Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Canucks' Cloutier Out 4 Months: A Blessing or a Curse?

Vancouver Canucks goalie Dan Cloutier will be out 4+ months after opting to have knee surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee. (TSN STORY)

Now, the bandwagon yuppie fans are all in a tizzy (When they aren't worrying about what the latest cell phone fashions are) and there about going to be a steaming pile of big rumours flying around (“Bertuzzi for Luongo!”), but I think this could end up as a blessing in disguise.

This season, Alex Auld has come from behind Cloutier’s shadow and established himself as a steady goaltender with good fundamentals and the ability to stop the puck. This is in relation to Dan Cloutier, who is fundamentally weak and not very good at stopping the puck.

Dan Clouter – 13GP 8-3-1 3.17GAA 89.2SV%
Alex Auld – 20GP 11-6-1 2.58GAA 90.9%SV

Alex earned another victory last night against the red-hot Rangers, and I think he’s got the pedigree and ability to take over the reigns from Cloutier on a full-time basis.

Still, I know Auld hasn’t proven himself over the long term, and the Canucks do need to get someone better behind him. Maxime Ouellet and Rob McVicar scare their own teams more than opposing shooters.

With the Canucks so close to the salary cap as it is (barely squeaking under thanks to call-ups), and with so few tradable assets in the development system, how the Canucks possibly get a good goaltender to play behind Auld?

I just can’t see GM Dave Nonis breaking up the team as it is, given at how this is Canuckville’s best shot at the cup for some time, so I believe he will be conservative and try to search for a cheap option that can play a decent load of games in a 1b or 2A role. I just don’t see a Luongo/Bertuzzi deal, as much as I’d love to have Luongo.

So, what’s available to the Canucks? Cloutier’s salary is $2.5mil, so the Canucks have the pro-rated amount of that available since Clouts will be on the DL for the rest of the regular season. We have to remember that many teams are still in the playoff hunt or believe they are in the hunt, and that other clubs will likely want someone decent and useful in return for a goalie.

As Spector notes:

Spector's Note: Cloutier's injury explains why the club recently signed a minor league goalie [Sebastien Centomo]. The salary cap is the main stumbling block for Nonis. I'm sure he'd love to acquire a goaltending stud like Luongo, but the only way he can do that is to give up comparable salary or shed enough salaries to fit in the netminder's contract, and that might mean cutting depth elsewhere to do it. Like McKenzie I expect Nonis to stick with Auld whilst keeping his eye peeled for a potentially affordable veteran, but if Auld proves capable of carrying the mail, he could stick with the backup until Cloutier returns.

I won’t create rumours, but here are some thoughts…

1. Martin Prusek – Recently waived by Columbus, Prusek is a talented Hasek-wannabe and had better that than Patrick Lalime while playing in Ottawa (OK, that isn’t saying much). A salary of $625,000 is cheap and Prusek could easily handle a good workload and provide quality goaltending.

2. David Aebischer – at $1.9mil, he’s not a great bargain but he could play a lion’s share of games. The Avalanche have obviously grown weary of his shaky goaltending, but perhaps a chance of scenery could help David rediscover his game. 89.0SV% in 19 games.

3. Kevin Weekes – This name alone is enough to scare Canucks fans. With the evil Swede Lundquist getting the #1 duties in Gotham, the Rangers may be more than happy to dump Weekes and his $1.9 salary. Weekes played fairly well when giving #1 duties in Carolina, and I wouldn’t feel nervous with him as a part of a duo with Auld.

4. Roman Cechmanek – OK, stop laughing. Roman is a free agent playing in Czechia, and you know no other club would claim him on waivers if the Canucks wanted to sign him. Yeah, I know this will never happen, but sometimes drastic situations require some creative solutions. Sign Roman to a moderate deal and grab some Maalox.

