Mason Raymond is running out of time for excuses.
The 26-year-old left winger signed a one-year deal July 9 to remain in Vancouver. He accepted a pay reduction to $2.27 million from $2.6 million after the Canucks made the unusual move of filing for arbitration against him.
The club gets the reduced salary it was looking for while avoiding a nasty arbitration hearing. Raymond gets to remain with the team, so both sides are reasonably content with the deal, which was signed on the morning of the day hearings were to be scheduled.
"At the end of the day, no one should feel sorry for me. I'm doing very well, and I'm playing a sport that I love to do for a living," Raymond told the Vancouver Sun.
The Canucks gave Raymond the benefit of the doubt after his production slipped to 10 goals and 10 assists last season, when he played just 55 games after recovering sufficiently from career-threatening broken vertebrae sustained in the 2010-11 Stanley Cup finals against Boston.
The Canucks, Raymond and his agent, J.P. Barry, are all hopeful that Raymond will return to the form he displayed in 2009-10, when he recorded 25 goals and added 28 assists.
As Raymond noted after the Canucks were eliminated in the first round of this spring's playoffs, he was not able to train as much as usual last summer because he was sporting a body brace, and his back was still not as strong as it could have been.
It was a reasonable argument, and the Canucks were reasonable in keeping him, but the reduced salary clearly shows that the club was dissatisfied with his play -- back injury or no back injury.
This summer, Raymond is able to train as much as usual, and his on-ice results are expected to increase accordingly. He has yet to prove that he can play in traffic and get as physical as he needs to be. He was shying away from the difficult areas even before he got hurt.
When, or if, the season starts in October, he will have no more excuses.