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Without Kesler, Canucks have hole in lineup

by Corey Masisak

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. Like Rick Nash, it is something of a foregone conclusion that Luongo will end up elsewhere, but like the former Columbus Blue Jackets captain, a no-trade clause is limiting the options.

2012-13 Canucks Fantasy Team Preview

Under-valued: Alexandre Burrows - Last four-year average: 79 games played, 29 goals, 55 points, plus-27, 110 PIMs, 184 SOG. Arguably the most underrated player in fantasy hockey, Burrows thrives while playing alongside Sedin brothers.

Over-valued: Jason Garrison - Burst onto fantasy scene with five goals last October, but struggled after hot start and finished with just 33 points. Shift to more offensive-minded Vancouver squad could help, but don't expect another 16 goals in 2012-13.

Sleeper: Cory Schneider - His value hinges on what happens with Roberto Luongo, but make no mistake -- Schneider has the potential to be an elite fantasy goalie if he earns Vancouver's No. 1 job.

-- Matt Cubeta

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 favor 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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