Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Trade Deadline a Week Away

The NHL's trade deadline is next Wednesday and the Vancouver Canucks have managed to pull themselves firmly back into buyer's status. So what do the Canucks need and what can they give up? Let's take a look...

Team Needs

The first thing the Canucks need to figure out is if Ryan Kesler is going to be a permanent fixture on the second line with Sundin. Kesler may have been the guy who single handedly turned this team around with his determination and play on the ice, however that was two weeks ago. In the past 3 games in eastern Canada, Kesler's play has been uninspired and the second line has been a complete non-factor. Maybe he's playing hurt or has caught that mysterious flu which Sundin was reported to have last week. But if he's not, you have to wonder if the Canucks wouldn't be better of dropping Kesler back to more of checking centre roll.

Once the Canucks figure out what they're going to do with Kesler they can take a look at adding to the top 6 and shoring up the bottom 6.

The Canucks would like to find a better fit for the Sedin line, as Burrows is most likely not a long term answer, however they will be more concerned with making sure that they have a productive second line. As long as they are getting production out of the second line, they can afford to get by with the revolving winger with the Sedins.

The Bottom 6

Now, with Burrows and Kesler up in the top 6, the bottom 6 has been exposed and is extremely weak right now. Kyle Wellwood cannot be the third line centre heading into the playoffs. Ryan Johnson has been a huge disappointment and is not a guy you want playing any more than 12 minutes a night (I'd prefer 0). His speed and shot blocking is nice, but he isn't big enough or strong enough to be a very effective checker (at least for this season he has yet to show that he has that ability). Darcy Hordichuk is another guy you don't want as a regular in the playoffs. Mason Raymond has been pretty much useless. That leaves Taylor Pyatt, Steve Bernier and Jannik Hansen (currently out 3-4 weeks) as the only truly effective bottom 6 players.

The Canucks need more options in the bottom 6, particularly down the middle. If Ryan Johnson ever needs to step into the third line, or if Hordichuk & Raymond are regulars with some Moose Meat on the 4th line, the Canucks will be in tough.

They need a couple sandpaper guys. Those guys that really step up their game come playoff time.

The Defense

Perhaps the biggest challenge for Mike Gillis is figuring out how he can improve the defense core. The Canucks would love to find a puck rushing power play quarterback, but that's going to come at a very high price. Other than that, the Canucks defense core is solid, not ideal, but solid nonetheless. They could use a depth improvement on Nycholat or Davison, but that wouldn't be a priority.

I wouldn't be entirely surprised if Shane O'Brien is swapped for another defenseman, but other than that I'm not expecting much to happen on defense. Part of the reason is that two of the pieces they may be interested in moving (Salo and Ohlund) have no trade clauses. Another two guys are young and under contract, and Willie Mitchell isn't going anywhere.

The Chips in Play

So what does Mike Gillis have and what is he willing to move?

The most likely guy to move is Mayson Raymond. I would honestly be shocked if he is still a Canuck on March 5th. Raymond simply hasn't found a role on the team despite getting an opportunity on nearly every line and the Canucks can't send him down without losing him on waivers. Raymond's speed will make him an intriguing option for teams looking for a young player who can play now. He's far from a blue chip asset, but he is still a solid asset nonetheless.

Gillis' two most valuable assets are probably the 1st round draft pick and Cory Schneider. Don't expect the 1st rounder to be moved unless it's for a player with term remaining on his contract or an impact player like Jay Bouwmeester. On the other hand Schneider is a guy that could be moved under the assumption that Gillis is confident that he can get Luongo under contract. Like the first rounder, Gillis won't trade Schneider unless it's for an impact player or a guy under contract next season.

After that there's not much left. If the Canucks are truly in the Bouwmeester sweepstakes, Bieksa or Edler could be in play. Cody Hodgeson is pretty much untouchable unless something falls into Gillis' lap. On the farm, Grabner is pretty much the only asset of value and could be moved, but that would really deplete the high end talent depth of the organization. Other than that you're looking at fringe prospects and draft picks.

As for current roster players, there isn't anyone who's going to fetch you much. Someone might be interested in Wellwood, but he won't get much of a return, if any. Pyatt's a useful player who is still young and has a decent contract, but he would probably only fetch a player with a different skillset who plays a similar role. Steve Bernier has value, but he's the type of player you want to keep around for the playoffs. Shane O'Brien could be swapped for another #6 defenseman.

And there you have it. The Canucks have a few assets, but not much. Considering the price tag on top end rental players usually starts at a 1st round pick, it will be tough for Gillis to do much without mortgaging the future.

Up next I'll take a look at who the Canucks could be after...

No comments: