The Vancouver Canucks, as we all know by know, dealt Cody Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres for Zack Kassian, a winger described as a “rumbling bull” by TSN’s Ray Ferraro. Also involved in the deal was Buffalo defenseman Marc-André Gragnani.
We knew that the deal might involve a Canuck minor leaguer, as Chicago Wolves general manager Wendell Young alerted the media that a trade affect the Canucks’ AHL affiliate around noon Pacific time, but we didn’t know to what extent this might affect the team. Perhaps they indicated that Kassian may play with the Wolves for the rest of the season.
Kassian, a 6’3″, 228 lb behemoth who played on Canada’s World Junior team in Buffalo, scored 77 points in just 56 games for the Windsor Spitfires in 2011. This season, Kassian has 15 goals in 30 games with Rochester of the AHL and 3 goals in 27 games with the Sabres.
Shipping out Hodgson and replacing him with Pahlsson is a move that benefits the Canucks in the short-term, even if that wasn’t what we were expecting from Mike Gillis. Pahlsson is a centreman who can play the tough minutes in place of Hodgson, who has had to take on some sheltered shifts which increased his production past December. It was clear to the Canucks that Hodgson wasn’t going to fit into this organization in the future as a centreman behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler, or at least not in their championship window.
So Pahlsson gives the Canucks a second checking line, as it would appear, while they unload Hodgson when his value is the highest, after a pretty good run of scoring in January. In return the Canucks get a winger prospect, one who can play at the NHL level right now. They also pick up Gragnani, who isn’t a bad defenseman in his own right.
Gragnani should be the big part in this deal: a 3rd round pick in 2005, Gragnani has just a goal on the powerplay this season, but he’s a very positive possession player, albeit playing very sheltered minutes on the Buffalo blue line. But that’s the sort of player that fits into the Vancouver system. He’s listed as a defenseman on the Sabres website, but Behind The Net has him at left wing, which tells you a little bit about his game. He’ll be a high-events guy that can open the game up, and may be a complement to Alex Edler in that regard, or provide a little bit of offensive flair on the Canucks’ third pairing with either Aaron Rome or Chris Tanev.
As for Kassian, he’s just big. We know of the big head hit he laid on Petr Senkerik in last year’s World Juniors:
Really, he’s the Milan Lucic-type of player that the Canucks really need. He’s a player who could slot in to either the second or third line on the wing and earn a few powerplay minutes.
Kassian may not be the fit for the Canucks this season, but Pahlsson is the upgrade at centreman that the Canucks need for the playoffs. It gives the Canucks a line that they don’t have to shelter to ensure that they’ll be productive and while they could lose a bit of offense from their depth positions in the short-term, they’ll be a little tighter defensively in the playoff run to come.