Future is now for Canuck prospects

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

There has never been a better opportunity for for Nolan Baumgartner and Lee Goren to earn full-time employment in the National Hockey League.

Both men boarded planes for B.C. yesterday and will be on the ice today for the first day of Vancouver Canucks prospects camp.

The Canucks rookie camp has been on in full force since Monday, but stage two of three begins today with the prospects, many of whom will hit the ice with the Manitoba Moose later this month.

During the next few days some of those prospects will be asked to stick around for main camp, the third and final stage, which begins with player testing on Monday.

This brings us back to Baumgartner, the Moose captain who recently finished his first off-season in Winnipeg, and Goren, the Winnipeg winger who made quite an impact playing in his hometown last season.

A great deal can happen in the next few weeks in terms of trades, injuries or other transactions, but Baumgartner and Goren need to make their mark early in training camp or could face the prospect of spending the entire season in the American Hockey League, thanks to a little-known clause in the new collective bargaining agreement.

The clause states that any player making more than $75,000 US in the minors must clear waivers to be sent down initially and then once again if a team wants to call the player up during the course of the season.

To make matters worse, if said player is claimed on waivers, the team he is leaving would be responsible for picking up half of the player's salary and it would count against the salary cap.

Regardless of the new technicality, blue-liner Baumgartner enters training camp fighting for the sixth spot on the depth chart with a group of players that includes Oakbank product Sven Butenschon and Moose regulars Kevin Bieksa and Tomas Mojzis.

As it stands now, the Canucks Top 4 defence corps consists of Ed Jovanovski, Mattias Ohlund, Sami Salo and Bryan Allen, with recently-acquired Steve McCarthy holding down the fifth spot.

Both Bieksa and Mojzis do not have to clear waivers since they are still working under their entry-level contracts.

SIXES AND SEVENS

The other factor to take into account is whether or not the Canucks carry seven defence on the active roster or roll the dice with six because enforcer Wade Brookbank can play both forward and defence.

General manager Dave Nonis is on record saying the Canucks won't carry more than 22 players and could explore the possibility of going with 21 to save salary cap space.

Goren, who is coming off an outstanding season that saw him lead the way during the remarkable Calder Cup playoff run with 10 goals and 13 points in 14 games and produce 32 goals, 62 points and 117 penalty minutes in 79 regular season games, enters his first Canucks camp in great shape.

His chances of sticking around will be bolstered if Trevor Linden is used at centre instead of right wing, but he faces some healthy competition regardless.

Todd Bertuzzi is a lock to play with Brendan Morrison and Markus Naslund, while Anson Carter is being touted as the logical right-winger with the Sedin twins.

Richard Park was signed as a free agent and should be in the mix, leaving Goren to battle for playing time primarily with Josh Green and Jason King, who is attempting to bounce back from the concussion that ended his season prematurely in early March.

The Moose would benefit greatly from the return of the two veterans, but for Baumgartner and Goren, the future -- as it pertains to their potential NHL careers -- is now.


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