We are now one week away from trade deadline day in the NHL. It’s a day that can be overrated in a lot of respects, but it still has a lot of importance. The Canucks acquired two very important pieces of their team at last year’s trade deadline in Chris Higgins and Max Lapierre. Of course, there are always teams that acquire aging/overrated players at inflated prices, so buyer beware.
This year there are a lot of big name players likely to be available. Rick Nash is the biggest name, but players like Jeff Carter, Ales Hemsky, Tuomo Ruutu, and PA Parenteau are also likely available. But what I think everyone in Canucks nation wants to know, is what is Mike Gillis thinking right now? Is he ready to mortgage the future? Does he want to make a big splash? Is he willing to trade Cory Schneider? What about Mason Raymond? I don’t know what Mike Gillis is thinking but I can make some guesses.
What roster players is he willing to give up?
I don’t think that Mike Gillis is willing to give up much. Mason Raymond is likely available, if he can acquire a grittier winger to play on the 2nd line. Cory Schneider could be available, but only for a king’s ransom. The only way Schneider goes is if they get a top 3 defenceman (similar to Edler/Hamhuis/Bieksa quality) or a 30 goal scoring winger with grit. I don’t see that happening, so I think Schneider stays. I also think that Mike Gillis is extra hesitant to give up Schneider because he’s probably a little bit nervous about Roberto Luongo in the playoffs.
Is he ready to mortgage the future?
A lot of teams decide to ‘mortgage the future’ on deadline day, and usually it backfires. The LA Kings did that last year when they gave up a former 1st round pick and a 2011 1st and 3rd round pick for Dustin Penner. Of course, mortgaging the future can work sometimes, as it did when Dallas acquired Joe Nieuwendyk from the Flames for Jarome Iginla. Obviously Calgary won that trade in the long run, but Nieuwendyk was a key member of Dallas’ Stanley Cup winning team in 1999.
I don’t believe Gillis is ready to mortgage the future in terms of giving up their top young players like Cody Hodgson or Chris Tanev. He might be convinced to give up a 1st round draft pick, but only for a serious upgrade on Mason Raymond or on their defense.
What is his greatest worry?
While I believe that Mike Gillis is a little worried about another Roberto Luongo playoff meltdown (aren’t we all?), I think he’s most worried about a run of injuries on defense. Keith Ballard is injured with either a neck injury or a concussion, so his timetable is uncertain. He also has to expect that Sami Salo will suffer an injury somewhere along the line. Salo has had an excellent season, but you always need Sami Salo insurance.
Who is he targeting?
I think Mike Gillis has three realistic targets as he gets close to the deadline: a gritty 2nd line winger that can score, a gritty 4th liner and a top 5 defenceman. Some players I believe Gillis might try to acquire are David Jones (Colorado), Travis Moen (Montreal), Bryan Allen (Carolina) and Greg Zanon (Minnesota). Here’s some more info about them:
At 6’2″, 210 lbs, Jones would give the Canucks some more size and grit on their 2nd or 3rd line. He scored 27 goals last year and he’s only 27 years old. Jones is also from North Vancouver, so there’s that. Jones doesn’t come without question marks though, he’s had an off year this year, on pace for only 20 goals. He’s also averaging less ice time this year than he has in three years. Jones makes $2.5 million this year and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. For all of those reasons I think that Colorado may be willing to part with him, even though they are still in a playoff race.
Moen is 6’2″, 217 lbs and has a Stanley Cup ring. He’s on pace for 15 goals this year and is one of Montreal’s top penalty killers. That’s exactly what the Canucks need for their 4th line, with perhaps an ability to go to play on their 3rd line as well. Moen will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season which means he’s likely on his way out of town, playing on a non-playoff team like Montreal.
A former first round pick by the Canucks all those years ago, Allen is now 31 years old and slated to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Allen is huge, 6’5″ and 226 lbs, but offers very little offensively. Think of him as an upgrade on Andrew Alberts. Allen hasn’t played a playoff game since he was with the Canucks in 2004 and would likely welcome a return back to Vancouver. With everyone healthy, Allen would probably sit #7 on the Canucks depth chart, behind Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev.
I’m a big believer in bringing BC boys to the team. I think for BC boys playing for the Canucks for the first time gives them a boost of energy, causing them to play better. Zanon is from Burnaby, he’s 31 and is 5’11” and 202 lbs. With the Wild destined to miss the playoffs, the Wild will probably want to unload the pending unrestricted free agent. Zanon isn’t having a banner year in Minnesota, but he’s a capable top 6 defenceman that can kill penalties and block a lot of shots. At worst, he would be a nice insurance policy should the Canucks defense corps run into injury problems.
Nobody is ever really sure what Mike Gillis is thinking. I don’t think anyone predicted Max Lapierre or Chris Higgins getting traded to Vancouver last February, but they turned out to be great fits with the Canucks. I have a sneaking suspicion that Gillis might do the same thing this year.