Reaction to the lack of moves, as in a big fat zero of them, made by first year GM Mike Gillis on yesterday's Deadline Day has been close to 50/50 in this city. I don't know about you, but I've been surprised that the negative opinions haven't significantly outnumbered the positive ones … pleasantly surprised.
With Mats Sundin here for just this year and Roberto Luongo only having one more year on his 4-year deal left after this season it's pretty easy to make the argument that the time to win is now and that some guys should have been acquired to bolster the roster.
We've all heard about the “window” … a few years, max, when a team has the right blend of players on a team (in other words enough cheap or underpaid key components to allow for maximum talent top-to-bottom).
Currently the Canucks have the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows producing consistently as well as many plying their trade on the blue line thatÂ would be paid more elsewhere. Even Roberto Luongo is earning less than many teams around the league would be willing to pay him if he were to wear their colours.
Burrows just got a new 4-year contract extension at $2 per, but the Sedins are due for a significant raise next year and Kesler and Luongo's place in line comes the year after next. The way Sundin is playing I would guess his return will be unlikely so when you add it all up, not making any moves yesterday, especially considering the ample Cap space available, is somewhat puzzling.
Even more reason to have added someone is the fact that what was once one of the league's best 3rd lines is no longer, as Kesler and Burrows have not only managed to transfer their good night-in and night-out play to the 1st and 2nd lines, but each have become catalysts in their new homes making those they play with better.
Separating the two was a move out of desperation by a coach who had seen his team lose 8 straight overall and 9 in a row on home ice, and despite protests from his boss upstairs to the contrary, it might have been his final chance at saving his job. 13 games later the team has won 11 of â€˜em, and the two they lost were stonings at the hands of goalies, Marty Turco and Jaroslav Halak, who both played one of their best games of the year turning aside numerous Grade A chances.
They are currently one of the hottest teams in the league and Alain Vigneault is once again being praised, and he should be. The man who I nicknamed balls-in-the-hopper Vigneault has not only forgotten how to change lines at the drop of hat, but his team no longer deploys a designated Â checking line, something that he has always been adamant is a pre-requisite to a successful team. The man has adapted to his team's needs and is now rolling out 4 lines and trying to play more of a puck possession game.
Including Tuesday's comeback from an early 2-0 deficit against Minnesota, one of the stingiest teams with a lead you'll ever find, they have now kept the opposition to 20 shots or less in their last 4 games, playing the brand of tight 5-man units that has been a staple of their best runs in the last 3 seasons. Defensively they've been good again, and with the new line configurations, it hasn't come at the expense of offensive pressure and scoring chances.
During the last month'ish they have won games in almost every way imaginable and that has only given them even more confidence … there's little doubt that the players in the room believe they have a group that can win, and their GM thinks they can as well.
Gillis, tried hard to add some components yesterday but everywhere he turned the asking price was a 2nd rd draft pick, and the former long-time player agent who used to put dinner on the table by signing potential draft picks has apparently held onto his fondness for them.
“We talked to a number of teams about a number of possibilities but giving up second-round picks for players who weren't long-term players was something I had decided not to do as long as eight months ago. Because Ryan Kesler is playing so well on our second line, we thought perhaps if we could get some more depth at centre we'd be happy.
But the things we tried came with a second-round pick as a price. In the analysis that I've done, there are great players who have come out of the last half of the second round so to continue to do that would be a mistake, in my mind.
Based on the last month we feel like we're a playoff team here and we feel like we're strong and we have depth,” Gillis said. “We didn't have that pressure to try and get into the playoffs at this point and we didn't have injury pressure.”
Hard to argue with any of that logic, but an even better argument for not giving away any draft picks is the pending fall of the Salary Cap in 2010 and how it will create chaos in many markets around the NHL as teams struggle to figure out how to get 22 or 23 players signed when they already have so much committted to so few.Â
The times they are a changing, and one only has to look at the trades made yesterday to see that GM's are starting to realize that. When was the last time we saw a Trade Deadline Day with only one 1st round pick exchanged and nary a blue-chip prospect finding a new big league home? Try never, and that's with zero research on the subject.Â
Or how about the Rangers trading 3 players for Derek Morris and the Flyers trading Scottie Upshall AND a 2nd round pick for the immortal Daniel Carcillo? Two different types of Salary dumps disguised as trades … the Rangers one is obvious, but the Flyers had to pay extra just to get Phoenix to even listen.Â
And that's just the start of it. As we head into this summer and beyond teams are going to have to get very creative to try and unload burdonsome contracts because the guys on the other end of the line won't even pick up the phone if they aren't guaranteed to get the better end of the deal for taking on their colleague's mistakes.Â
By refusing to trade draft picks, Gillis is not only holding on to potential good (and cheap!) players for many years, but he retained all his options to make offersheets on RFA's up for renewal who play on all those teams with Cap issues. So far teams have matched almost every time whether they liked it or not, but soon a lot of teams simply won't be able to do it, and the amounts offered may not even have to be as high as they have been in the past.Â
The Canucks' GM is balancing the now with the future, trying not to jeopradize either, and so far so good. He has a competitive team, one that still has a chance to be the last one standing (slim, yes, but a chance none-the-less), and he clearly has one of the best financial situations going forward of any team in the league.Â
He's content, and so am I.
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Written by Mark Gage