It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Canucks general manager Mike Gillis, and along the way he has faced many important decisions. The decision to sign Bieksa and trade Ehrhoff was the one that stands out as key, but the unrestricted free agency of key depth players like Sami Salo, Chris Higgins and Raffi Torres was also an important consideration.
The terms of the Higgins deal will see him paid $1.9 million per season for each of the next two seasons.
From a Canucks’ perspective, I think Torres is a significant loss. He’s always been an underrated goal-scorer; he tallied between 12 and 19 each of the last three seasons, despite missing time for injury. At least as importantly, he’s a very decent depth forward in terms of moving the puck in the right direction (despite his not especially high-end passing skills). The physical presence he added also had value for Vancouver.
Chris Higgins essentially fills the same role. Like Torres, he has some offensive ability, but not enough to stick on a scoring line over the long haul. Frankly, he’s probably a slightly better two-way player than Torres at this point in time. He doesn’t have the same physical presence, but he does get involved in the play. Nobody can question his commitment after the way he played in the playoffs despite suffering a broken foot in the second round.
Earlier in his career, Higgins three times scored 20+ goals for Montreal, but it seems unlikely that he will be able to recapture that form in Vancouver. The big difference between Higgins the 20+ goal scorer and Higgins in the present is power play time – he racked up 27 goals over three years on Montreal’s potent power play; in the three seasons since he has a total of three power play goals. Realistically, if he can chip in 10 goals while playing defensively responsible hockey on the third line, the Canucks will have to be pretty happy with his output.