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Without Kesler, Canucks look to fill spot in lineup

by Corey Masisak / Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks won the Presidents' Trophy in 2011-12 for the second straight season, but this one ended in far different fashion.

A concussion for Daniel Sedin left the Canucks shorthanded at the start of their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series with the Los Angeles Kings, and it was over before he could return to have much of a say.

Given the path of destruction the Kings were in the process of carving out, the Canucks' defeat doesn't look as bad in hindsight -- even if that's probably not a view shared by many in the Pacific Northwest. Cory Schneider replaced Roberto Luongo in net during the series, and the ongoing wait for a resolution to Luongo's playing address for 2012-13 has dominated the discussion about Vancouver this offseason.

Defenseman Jason Garrison was a significant offseason acquisition, and moving Luongo could free more salary cap space. The Northwest Division is going to be significantly tougher after Minnesota, Edmonton, Colorado and Calgary all improved this offseason, but Vancouver still looks like the class of the group -- and maybe the Western Conference for a third straight campaign.

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
David Booth
- Jordan Schroeder* - Zack Kassian
Mason Raymond
- Manny Malhotra - Jannik Hansen
Chris Higgins
- Maxim Lapierre - Dale Weise
Andrew Ebbett

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler
- Jason Garrison
Christopher Tanev
- Keith Ballard
Andrew Alberts

Cory Schneider
Roberto Luongo

* Ryan Kesler is not expected to be ready for the start of the season

NOTES: Kesler is the big name missing. If Schroeder can't handle that role, the Canucks may look for a cheap option outside the organization because there isn't an obvious candidate beyond him, or will just try to get by with Malhotra or Lapierre. Kassian is the other question mark up front; where he fits will lead to a ripple effect on the bottom three lines.

Garrison was signed and Sami Salo was let go. It looks like an easy move to put Garrison with Edler, who played alongside Salo at the end of the season. If Ballard falls out of favour again, Kevin Connauton or Derek Joslin could spend some time in the top six.

If Luongo is traded, Eddie Lack slides in as the backup and probably would see a fair amount of playing time. No reason to overload Schneider in his first year as a full-time starter, and Lack needs to play to keep developing. Expect the Canucks to find a cheap, veteran insurance option to stash with the Chicago Wolves if Luongo does end up elsewhere.

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