Rome, Gragnani won't be back next season with the Canucks
Team also does not plan to offer contract to free agent defenceman Aaron Rome
Defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani played 14 regular-season games for the Vancouver Canucks after being acquired at the trade deadline in large part because the team did not want him to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Now it appears the Canucks are letting that happen anyway.
Photograph by: Rich Lam, Getty Images Files, Vancouver Sun
VANCOUVER -- Defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani played 14 regular-season games for the Vancouver Canucks after being acquired at the trade deadline in large part because the team did not want him to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Now it appears the Canucks are letting that happen anyway.
As a restricted free agent, Gragnani did not receive a qualifying offer by Monday's deadline and becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Those 14 games Gragnani played after coming to Vancouver along with winger Zack Kassian in the trade that sent centre Cody Hodgson and defenceman Alexander Sulzer to the Buffalo Sabres gave Gragnani a total of 80 career NHL regular-season and playoff games.
That was the exact number that prevented him from becoming a Group 6 unrestricted free agent (players 25 or older with three years of pro experience who have played fewer than 80 NHL games).
But the Canucks obviously did not like what they saw in those 14 games. Gragnani did not play in the playoffs and now the Canucks, after unsuccessfully trying to trade him at this past weekend's draft in Pittsburgh, are setting him free.
It is something of a surprise move, considering the praise that was heaped on Gragnani when he was acquired by Vancouver. While he wasn't exactly expected to be the second coming of Bobby Orr, the Canucks trumpeted his offensive skill and his ability to quarterback the power play.
"With Marc-Andre we have got a puck-moving defenceman who can play on the power play," general manager Mike Gillis said the day he traded for him. "He has got really good offensive skills, we feel like we have another power-play defenceman."
But Gragnani, who played two seasons of junior hockey under Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, only showed very occasional flashes of that offensive skill and was clearly a liability at the defensive end. He had one goal, two assists and was minus-four in his 14 games with the Canucks.
The Canucks also did not extend qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Victor Oreskovich and Mike Duco or defenceman Ryan Parent.
Oreskovich had clearly fallen out of favour with Vigneault. He played 16 games with the team in 2010-11, but logged only one game in 2011-12 before being sent back to the Chicago Wolves.
The Canucks loved his size -- 6-foot-3, 215 pounds -- but felt he was reluctant to use that size to his advantage.
Parent, a former first-round draft pick by Nashville, came to the Canucks two years ago in the trade that sent Shane O'Brien to the Predators. He played only four games with the Canucks, all in the 2010-11 season.
Duco was acquired last summer by the Canucks from the Florida Panthers in exchange for the rights to Russian winger Sergei Shirokov, who is now playing in the KHL. Duco played six games with the Canucks last season and had two assists.
Meanwhile, it appears the Canucks will cut ties with veteran defenceman Aaron Rome.
Rome's Vancouver-based agent, Kevin Epp of Titan Sports Management, said Monday he has had little contact with the Canucks and does not expect his client to be back with the team.
"At this time we have not had much conversation about him coming back with the Canucks," Epp said. "Obviously, they haven't offered us a contract so at this point I would say no."
Rome has spent the past three seasons with the Canucks. He will be an unrestricted free agent July 1, having finished a two-year contract that paid him $800,000 per season. In 43 games last season, Rome had four goals and 10 points.
The Canucks have six defencemen under contract for the coming season: Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler, Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and Chris Tanev. Sami Salo will be an unrestricted free agent July 1 and the Canucks are expected to attempt to re-sign Salo.
Their defensive prospects include former Vancouver Giant Kevin Connauton and Yann Sauve.
The Canucks are expected to be one of several teams competing for the services of defenceman Justin Schultz, a Kelowna native who is now a free agent after leaving the University of Wisconsin.
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