Monday, February 14, 2011

NHL Trade Deadline: Canucks to add toughness?

GM Mike Gillis to weigh his options at NHL trade deadline
The Vancouver Canucks presently lead the NHL, slightly ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings atop the league standings.  Despite a recent rash of injuries to their blueline, they forge on having won seven of their last eight games at the time of this article.  A recent loss to the Ducks, and questions about success versus teams like the San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks has given rise to questions about the Canucks team toughness.

You see, two years ago in the NHL playoffs, the Canucks were put off their game by an aggressive and phsyical Chicago Blackhawks squad.  The following year, the Canucks vowed to not be distracted.  They would not reply physically and take their share of penalties.  Instead that would remain focused.  However, we all know that they were once again put off their game, and when the calls did not come from the referees that were expected, the team grew frustrated and did not receive the power play opportunities they felt they were owed.

Perhaps because of this, there is a growing sentiment in the city that their team needs to toughen up by the NHL trade deadline - and perhaps they are correct.  The Canucks feature many large and strong players, but don't have all that much sand paper.  The top six forwards, led by the Sedins and Ryan Kesler do not offer much of a physical presence, while their third line of Malhotra, Torres and Hansen offers some definite grit and determination, but not as lot of intimidation.

Recently, the Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf injured Canucks' defender Dan Hamhuis.  The play went unpenalized and did not receive an on-ice response from the Canucks either.

So if you are watching the Canucks for any deadline moves, keep an eye out for a top 9 forward with size and grit, or perhaps a fourth line forward who can play but be an enforcer when need be.

The problem the Canucks is that this their salary cap situation does them no favours.  In fact, a fourth line tough forward may be just about all that can afford.  Thankfully for them, their need is the cheapest hole to fill. suggests that the Vancouver Canucks could only afford about a $400,000 to $500,000 cap hit to their roster.

Below are seven forwards that the Canucks may be interested in to add toughness.  These forwards are on probable non-playoff teams that may be looking to shed salary or gain draft picks.

St. Louis Blues - BJ Crombeen & Brad Winchester
BJ Crombeem remains under contract for another year at a reasonable rate, however the 6'5" Brad Winchester may be an ideal pick up as he is on the last year of a contract paying him only $700,000 per year.

Columbus Blue Jackets - Derek Dorsett, Jared Boll
Both Dorsett and Boll would fill the toughness void on the Canucks, but both are under contract for at least another couple of years and are not ideal.

Ottawa Senators - Chris Neil
Neil has been bandied about in the Vancouver media, but is really not ideal.  The Canucks barely have any cap room and cannot afford a $2 million per year player who is under contract until 2013.

New Jersey Devils - David Clarkson
Clarkson and the Devils are making a late season push to get into the playoff picture.  Sooner or later though, they will have to decide whether or not they sell assets and build for the future, or go for the playoffs now. Clarkson might be an ideal addition based on talent and toughness, but his $2.67 million price tag until 2014 is a definite turn off for Canucks

Buffalo Sabres - Cody McCormick
McCormick is probably the best option out there for the Canucks.  Earning only 500k a year and an unrestricted free agent at year's end, his 10:00+ per night in ice time suggests he can play, while his 114 penalty minutes suggest he can mix it up.

As for other options, the Canucks are currently the best scoring team in the league, and second best on defense.  Their back end has been ravaged by injuries, demonstrating the depth the Canucks are boasting right now with Andrew Alberts and Aaron Rome getting more prominent roles, along with a strong string of games from prospect Chris Tanev, who has impressed.  If the Canucks could make a larger deal work, you might see them try to get even more depth on defense, or some additional scoring for their top two lines.

One option was Toronto's Kris Versteeg, who was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers today.  If you had to put your money down though, bet on a quiet day for the Canucks.  The team leads the league in points, and doesn't have any glaring weaknesses.  Gillis has built his team with a certain Red Wings philosophy of skill and puck possession in mind - don't expect that to change.  There is also the major issue of salary cap space.

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