MacIntyre: Time will tell if the price was right for Canucks trade
Management pins hope on Derek Roy as third-line centre to take team to Stanley Cup Final
As Vancouver Canuck general manager Mike Gillis admitted before making Tuesday’s trade for Derek Roy, there is a price for trying to win the Stanley Cup. The problem is teams often don’t know what that price is even as it is being paid.
The second-round draft pick previous Canuck manager Dave Nonis surrendered to Los Angeles in 2007 to re-acquire Brent Sopel at the trade deadline turned out to be power forward Wayne Simmonds.
Most second rounders don’t become impact players in the National Hockey League, but you never know what, or who, will become of the pick Gillis sent with second-tier prospect Kevin Connauton to rent Dallas Stars’ centre Derek Roy for whatever remains in the Canucks’ season.
Another former Vancouver GM, Brian Burke, threw away first-round draft pick R.J. Umberger in 2004 to get Martin Rucinsky from the New York Rangers. The Canucks had Rucinsky for five weeks, right up until Game 7 of the first round of the Stanley Cup tournament. Umberger has been in the league for eight years.
Connauton is no Umberger and as a defenceman plays a position at which the Canucks, barring injury, are fully loaded for at least the next couple of years.
But the organization lacks prospects, hence the Canucks’ recent ranking by a major publication of 29th among 30 teams in pre-NHL talent.
And in the last seven years, under two managerial regimes, the Canucks have traded away at the deadline four second-round picks, four third-rounders and four fourths.
That represents slightly more than half the franchise’s 2006-2012 draft picks in Rounds 2-4. Gillis also traded his 2010 first-round selection in the dubious deal for Keith Ballard.
Gillis, at least, has maximized his deadline transactions by generally re-signing the acquisitions: Andrew Alberts, Max Lapierre and Chris Higgins, whose new four-year, $10-million extension didn’t get the praise it deserved Tuesday in the glare of the Derek Roy trade.
The Canucks, who have scored two or fewer goals in 12 of their last 16 games, desperately needed another centre despite the fan base’s puppy love for tiny rookie Jordan Schroeder.
The Canucks needed another centre with experience and offensive skill, with some physical heft, a strong playoff resume and the ability to win faceoffs and help the power play.
Roy, a 29-year-old who will hit the jackpot this summer as an unrestricted free agent, checks off only half of those six boxes.
At 5-9, he is hardly the prototypical third-line centre to play behind Henrik Sedin and injured Ryan Kesler.
“But Ryan Kesler isn’t your prototypical second-line centre, either,” Canuck assistant general manager Laurence Gilman countered late Tuesday. “Our team is not constructed like conventional teams. We can afford to bring in an unconventional third-line centre.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to have players like Daniel (Sedin) and Henrik again — players who were drafted No. 2 and No. 3. The time to do this is now and I’m all-in. It’s not the best team that wins the Stanley Cup every year, it’s the team that’s playing best. We’re trying to get our team playing its best when the playoffs come around.”
Even with Roy and Kesler, who could return as early as next week, the Canucks aren’t the best team in the NHL.
Tuesday’s trade just keeps them in the running, keeps them in the game after some alarming nights this season.
Management made it clear after its productive day that it was not done trying to upgrade the Canucks. The trade deadline is noon today.
“If you keep holding on to guys instead of getting up-and-coming younger guys, you’re going to be good for a few years and then things can drop off fast,” Henrik Sedin warned after Monday’s 3-2 loss in San Jose. “But I still think, getting our guys back from injuries and maybe getting a couple of guys here at the deadline, I think we still have a great shot. That’s all I want to look at it because we all know we’re not getting any younger. We’re going to have a few more years where we have a chance.”
Vancouver’s “window” may not be as long as he thinks. The Sedins are 32 and under contract for one more year.
The salary cap plunges next season to $64.3 million and the team has nearly that much money already committed to just 15 players.
The Canucks chose to re-sign Higgins now, but not fellow winger Mason Raymond. Raymond and fourth-line centre Lapierre are eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer. Vancouver’s core players are under contract, but it will be difficult for the Canucks to retain all their supporting players. And who will replace them?
That’s a question they’ll worry about later. For now, they’re trying to win a Stanley Cup. Maybe Roy will help. Maybe not.
If Vancouver wins the Cup in June, Tuesday’s trade was worth it at any price. And if the Canucks go out in the first round again, we’ll wait for the bill.
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