The Canucks at the Deadline: Yesterday and Today

In the eight seasons since the Vancouver Canucks have been buyers at the trading deadline, the most notable asset the team let go was the draft pick that became Wayne Simmonds.

Now, before we go out saying that the Canucks traded Wayne SImmonds for Brent Sopel, keep in mind the Canucks never lost their 2nd round pick in the 2007 Entry Draft, this was a pick awarded to Vancouver for allowing Randy Carlyle to join the Anaheim Ducks. The Canucks passed on Simmonds twice over, selecting Minnesota high schooler Patrick White and Everett Silvertip Taylor Ellington over many more notable names.

So let’s ignore that. Vancouver has been a buyer for eight seasons running, never giving up more than a low pick and never gaining a game-changer in return. Let’s take a look at some of the notable deals (notable players only) that have taken place since 2003…

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Team stands pat for the most part, but they pick up Brad May for a song, who plays three games for the Canucks that season and gets in a pair of fights. May stuck around with the Canucks a season later and is probably best remembered in his second stint with the Canucks as being the guy who spat on David Aebischer, the, uh, worst thing a Canuck did on March 8 2004.


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Perfect segway: the trading deadline was a day after the March 8 game, and then-General Manager Brian Burke had to work pretty quickly to amend his roster knowing he’d be without the suspended first liner Todd Bertuzzi for a good stretch of games (a day later the league announced Bertuzzi would miss the rest of the season). Burke made a trade for the coveted Martin Rucinsky, trading disgruntled prospect RJ Umberger, who had just three points in 13 regular season games and two in that first round series against the Calgary Flames.

The big trade made by Burke that year was acquiring Geoff Sanderson for a third round pick (that Columbus used to acquire a bag of chips), who scored in his first game in his return to Vancouver. He had 7 points in 13 games in the regular season and two in the playoffs. He may be best remembered for a goal against Dallas when he blew by a Stars defenseman and tied it up against Ron Tugnutt, playing for a suspended Marty Turco. No highlight of this goal exists online, much to my dismay.

Vancouver also picked up depth defenseman Marc Bergevin and got nothing out of him, giving up the same.


Oh, whoops.


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Not unlike where the Washington Capitals are today, the first Canucks season post-lockout they had Stanley Cup hopes, until goalie Alex Auld filled in for an otherwise mediocre Dan Cloutier and played godawful (somehow winning Team MVP anyway) and the Canucks missed out on the postseason. The Canucks big trades involved deals for Keith Carney (giving up Brett Skinner and a pick that became nothing) and Eric Weinrich (giving up Tomas Mojzis and a pick that became nothing – and that was probably too much).

Carney was mediocre, but the Weinrich deal was one of the worst as the yellow-visored defenseman was horrible in his own end in his brief tenure with the Canucks (holy shit, he was a minus-13 in 16 games. +/- needs some degree of context, but there is no excuse for that. You’d need a 91.9% PDO to reach that number with an even shot differential rate).

So that trade stunk. Then the team banked on Auld, never giving much of a chance to newly-acquired Mika Noronen who they got from Buffalo with a pick (that the Sabres used to draft their current backup goalie Jhonas Enroth.) I still wonder what “might have been” had Noronen shouldered half the games. He was a career .901 (his last season being in Vancouver) but Auld was a .902 that season. You could have platooned them to maybe get .910 goaltending and gotten into the postseason.


Nonis’ most active trade deadline day. With the Canucks in need of scoring, Nonis picked up offensive defenseman Brent Sopel for the pick that became Simmonds and Bryan Smolinski from Chicago (managed by Dale Tallon!) for a draft pick that became Akim Aliu, who may be the most recognizeable draft pick among fans for players who will never make it. So that’s something.

Smolinski scored a respectable four goals in 20 regular season games and another pair in the playoffs in 12, so he was a decent offensive pickup considering the pretty menial price. Sopel had five regular season points but none in the playoffs, and I really have no way to judge his defensive capablities so we’ll leave that alone.

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The point is, that season, Vancouver really gave up nothing to get a couple of good rentals. They beat Dallas in a memorable seven-game series that was probably the best goaltended series ever: Roberto Luongo and Marty Turco combined for 13 quality starts (the only blemish being Turco’s Game 1, where he allowed 5 goals on 51 shots, just missing the cut for a quality start by two shots on net) and the pair combined for a .951 save percentage.

Also, both teams’ offenses were awful. Hence why the Canucks thought that Smolinski and Sopel could help them. The Canucks got dominanted in the second round by Anaheim.


The Canucks traded Matt Cooke for Matt Pettinger.

This deal has two ways to look at it: one is that Matt Pettinger is such a “Nonis” pickup, although he scored four goals in the 20 games post-deadline. The Canucks were at the end of their ropes with Cooke and dished him to Washington.

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Also, Pierre McGuire declared this deal an obvious loss for Vancouver. While the Canucks would miss the playoffs and Cooke would go on to become a 10+ goal scorer every year since, I think that that statement shows what a schmuck McGuire can be, because I don’t think the Canucks really wanted post-Canuck Matt Cooke. They’re hated enough as it is.


New General Manager Mike Gillis, freshly having signed Mats Sundin, did nothing. Maybe he adjusted his pants a little.


Canucks get: Andrew Alberts

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Hurricanes get: Better feng-shui in the penalty box / Draft pick (Austin Levi)


What I liked about Gillis last year is that he re-signed both guys he acquired, so the futures he gave up (two draft picks that have yet to be selected, one of which Gillis reacquired in the Booth trade) don’t really matter at this point. Gillis got Maxim Lapierre from the Ducks for Joel Perreault and a pick. Lapierre cleaned up his act and has become a solid checker, physical presence and occasional scorer with the Canucks – sort of at the level he was with Montreal in the 2010 playoffs.

But the real gem here was Chris Higgins. Higgins, who had terrific underlying numbers in Florida, was dished out presumably because Dale Tallon didn’t like the idea of having Higgins keep a roster spot that he would need to entice Marcel Goc to take a huge contract in free agency.

Anyway, Higgins has become a 2nd/3rd liner in Vancouver for a very good price. He also cost the team Evan Oberg and a pick.

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-It doesn’t matter if you trade draft picks, because those decisions won’t go on to hurt you.

-Especially if your team drafts poorly.

-Which also means the team probably won’t give up many of its top prospects it doesn’t have.

-Dale Tallon didn’t like his crummy old danish, but that doorstop looked delicious.

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-Gillis filled his need for a scorer at the ’09 deadline and stood pat, much like he likely will with the Top 9 this year after acquiring David Booth in November.

-Dale Tallon substitutes flies for the raisins in his trail mix.

-The defensemen acquired at the deadline will hurt you far more than whatever you acquired for them. Out of all the defensemen that became roster players on this list, there are way more who are closer to Eric Weinrich-level (including Eric Weinrich) than Jeff Brown-level.