In the final game before tomorrow’s 12:00 pm trade deadline, the Vancouver Canucks will take on the San Jose Sharks in an afternoon game at Rogers Arena. Along with a special Hometown Hockey spotlight on Victoria, this could be the final game as a Canuck for some, so be sure to tune in!
Game Time: 4:00 p.m.
— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) February 27, 2016
Much of talk surrounding the Canucks has been surrounding possible trade destinations for rental players such as Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata.
Perhaps the off-ice distractions have brought this team together, as they’re on the verge of their first three-game winning streak of the entire 2015-16 season, not to mention scoring 5 or more goals in back-to-back games for the first time in the same span.
However, with multiple teams making moves in the days leading up to the deadline and Jim Benning’s checkered past when it comes to trades, Canucks fans are a little uneasy.
I am so scared to see what the #canucks will do. SO scared.
— Sandy (@SandyP4025) February 27, 2016
The San Jose Sharks, on the other hand, have a firm grip on the third playoff spot in the Pacific Division. They’re 10 points up on both Arizona and Vancouver, so barring a miraculous run from either the Coyotes or Canucks, it looks as if the postseason representatives from the Pacific are set.
The Sharks did make a move yesterday, shoring up their goaltending by acquiring James Reimer and young forward Jeremy Morin in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs that saw backup Alex Stalock and depth forward Ben Smith go back the other way (along with a 4th round conditional pick in 2018). They also landed Roman Polak and Nick Spaling earlier in the week from Toronto (more on that below).
1. You’re Still Here?!
Once it was clear the Vancouver Canucks were going to be sellers at the trade deadline, Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata were identified as obvious pieces that would be pursued by other teams looking to acquire talent without much of a commitment.
Both Vrbata and Hamhuis are unrestricted free agents on July 1st and each has distinct value on a Stanley Cup contending team. As the saying goes, you can never have enough depth and these two players provide it.
After the Chicago Blackhawks’ interest in Hamhuis dissipated, the Dallas Stars have emerged as the most likely trade partner for the Smithers native. Benning and Co. are most assuredly gunning for a young defensive prospect and the Stars have a number of them. Finn Julius Honka is probably off-limits, but youngsters like Patrick Nemeth (24) and Jamie Oleksiak (23) could provide a tidy return. Oleksiak and Brandon Prust are already well-acquainted.
One move, in particular, may indicate just how much Radim Vrbata is worth on the trade market. The Calgary Flames moved Jiri Hudler to Florida for two draft picks (a 2016 2nd and a 2018 4th) and while some suggest Hudler has more value than Vrbata, it’s a decent projection for the Czech winger.
2. Jovo and Sami
Ed Jovanovski and Sami Salo will perform a ceremonial puck drop this afternoon, again celebrating the 20th anniversary of Rogers Arena. The “Defence Never Rests” night should bring back some great memories of Jovo and Salo, two of the best blueliners to play for the franchise.
At times polarizing, Ed Jovanovski was a fan favourite for a long time in Vancouver, leading the defence corps for in earnest from 1999 until 2006 when he was traded to the then Phoenix Coyotes.
He would play eight more seasons, eventually returning to the team that drafted him, the Florida Panthers, before retiring.
As for Sami Salo, he’ll no doubt be remembered for his incredible slap shot; one that, at times, was considered among the hardest in the league. Though often injured, he still managed to endear himself to fans. That says a lot about just how valued Salo was.
It’s safe to say the Canucks wouldn’t mind if these two retirees in their prime suited up for tonight’s game.
3. What about now?
Despite winning their last two games and looking relatively good doing so, the Canucks still aren’t a very good team. Firmly established as a non-playoff team, the question now is “where do we go from here?”
It’s obvious some teams are tanking (*cough* Toronto *cough*), but it’s hard to imagine the Canucks doing something similar. They still have above average goaltending regardless of who they stick between the pipes and as long as the Sedins in the lineup, it’s difficult to label Vancouver an AHL+ team as some have with the Maple Leafs (and Buffalo Sabres last year).
Once the deadline passes and the Canucks are who they will be until the end of the year, you have to imagine there will be some call-ups from Utica. However, the Comets are still battling for a playoff spot and would Jim Benning want to pull young players out of another run at the Calder Cup?
Unfortunately, this probably means another year of missing the playoffs and drafting outside of the top four or five. It will be another serious test for the ex-scout Benning and his staff.
Radim Vrbata was not at practice yesterday but did say he would probably return Monday (if he is still a member of the Canucks).
Radim Vrbata said he's feeling better and is planning to practice with #Canucks Monday.
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) February 27, 2016
Jacob Markstrom was also absent from practice on Saturday due to the flu.
|D. Sedin||H. Sedin||Hansen|
When it would appear everything around the team is up in the air, the Canucks have played some of their better hockey this season. On the same night the organization honours Sami Salo, let’s see them dispatch the Sharks for old times’ sake. Canucks win 4-2. Ahhh, remember this?