Iain MacIntyre: Dealing with a disposable dilemma

 

Tense times: Playing in the NHL is a cool gig, but hearing your name linked to trade talk is stressful even for pros like Cracknell and Hamhuis

 
 
 
 
Adam Cracknell, seen playing against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday at Rogers Arena, will find out Monday if he’s still a Vancouver Canuck.
 

Adam Cracknell, seen playing against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday at Rogers Arena, will find out Monday if he’s still a Vancouver Canuck.

Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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Editors note: Adam Cracknell was claimed on waivers Monday morning by the Edmonton Oilers.

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VANCOUVER — Adam Cracknell is married without children, and both the strength of his marriage and decision to hold off starting a family is explained by the number of times he has changed teams and cities and friends.

“Five teams in two years,” he said Sunday. “A lot of it is stressful. A lot of people don’t see what goes into it. I tell my wife, ‘OK, I’m going on a plane in three hours.’ She’s got to pack up our life and say goodbye to all her friends because we’re leaving again.

“Luckily, we’re in Vancouver and have a place in Cranbrook to go home to. But that’s the hard part — moving your life again.”

Cracknell finds out Monday whether he has been claimed on waivers by one of the National Hockey League’s 29 other teams or has cleared them with the Vancouver Canucks, who might then send him to the Utica Comets.

Dan Hamhuis was rumoured to be going to the Chicago Blackhawks last week, then the Dallas Stars on the weekend but instead was also still with the Canucks on Sunday when they blew their 12th game of the season in the third period, surrendering four goals in the final 16 minutes of a 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks.

It seems two wins and a 1-0 lead will be as good as it gets this season for the Canucks, who haven’t won three straight games all season and, almost hopelessly out of the playoff race, are trying to sell players ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

Maybe the surprise of Sunday’s loss isn’t that the Canucks kicked away another two points but that they were in a position to claim them despite the emotional upheaval of the last week.

“The guys that are in those rumours and talks, they come to the rink and are really professional,” veteran winger Daniel Sedin said. “I can’t say enough about those guys. All we can do is support them. This is the tough part about being a pro. As a teammate and friend, you understand what they’re going through. And it’s tough to see.”

Want to know what it’s like to be disposable in the NHL?

Consider the last few days for Cracknell, who didn’t play into the league until he was 25 and has been hanging by his fingernails in the five years since then.

Last Wednesday, he read on the Internet that he was on Canucks GM Jim Benning’s seven-player sell list.

On Thursday, Cracknell said: “You play with the guys you’re with. That’s what’s important.” Then he was healthy-scratched against the Ottawa Senators while on a two-game goal-scoring streak.

On Friday, when asked by Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy if he’d given Benning his own trade list, Cracknell joked: “Yes. There are 29 teams on it.”

On Sunday morning, the 30-year-old centre learned the team was placing him on waivers to make him eligible for the American Hockey League playoffs. And on Sunday afternoon, he played against the Sharks.

“I saw Jim’s number and I thought I was traded,” Cracknell said of the call from Benning telling him he was on waivers. “I was happy to have the opportunity to play tonight and go to battle for my teammates. They said I was playing, so I just got myself ready like it was any other day. Hopefully, it’s not my last game for the Canucks.”

With the trade market and waiver wire flooded with players, Cracknell isn’t likely to be picked up by another team.

It also looked increasingly likely late Sunday that Hamhuis, the most valuable trading chip Benning possesses, might also be staying with the Canucks after frenzied speculation in recent days that he was headed first to Chicago, then Dallas.

By game time Sunday, trade talk involving Hamhuis had cooled. Talks involving another Canucks veteran headed to unrestricted free agency, injured winger Radim Vrbata, have been frozen since the start.

It’s possible Benning could come up with nothing at the deadline to help the Canucks’ biggest rebuild in nearly two decades.

Hamhuis wasn’t sure whether he’d be in the Canucks lineup or not, but the team did not give him a choice.

“I want to be playing here and I had a chance to play,” Hamhuis said. “I don’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes, but I was happy to put the gear on again tonight.”

Hamhuis, whose expiring contract includes a no-trade clause that Benning must navigate, said it crossed his mind against the Senators and the Sharks that it could be his final game as a Canuck. The defenceman from Smithers signed a free-agent contract five and a half years ago to return to British Columbia.

He doesn’t want to leave, but will waive his NTC to go to a Stanley Cup contender. Whatever happens, the 33-year-old wants to re-sign with the Canucks this summer and finish his career in Vancouver.

Benning has told him the team isn’t opposed to the idea, but nothing can be promised in February. There are too many moving parts to NHL rosters to know now how much salary and roster room will be available on July 1.

“There hasn’t been any guarantees and there hasn’t been anything ruled out in that situation,” Hamhuis said Sunday. “That’s where we’re left with a few unknowns. Tomorrow will be an interesting day.”

Asked if anything had changed in the last few days, Hamhuis said: “I’m sure there are lot of things that have changed. Deals come close and then they fade away, then come back again. Players fall out of deals and into deals. I think there’s tons of things changing at all times — changing the landscape of whatever’s going on.”

He’d like some clarity. At least he hasn’t long to wait.

imacintyre@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/imacvansun

 
 
 
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Adam Cracknell, seen playing against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday at Rogers Arena, will find out Monday if he’s still a Vancouver Canuck.
 

Adam Cracknell, seen playing against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday at Rogers Arena, will find out Monday if he’s still a Vancouver Canuck.

Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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