Aaron Volpatti on Waivers, Pinizzotto to make NHL debut?

Aaron Volpatti fought Ryan Reeves nine days ago which is crazy.
(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

The Canucks have placed popular BC-born pugilist Aaron Volpatti on waivers today, as first reported by Darren Dreger and since confirmed by the club. The move was recieved with skepticism from the fan-base, partly because Aaron Volpatti is a "louder" presence on the ice than chronically under-appreciated fourth line winger Dale Weise.

Some theorize that the Canucks are sending Volpatti to Chicago in order to call up diminutive center Andrew Ebbett, who has the advantage of being a left-handed centreman. That makes some sense but I prefer to trust Bob McKenzie who suggested that that the Canucks are waiving Aaron Volpatti – who I’d describe as relatively unlikely to be claimed by another team – in order to clear space for Steve "editor’s bane" Pinizzotto who is finally healthy.

Read on past the jump.

For the most part Aaron Volpatti has been an effective fourth-line presence for the Canucks this season. He’s playing soft competition (as you’d expect from a fourth-liner) but he’s also starting two shifts in Vancouver’s end for every one shift he starts on offense. He’s also coming out more or less even by the possession numbers.

But forget the possession data, Volpatti has earned a lot of goodwill from Canucks fans for his wealth of sandpaper. In 16 apperances this season he’s fought four times, winning both of the bouts he should’ve won and losing to Douglas Murray and Ryan Reeves (according to hockeyfights.com voters) – who are two extraordinarily frightening individuals. In addition to his martial prowess, Volpatti is the most devastating hitter on the Canucks roster and it isn’t really all that close.

Aaron Volpatti looks more like a prototypical fourth liner than Dale Weise does, but Weise remains the faster skater, the superior possession player and the asset with more upside. Consider that when the fourth line has played without Weise, both Volpatti and Maxim Lapierre find their Corsi% hovering around the low-40s. When Weise joins that group however, they basically break even.

We know from experience that Alain Vigneault prefers steady players with polished, reliable games to shock and awe types, especially at the bottom end of his roster. I suspect that’s partly why Volpatti finds himself as the odd man out with Steve Pinizzotto returning from injury.

Pinizzotto is a guy I’ve been curious to see in the NHL since he first signed with the Canucks prior to the 2010-11 season. He’s been consistently productive at the AHL level, and plays a pest’s game that could fit in well with the Canucks’ jerk-puck style. A variety of injuries and bad luck have prevented Pinizzotto from ever playing in an NHL contest previously, and it would be a pretty cool story if his luck were to change over the next week or so.

Update: A subsequent Bob McKenzie tweet suggests that the Canucks will call up Pinizzotto, and then send him back for Chicago for a conditioning stint. So there’s some serious roster gymnastics going on here and perhaps Ebbett will get the call in the interim. Anyway, it looks like Pinizzotto’s hypothetical NHL debut isn’t as nigh as I suggested.