Trade and Draft Redux

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 11: Goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks turns to his right to stop a shot by Keith Ballard #2 of the Florida Panthers on February 11, 2010 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. The Canucks defeated the Panthers 3-0. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Keith Ballard will spend the next 3 years keeping pucks out of Vancouver’s net, rather than scoring on them. Oh and Roberto – keep your head up, son.

The 2010 NHL Entry Draft has come and gone now and the Vancouver Canucks made arguably the biggest draft day move in acquiring Keith Ballard from the Florida Panthers.

So what does Canucks Army think of the Canucks’ moves over the weekend?

The Vancouver Canucks were already without a 2nd round and 3rd round pick, because of prior acquisitions. Then the Canucks traded away their 1st round pick, leaving them without a draft selection until the 4th round this year.

The Canucks acquired Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich for Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner, and the Canucks 2010 first round pick (#25). At first glance, Canucks fans gasped at this move, as Gillis traded away both Grabner and their 1st round pick. I don’t think many Canucks fans were disappointed about losing Bernier, as he underachieved during his time here in Vancouver. As Gillis was quick to point out, you have to give up an asset to gain an asset. If you take away either Grabner or the 1st round pick out of the deal, it looks very lopsided for the Canucks.And with the top 2 lines almost a lock, Grabner looked like the odd man out. Where the Canucks need to broaden and change their lineup is the 3rd and 4rd line, and Grabner is not a 3rd line player. With the Sedins/Burrows and Raymond/Kesler/Samuelsson making up the top 6, Grabner just didn’t fit in. And Gillis made it quite clear that the Canucks window to win is NOW.

My only beef with this trade is that Gillis said that they included their 1st round pick this year (they had a condition on the trade that they could use next year’s 1st round pick instead, if they found a prospect they liked) instead of selecting Quinton Howden. I had Howden as a good fit for the Canucks, and as a move "up" in their draft order. I would have liked the Canucks to select Howden, but now the Canucks keep their pick next year and this deal is all wrapped up.

If I am rating this deal, I think I would call it a draw. Neither team clearly walked away from this deal a winner and both sides got what they needed. The wildcard in this trade in Oreskovich. He has lots of talent and grit, but has been problematic in Florida. If Gillis and the Canucks can extract the talent and grit out of him, and reform him to a team mentality, then the Canucks walk away from this deal as a winner. If they can get him to do that this year, then they may have found a partial solution to their 3rd line woes.

So the Canucks get a legitimate top 4 defenseman, and one who seems to be genuinely excited to be playing in Vancouver. After hearing two interviews with him over the past 3 days, Ballard was not a fan of playing in a market that doesn’t care abot hockey. The Minnesota native grew up close to the Ontario border and knew and loved hockey from a young age and seems to really embrace this move to a hockey-mad market

The addition of Ballard gives the Canucks a defensive top 4 of Ehrhoff, Salo, Ballard and Edler, with Bieksa, Alberts and Rome currently rounding out the bottom spots. Shane O’Brien is an RFA and given this acquisition, it’s looking high likely that the Canucks will simply walk away from him.

The Canucks defense is starting to look more solid now. And with rumblings continuing that Dan Hamhuis will remain unsigned and go to Free Agency, and with continued rumblings that Vancouver is his most likely target, the Canucks will have to trade away one of their existing defenseman. Most Canucks fans and media are pointing the finger squarely at Kevin Bieksa as the most likely casualty.

As for the draft itself, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone that would devote time thoroughly analyzing any team’s selection in the 4th through 7th rounds, but that’s all the Canucks had.  Vancouver used their first selection (4th rd – 115th overall) to pick US defenseman Patrick McNally. The smart, promising D has already committed to Harvard in the fall.

Their 6th round selection seems like a great choice to me, and a bit of a bargain. The Canucks selected C Alex Freisen from the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs. Freisen has put up some very solid numbers in his two years in the OHL, and appears to fit the Gillis mold of smart, strong players, as he was voted "Heart of the Team" this year, the humanitarian award last year and "Top Academic Player" in 2007-08. With a mix of smarts and physical play, he’ll likely become a tenacious 3rd line C, something that any team needs.

It’s always hard to judge a team’s success in the draft. You have to wait at least 3 years to see if these prospects are developing. But the Canucks made a move to get what they needed now, at the expense of the future for two prospects.