Monday, February 28, 2011

Canucks Acquire F Chris Higgins and F Maxim Lapierre

It ran right down to the wire, but the Canucks managed to pull off a couple trades to add to their forward depth. A couple of ex-Canadiens are on their way to Vancouver:

To Vancouver:
F Chris Higgins
To Florida:
D Evan Oberg, 3rd Round Pick (2011)
To Vancouver:
F Maxim Lapierre, F MacGregor Sharp
To Anaheim
F Joel Perrault, 3rd Round Pick (2013)

Chris Higgins

Chris Higgins is an interesting and unexpected acquisition. Higgins had 23 points in 48 games this season with the Panthers. He's a solid two way player who can provide some offense and contribute to the penalty kill. He has decent size, but isn't a physical player. The flip side to that is he doesn't take many penalties (only 5 this year). He's a guy that can play in the top 9, help out on the pk and possibly the struggling second power play unit.

The knock on Higgins is that he can be inconsistent. A former 3 time 20 goal scorer, Higgins has bounced around since leaving Montreal in '09. The Canucks are hoping that Higgins will respond to the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup.

Maxim Lapierre

Maxim Lapierre is the type of agitating 4th line centre the Canucks needed to add. At 6'2 207, Lapierre brings size, speed and a willingness to throw his weight around (has 163 hits this year). He's a right handed shot who's solid in the faceoff circle (51.4% over the last 4 years).

Lapierre was a big part of the Canadiens drive to the Eastern Conference finals last season, so he knows what the playoffs are all about in a big Canadian market. The concern with Lapierre is in the discipline department, to which Gillis responded by saying he "will learn to comply with what we need." Lapierre has a history with Alain Vigneault going back to their days in the QMJHL, obviously that was a significant factor in the trade.

The additions of Higgins and Lapierre mean that Cody Hogdson and Victor Oreskovich are heading back down to Manitoba. Jeff Tambellini must be breathing a sigh of relief. With the addition of Higgins, Tambellini's skillset has become redundant - especially considering how he has played in the last few months. If Tambellini was exempt from waivers he would likely be heading to Manitoba and Oreskovich - who has played well - would be sticking around.

So what does this mean for the Canucks lineup? Lapierre obviously fits in as the 4th line centre and should be there tomorrow vs Columbus. The big question is where does Higgins (who is out for 7-10+ days with a thumb injury) fit?

There are a few possibilities. The first is that he starts out on the new 4th line with Glass and Lapierre and also gets some special teams time. While he may debut there the Canucks would not have traded Oberg and a 3rd for someone to play 4th line right wing. That means he is likely to get an opportunity to play in the top 9 and also on the second pp unit.

So where in the top 9 would Higgins fit? The most likely scenario is that he gets an opportunity to replace the struggling Mason Raymond on the second line. That creates a trickle down effect on the wing. Who gets bumped to the 4th line? It could be any one of Raymond, Torres or Hansen.

The likely scenario is that we will see a little line juggling based on who's going on a particular night. We are likely to see a variety of line combinations with several interchangeable wingers. Higgins, Raymond, Torres and Hansen could all bounce around from the 2nd unit to the 4th.

Overall Canuck fans have to be pretty satisfied with the deadline moves. They added their gritty, agitating forward while filling the 4th line centre hole. They also added a player who is capable of contributing offensively and on the penalty kill. Gillis did all this without surrendering any 2nd round picks or top prospects. Evan Oberg had been passed on the depth chart by the likes of Tanev and Sauve, while the Canucks feel they can replace their third round picks in the college free agent market.

Not only do they now have tremendous depth on the NHL roster, they also have a good pool of players to callup from Manitoba should the they suffer any injuries in the playoffs.

Can the playoffs please start tomorrow?