It's the best time of year!
With Tomas Kaberle seemingly off the trade block, most of the attention now shifts to Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa.
Vancouver is over the salary cap ($2.6M to be exact) and has an excess of defensemen. The off-season additions of Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard suddenly made Bieksa expendable, who has $3.75 million and one year remaining on his contract. GM Mike Gillis could put fellow D-man Sami Salo on LTIR, which would open up some cap room. That said, the Canucks could use another forward to round out their top three lines.
Bieksa has missed 85 games over the last three years, but has been effective and productive when in the lineup for the Canucks.
It seems like it’s only a matter of time before he gets dealt as a trade could happen any day now. Which prospective inquiring teams would he fit best with? Here are my top five destinations for Bieksa…
1. San Jose Sharks
Vancouver and San Jose swung a deal at this time last year, which sent Christian Ehrhoff north in a multi-player trade. Why not do so again? The Sharks have gone after numerous defensemen this off-season. They struck out on the offer sheet attempt for Niklas Hjalmarsson, couldn’t work it out to acquire Tomas Kaberle, and are still waiting on Willie Mitchell’s decision. Bieksa would be a perfect fit for the Sharks, providing solid two-way capability and a lot of grit – something the Sharks’ back end needs more of. It may cost San Jose a roster player, but grabbing Bieksa would be worthwhile.
2. Washington Capitals
GM George McPhee has stood pat all summer long, but the glaring need everyone knows about is still there. Washington lacks that one defenseman that has a mean streak and is going to make it unpleasant on opponents to park in front of the crease every game. Bieksa could be the solution. Despite battling injuries in recent years, he has been a pain in everyone’s rear when healthy. The 29-year-old can also produce at a solid level for a defenseman; he tallied 43 points in 72 games in 2008/09. McPhee could use one of his third- or fourth-liners as a trade chip to acquire Bieksa, which would be a quality deal for both sides.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets
It seems like we always just throw Columbus into any trade speculation involving a defenseman. But when you glance at their current top six on the blueline, it doesn’t look like a group that will lead the Blue Jackets to their second playoff appearance. Columbus balked at Toronto’s asking price for Kaberle, but would they settle for Bieksa if they didn’t have to trade as much? I wouldn’t doubt it. The problem, though, is that they don’t exactly match up well for a trade. Vancouver needs some more depth at forward, and Chris Clark would be the only player I could see going the other way.
4. Anaheim Ducks
Long-rumored to be in the Kaberle sweepstakes, Anaheim still has a hole on defense. By no means would GM Bob Murray be able to fill the shoes left by Scott Niedermayer, yet the addition of Bieksa would be vital for their playoff hopes. Any possibility of a deal happening between Anaheim and Vancouver likely hinges on what Paul Kariya decides to do. I’m sure Murray would be willing to include Joffrey Lupul or Jason Blake, but both would put the Canucks in worse cap shape because of their high salaries. On the contrary, the Ducks could wait and see what Cam Fowler has to offer in training camp.
5. Los Angeles Kings
As it stands right now, the Kings will have three sure-fire NHLers on the blueline when they open up their season October 9th in Vancouver. Matt Greene is on the shelf indefinitely with shoulder surgery, leaving just Drew Doughty, Rob Scuderi, and Jack Johnson to hold the fort. Would GM Dean Lombardi really lean on three youngsters to pick up the slack for most of the first half? The fact that they went after Ilya Kovalchuk tells you the organization wants to and believes they can win now. Bieksa would be a savvy pick-up by Lombardi, who has the ammo to pull off a deal. Which team would want to face a defense featuring Doughty, Greene, Scuderi, and Bieksa in a seven-game series come April?
Bieksa has been known to be a bit of a wild-man, stirring the pot on occasion and taking stupid penalties. But that’s his job, to wreak havoc on the opposition. He's not going to make any team a Stanley Cup favorite, but his physical presence can make any one of these five teams better... assuming he can stay healthy.
Note: You know the dog days of summer are in full force when we're doing a top five for Bieksa!
Photo credit: Getty Images
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