5. Stick with Auld and pray that whoever is behind him doesn’t suck. If the Canucks can’t find any outside help within a decent cost range, it may be time to give Auld a large chunk of games and hope Centomo or Ouellet or McVicar can play above ECHL level in goal on some nights. Given how Auld tired near the end of last season with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, I somehow doubt that GM Dave Nonis will just do nothing.

6. Patrick Lalime - Dear god, NO!

In any event, I am looking forward to the Alex Auld Era. I hope he can continue his fine play and show Canuckville that he, and not Cloutier, should be the #1 man permanently.

I am sure you could get Jocelyn Thibault from the Penguins cheap although his salary might be a bit high for the Canucks. Mika Noronen of Buffalo is also probably available.
Jes, I'll be commenting in greater detail on this later today in my column. Looking at Auld's stats, he may have been a little inconsistent but thus far he's proven up to the challenge. Given his stats and the record of the Canucks over the last ten games, Nonis has little reason to panic right now. Unless Auld goes into the tank thus dragging down the team, I think he'll ride that pony to the finish line.

If Auld does stumble, a better option than those you noted is Buffalo's Martin Biron, who's been a big reason for the Sabres red hot 11-1-1 record over the past six weeks. Moreover, half his $2.12 million salary will be expended in a month's time, making him a more affordable option if Nonis does go goalie-shopping.
Thibault? I can't see the Canucks going for him with his high salary. If the Penguins could eat some of it (towards their cap, if possible), then maybe...

Biron, I thought about it, but he is basically Dan Cloutier II. Buffalo wants to get rid of Biron for obvious reasons :). I guess he wouldn't be a bad option to tandem with Auld, but the Sabres may want more than the Canucks want to give.

We shall see (and wait for your column with bated keystrokes)
I have my doubts that Buffalo with trade Biron now that he is playing so well and if they do, the price will be high. He didn't get traded early in the year because the price was so high. It's only higher now. That's why I think Noronen is a more likely candidate to be traded. In some ways it might be a better fit for Vancouver too. If Biron went there he might want (or expect) to be a #1 guy. If he is given the #1 job, how will Auld feel. If he isn't, how will Biron feel. You might get a goalie controversy and no team has ever won anything in the midst of a goalie controversy. Noronen would be a more viable backup but also someone capable of stepping in full time if Auld faulters or gets injured.
i'm just suprised it took this long for you to work "luongo" and "stud" into a post.

ahhh i fell better now. i got my fix.

the real answer? waaiiit.

yotes bubble busts, maybe wayno releases Cujo's contract, and the canucks can have it all. the joy of the cujo cup run. it is a rollercoaster....

as for t-bo's high salary? there is cap room for injury. the team with the injured player can sign his replacement for up to the replaced player' salary amount even if it places them over the cap. t-bo is less than the player he replaces. he can be signed whenever the canucks want him and if he puts them over the cap, they merely have to dump him when danny canuck comes back.

in addition, i wouldn't laugh too hard about lalime, if he finds wins, and someone is desperate, should he be recalled to the nhl, the blues automatically pay half his salary. it is why, for all the posturing the pens have done, they have not dropped t-bo down for the minor league count.

it is a one way trip for anyone any gm has ever heard of.
Don't overlook Ouellet. He was drafted a round ahead of Auld in 1999, and has always been considered a better prospect up until this season. Ouellet beat out Auld for the WJC teams when they were teenagers, and has a much better AHL record since then. I think it is about 50/50 that Ouellet takes over the #1 spot before the year is out.
Everyone is pointing out lots of feasible (although somewhat questionable) options, so it would appear to be a buyer's market right now for those looking for g-men. Other than Colorado and maybe ATL (3 #1's on the IR - Ooouch!) I don't see too many other takers. I'll bet my left nut that Nonis will hold off on pushing any panic buttons yet. Ride out Auld for a month or so, toss Ouellet some games for evaluation and play it from there. (...ummm..err..give me my nut back)
I would not count out Maxime Ouellet. He definitely has potential at being a decent goalie in the NHL.
The trade sending him to Washington from Philly was very very bad.

I was hoping to see him play against the Flyers.
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