THE National Hockey League trading deadline is about a month away. The talking heads on TSN and SportsNet will devote more air time to this day than the games itself. The trading deadline has become a needlessly over-analyzed television spectacle, if only for a few minutes at a time.
Traditionally the trade deadline is a day for the sellers. It is a chance for the weak teams to unload contracts, gain prospects and draft picks, and give their fan bases hope. The buyers, generally middle of the pack teams looking to secure a playoff spot, or a top contender looking to add final pieces of the puzzle, pay a premium to make a splash on this day. It does not always pan out well for the buyers.
But it is a splash they almost have to make. Fans and media expect action on this day, one way or the other. They want their team to be included in the scuttlebutt. To not get involved is a bad career move for a general manager. Rightly or wrongly, it wreaks of inability to improve your team.
That being said, how involved will the Vancouver Canucks be in 2012? The Canucks Stanley Cup window remains open this season, so Gillis will be under pressure to make additions.
Unlike last year (at least at the time of the trading deadline), there are two glaring holes in the Canucks roster right now.
They would ideally like to add a top four right handed defenseman. Two thoughts there: 1) so are 29 other teams and 2) Shea Weber will not be traded to Vancouver, no matter how many sports radio callers dream up offers of Keith Ballard, Victor Oreskovich and the rights to Petri Skriko.
There will likely be a bidding war for Montreal’s gentle giant Hal Gill, so don’t count on it. Tampa Bay’s Pavel Kubina will be in play. An interesting possibility might be Adrian Aucoin. Though Aucoin’s offensive game has dried up, he has remained as underrated now as he was when he was in Vancouver years ago.
The Canucks also would love to pick up a third line forward who can play but also add lots of sandpaper. Think John Tonelli with the Islanders or Darren McCarty with the Red Wings. Given that they are up against the salary cap all season, the Canucks had hoped to find a cheap fix with guys like Oreskovich, Aaron Volpatti, Mike Duco and Steve Pinizzotto, none of which have worked out. Can the Canucks find that player now? Travis Moen might be worth a look, but there is very little on the rental market to get excited about.
Here’s a wild thought – bring back Mikael Samuelsson. For a draft pick you can bring in a player who will fit seamlessly into locker room and the game plan, play on any line for short periods of time, and even man the right point in a pinch should (when) Sami Salo goes down. He does not fill the wanted toughness component per se, but his versatility was a badly missed piece of the 2011 puzzle when he was lost for the playoffs due to injury.
Mike Gillis pulled the right strings in 2011, adding Chris Higgins and Max Lapierre as really nice pieces to the puzzle. Gillis does not like to trade assets for rentals, preferring longer term value additions. But the cupboard marked “Future” is almost bare, complicating matters. The Canucks really do not have many prospects to offer, and I would be surprised to see Cody Hodgson or especially Cory Schneider sacrificed at this time.
So Gillis just might have to go the rental route, dropping a 2nd or 3rd round draft pick and perhaps a spare part to make the salary cap numbers work. If so, a couple of former Canucks just might be on Gillis’ radar.