Anyone who spent even a few seconds glancing at the Canucks’ defensive depth chart knew that the depth defencemen on the team were going to have some trouble making the roster. And anyone who spent a few seconds glancing at the team’s cap situation knew that players making more money than they were worth would have a black mark against them. At that junction of depth defenceman avenue and earns more than he’s worth street sits Shane O’Brien, who was waiver earlier today, along with Darcy Hordichuk.
It’s been a rocky road for O’Brien. He broke into the league as a tough defenceman who was willing to fight, a guy who might have evolved into a relatively high-end shutdown player. Certainly that’s what Tampa Bay was hoping for, back when they allowed Brian Burke to extract a first round pick from them in exchange for O’Brien’s rights. Eventually Tampa Bay sent to Vancouver in exchange for not much (Lukas Krajicek), and it’s been mostly downhill since then, with O’Brien making strange comments to the press and facing discipline from the team.
Entering training camp as the likely sixth defenceman, O’Brien didn’t clearly outplay the much cheaper Andrew Alberts, and since $1.6 million is a heavy chunk of change for a seventh defenceman, he finds himself on waivers. While he’s still a capable third-pairing guy, the problems of the last few years combined with his cap hit make me wonder if there’s a team out there willing to claim him, particularly given that most clubs are healthy this time of year and struggling to make cuts as it is.
Also waived was Darcy Hordichuk, who makes decent money for a fighter ($775,000 this season) without other redeeming skills. The Canucks have other options – Rick Rypien is still with the team, and Tanner Glass is a willing combatant, cheaper, and probably has a better chance of contributing on the ice than Hordichuk. That doesn’t mean somebody else won’t take a chance on Hordichuk – after all, there always seem to be teams looking for fighters – but he clearly wasn’t an ideal fit for the Canucks.
All in all, both these moves strike me as perfectly sensible.