasn't ready. Worked his ass off in the summer and is now a key piece in Ducks lineup. He's still so young, some quality time in the AHL would do the guy good.

Establish NHL All-Star Bo Horvat as their future guy. Let's face it, the Sedins are not going to be around much longer, not everyone is Jaromir Jagr. Their contracts expire in 2019. They need to re-sign Horvat to a five or six year deal, give him an A on his jersey and get him comfortable in that leadership role.

Defense

Re-sign Nikita Tryamkin and Gudbranson on July 1 and continue to develop the blueline from within. They have the tools to build their own blueline, the bigger problem is forward depth.

Their faith will now have to shift to Markstrom -- he can hold down the fort until their next "goalie of the future," Thatcher Demko, is ready to come up.

The Draft

If they can swing it, expose Brandon Sutter to the expansion and hope he gets picked up. He's their third line center with a top-six contract. That isn't going to do them any favors when it comes to rebuilding and fighting the cap.

Prospects. Prospects. Prospects. The draft is going to be this team's best friend.

IF they can sell at the trade deadline, they should. It's time to take some advice from teams like Toronto. Stockpile those prospects and picks to produce a well oiled machine for the future, and leverage for any trade opportunities down the line.

Free Agency

They need to let some of these bigger contracts like Ryan Miller and Burrows walk on July 1. Miller will be 37 by the time next season starts. He has been great for them, but as a pending free agent, they shouldn't re-sign him as their starter.

"Tough Guy" Burrows has been attracting interest around the league and there have been rumors of whether or not he would be a fit in NYC. Although, Burrows has a full no-trade clause and the power is in his hands at the end of the day. He has stated multiple times that he wants to stay in Vancouver, even during a rebuild. Well, if he does, he will most likely have to take a pay cut, or end up walking come July.

Rebuild. Re-tool. Re-Vamp.

It's time to get a grip. The future of the team does not look good as is, throw in an attempted playoff run and it only gets worse. It's time for GM Jim Benning to look at what he has now, what he wants to keep after July 1, and how he is going to build around that.

Hannah Spraker is the Anaheim Correspondent and a Columnist for The Fourth Period. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.

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