Saturday, June 26, 2010

Canucks Trade Grabner, Bernier and 1st for Keith Ballard

The Canucks made their first big move of the off season yesterday by trading their 25th overall pick along with Michael Grabner and Steve Bernier to Florida in exchange for Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich.

At first glance the price looks very steep from a Canucks perspective, but in the end this is a good trade for both teams. Remember trading isn't about "winning" the trade, it's about making your team better.

Heading to Florida:

Michael Grabner
It always sucks when you give up a player with Grabner's skillset. In their 40 year history the Canucks have had few players with Grabner's combination of speed, goal scoring instincts and shot. Grabner looked a little overwhelmed in the playoffs, but he showed flashes of star talent during the regular season. Also keep in mind he missed most of the season with a freak pre-game injury. It's hard not to see Grabner being at least a 20 goal scorer with the potential to one day approach the 40 goal mark. But you've got to give to get and the Canucks dealt from a position of strength, with Raymond in the top 6 and Shroeder and Hodgson knocking on the door someone had to go. With Grabner being at the tail end of his entry level contract and the emergence of Raymond, he was the logical one to move.
Steve Bernier
Bernier was a disappointment in Vancouver, but he was a serviceable bottom 6 winger with size. Unfortunately last season his injury issues took away his physical game and he wasn't effective on the forecheck. At $2m he was simply too expensive for his role.
First Round Pick 25th Overall
The value of a draft pick is a funny thing. At the trade deadline or during the season a first rounder has pretty high value. However come draft day when you have knowledge of who exactly is available at your slot the value can be a lot less. When Jarred Tinordi was snatched up by Montreal at #22 the Canucks did not see anyone else they really liked at #25, so they decided to trade the known commodity (this year's pick) instead of next year's. A pretty shrewd move on Gillis' part. Holding on to next year's pick also keeps the option of an RFA offer sheet intact.

Coming to Vancouver

Keith Ballard
Ballard is a huge addition for a few reasons. 1) He fills a desperate need, a need which will be very difficult to fill through free agency. 2) He's under contract during his prime years at a time when the Canucks are set to lose key components of their defense core via free agency or declining ability. Sure there's a risk Ballard's contract (5 more years at $4.2m) could be a problem down the road, but that risk is minimal when you consider his skill set (skating and puck moving ability).
There have been some complaints about his size, but he plays a gritty game, blocking a lot of shots and delivering a lot of hits. If he was 5'12"(aka six feet) people probably wouldn't be complaining half as much.
Guess how many defensemen played 82 games last year... 28, Ballard's done it in 4 out of 5 seasons in the NHL. Guess how many defensemen had 28 points last year... 58, that's less than 2 per team, in the Canucks system over 82 games Ballard should have no problem hitting 35 points.
Victor Oreskovich
Oreskovich is an interesting player. A big winger (6'3", 215), who quit hockey altogether before returning to the game last season, will add some much needed size to the bottom 6 forward group. After quitting hockey some may legitimately question his character, on the other hand the fact that he was able to come back so quickly has to count for something both in the character/work ethic department and in his physical ability to do so.

Ballard makes the Canucks a better team today and there are still plenty of moves to come. Another defenseman is a must, perhaps Dan Hamhuis will be available on July 1. The futures of Willie Mitchell, Kevin Bieksa and Shane O'Brien are up in the air, at least one possibly two will likely not be back next season. The 3rd line still needs to be addressed and Gillis seems intent on getting tougher and harder to play against. It's going to be an interesting summer, the fun is just getting started...