Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 1/7/13

DENVER - OCTOBER 03: Goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks warms up prior to facing the Colorado Avalanche during NHL action at the Pepsi Center on October 3, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
I Feel Like Gary Cheevers (Stitch Marks on my Heart) …And we’re back. After staring into the abyss of a long cold winter with no hockey, we finally have something to live for again. Canucks Hockey is here again, a mere eight months after the Los Angeles Kings lifted the Stanley Cup. And now it gets interesting. Rosters that were configured a lifetime ago now have under two weeks to hit the ground running in a shortened season where, especially considering the parity of the past few years, every game will matter. The stakes are high, the anticipation higher, and when it’s all over in June it could be one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory. I can’t wait. So as the Canucks hit the ice at UBC to get their legs back and up to speed, let’s do the same and figure out what exactly the Canucks have in 2013 and the major pressing issues, because we can finally debate on-ice topics now and forgot about the whole messy business part. I’m so happy. 1. Something needs to be done with Lu So what happens? Roberto Luongo told the Toronto Sun that he gave Mike Gillis “the green light” to do whatever he had to do, which could mean he’ll go anywhere or he’ll go anywhere on his shortlist or anything really. Nucks brass have always been on the record saying they would be fine with another 1A/1B situation. Nothing is happening until the CBA is officially ratified, which will probably happen Wednesday. If nothing happens between then and opening day, well the Canucks have always been on the record saying they would be fine with another 1A/1B situation. Of course, there’s also the much rumoured already agreed upon trade with Toronto. We’ll see what happens now that something can actually happen. And we’ll definitely debate the return because Luongo’s is a price tag that no one can seem to pin down. A very complex man, him. 2. Ryan Kesler’s shoulder is still locking him out Ryan Kesler‘s summer surgeries were a pretty sweet deal back during the lockout when it allowed him to still collect his paycheque, but now that we’re doing that hockey thing again it looks like his continued rehab was legit and not some kind of fraudulent scheme. He leaves a giant hole in the middle of the second line that might influence the assets returned in a Luongo trade. If not, it’s up to Maxim Lapierre to battle Jordan Schroeder in the couple of hours that a shortened training camp will hold. Remember last year when Kesler missed a month and a bit and it wasn’t a huge deal? It’s a bigger deal when we’re dealing with a season this short. Solving this problem could make or break the season. 3. Is the Northwest clinched before the season starts again? The safest divisional lock in hockey got a lot more interesting, in that there’s a good chance one of the other four teams in the Northwest actually makes the playoffs. Colorado and Calgary aren’t horribly improved, but a new year is a new year. Minnesota went out and spent so much money last summer on two players that it was the main factors towards why the owners cried poor when the locked out the league. Edmonton has its young talent chomping at the bit fresh from the AHL or the World Juniors and that Schultz guy was putting up Bobby Orr numbers in the minors. The shortened schedule also means a lot more divisional games, so the strength of the Northwest will be another determining factor in the Canucks’ success. 4. Contract buy-outs The new CBA will allow teams to buy out two contracts without counting against the cap in the upcoming offseason. Two names come to mind in Vancouver. The first is Keith Ballard, who has struggled mightily in his time as a Canuck, and is certainly not living up to his $4.2 mill cap hit. This is a big year for Alex Edler. He’s worth a buy-out and re-sign at a more reasonable price, if not the opportunity to start somewhere fresh. The second is Roberto Luongo, whose long-term contract has been somewhat of an albatross in his trade negotiations. I can’t imagine that if Gillis can’t move Luongo this season he’ll be comfortable buying him out and letting him go for free but I can imagine a buy-out followed by a sign and trade. Luongo has been a class act during this whole drawn-out ordeal, and I imagine he wants to maximize his return for the franchise he loves. 5. What becomes of Alex Edler? A number of players heading into free agency in 2013 were locked up in the days leading into the lock-out. Alex Edler was not one of them. The Swedish rearguard has been held as the key to Stanley Cup success for the past few years in that the Canuck need him to be a Lidstrom-lite number one guy. He’s shown that in spurts, and suitably replaced Ehrhoff on the powerplay last year, but he still lacks some of that nasty edge that can win those battles in the playoffs. This is a big year for him, heading into unrestricted free agency, and his fortunes are closely tied to the Canucks. Bonus question: How much money do you throw at him and at what point this season do you do it? CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE CANUCKS CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSPORTSBEAT!
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