NATIONAL Hockey League general managers met this past weekend in California. The most pressing issues on the agenda were conference realignment and golf.
You have to assume Canucks GM Mike Gillis fielded a few inquiries about the availability of red hot goaltender Cory Schneider.
Now do not be fooled by all those internet message boards and the fan boys on Twitter – it is unlikely Gillis will move either goaltender until the summer. But Gillis was probably listening to offers from desperate teams, if only to assess the market value for goaltenders right now. Conventional wisdom suggests Tampa Bay, Colorado and maybe Dallas would be interested in Schneider sooner rather than later. Could any of them offer a mid-season fix to the Canucks blue line? Gillis would not be doing his job if he did not engage in such talk between tee shots.
At the same time Gillis probably floated the possibility of moving Roberto Luongo and his cumbersome contract. It is unlikely he found much interest at this time, and maybe not anytime soon with a contract through 2022.
Whatever Gillis elects to do with his goaltender situation will be fascinating. But do not expect anything to happen until the off season, probably around the entry draft. In the salary cap world it is the summer time where major roster restructuring occurs.
The trade market at that time should be strong, as the potential unrestricted free agent pool for goaltenders in 2012 should be weak. With Pekka Rinne’s recent resigning in Nashville, Tomas Vokoun headlines the UFA class. The only other goaltender of note potentially available would be Martin Brodeur, but he’s staying in New Jersey or retiring.
In other words – any team looking to revamp their goal crease next summer will undoubtedly be testing the trade market. Mike Gillis will be patiently waiting by his phone.
Here’s this week’s Slap Shots
After dropping a bizarre 6-5 game to Nashville, the Canucks extinguished the Calgary Flames 5-1 on Sunday. While the score was a bit misleading and the game was about as exciting as standing in line at the grocery store, the Canucks were full value for the win. Roberto Luongo was quietly solid.
The win means the Canucks keep pace with division leader Minnesota Wild, who are – unbelievably – the best team in the NHL as of Sunday night.
The Canucks are humming along quietly but nicely, winning 9 of their last 12. Their schedule has been very nice to them though, as with the exception of San Jose they have not played a contender in a while.
As the season progresses I hope to see coach Alain Vigneault expanding the comfort zones of some of his players. Give the Sedins more defensive zone starts and (I’ve been crying for this for years) penalty kill shifts when short handed for extended periods of time. Give more offensive responsibilities to Cody Hodgson, David Booth and other support players. Vigneault is a very formulaic coach and refuses to change things up on the fly. He seems reluctant to use certain players outside of their comfort zone. That proved to be a problem in Stanley Cup playoffs last year and I have been anxiously waiting to see this growth by the coach and his players.
Both Sedins have been spending more time in the penalty box this season. That in itself is not concerning. But the types of infractions they are regularly taking are. Tripping, especially hooking – lazy penalties. Last season the twins set the tone for much of the season with their disciplined play.
Fourth liner Aaron Volpatti is done for the season due to shoulder surgery. He fit in well on the fourth line, and was a nice story and somewhat unexpected story out of training camp. But ultimately Volpatti is not a big loss, as he is a replaceable piece. For now Mason Raymond checks into the lineup, but at some point we will see someone called up. Steve Pinizzotto would have been the likely choice, but he too is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
Speaking of Raymond – what a great story his return from a broken back. Raymond played on a line with fellow speedster Jannik Hansen and center Cody Hodgson. It’s very early, but I thought Raymond and Hodgson showed some promising chemistry.
In all my years of watching hockey I have never seen anyone climb over the net like Ryan Kesler did against Nashville.
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