The Vancouver Canucks dipped into the Unrestricted Free Agent Market on opening day of the NHL free agency period, by picking up a few forwards & 1 notable defenseman... Dan Hamhuis.
General Manager Mike Gillis was a busy boy on opening day. He went out and signed 4 new players, 2 that will be undoubtedly part of the Canucks roster & 2 who hope to be.
At $27M over 6 yrs, the Canucks got the highly sought after free agent Dan Hamhuis, who was so much in demand, 2 different teams traded for his negotiating rights prior to July 1st in hopes of wooing him to sign there before he hit the open market.
The 6'1, 202 lb, 27 yr old Smithers, BC native, played last season in Nashville. There he put up 24 pts in 78 GP with a +4 rating.
What the Canucks get in Hamhuis, is a very good shutdown defensively responsible dman, maybe soft physically at times...but makes up for it with incredible hockey sense. Should be a capable 2nd unit PP defenseman that will be a staple in the top 4 regular shift dmen. Still is improving his game, the upside on him is tantalizing to scouts & will likely soon find himself taking 1st line time...perhaps even this season.
Along with the addition of Keith Ballard, the Canucks have shored up their defense that was weakened last season with the longterm injuries of Willie Mitchell & Kevin Bieksa. With Mitchell all but moving on these recent additions shore up the Canucks main 6 unit, likely even leaving Bieksa as trade bait down the line.
It seemed fairly evident in the last week that Hamhuis had tunnel vision on the Canucks as his prefered destination & Canucks fans seemed tunnel visioned on getting him. Both sides got what they wanted today, and the price, not too shabby...when you consider the likes of an aging Sergei Gonchar got 5.5M from Ottawa on a 3 yr deal & Paul Martin got 5M from the Penguins.
This move now makes the Canucks defense (for now) one of the deepest in the NHL.
The Canucks dipped into the forward Free Agent Market on opening day as well, most notably by picking up forward Manny Malhotra.
The 30 yr old Mississauga, ON native, played last season in San Jose. There he put up 14 goals, 33 pts in 71 GP while finishing a +17. He also had the 2nd best faceoff percentage in the 2010 NHL Playoffs.
What the Canucks get in Malhotra, is a versatile forward who can play centre & wing, can play defensive style checking forward, and be an adequate offensive piece. At $2.5M for 3 years, the price might be a little steeper than some might want, but the Canucks needed a player like this & with some cap room to play with, felt overpaying to get their guy was acceptable. His addition is the Canucks answer to letting Ryan Johnson go, he will get lots of chances as a penalty killing forward.
After trading away Steve Bernier & Michael Grabner recently. The Canucks were looking to possibly fill a hole or two in their back 6, and this move will help to do that.
Other Canuck signings today included Jeff Tambellini, the former New York Islander & son of former Canucks player Steve Tamblellini, as well as Joel Perrault, a former Phoenix Coyotes farmhand with a handful of NHL games.
Former Canucks goalies, Curtis Sanford & Alex Auld signed on in Montreal, while recent back up Andrew Raycroft got a 2 yr deal in Dallas.
Elsewhere in the Northwest Division
Calgary Flames got in their Hot Tub Time Machine to re-acquire Alex Tanguay & Olli Jokinen. Rumour has them trying to get Theo Fleury & Ed Beers locked up next.
Edmonton Oilers obtained the best deal of the day in PP catalyst Kurtis Foster for only 1.8M.
Minnesota Wild bolstered the 2nd & 3rd lines with depth forwards Matt Cullen & Eric Nystrom
Colorado Avalanche acquired nothing.
This week, the class of the 2010 Hockey Hall Of Fame will be announced. On June 22nd, anywhere between 3 and 6 players will feel the thrill of having their names added to the elite list of hockeys best.
For the first time ever, women's players should be included, as the likes of Angela James, Cammi Granato, Cassie Campbell, Manon Rheaume, Dawn Mcguire, Riikka Niemenen, Katie King & France St. Louis might garner some attention. They will compete for 2 spaces alotted to womens players, with the 4 spaces allowed for NHL stars Joe Nieuwendyk, Phil Housley, Adam Oates, Eric Lindros, Pierre Turgeon, Dave Andreychuk, Alex Mogilny, Andy Moog, Doug Gilmour, Pavel Bure, Tom Barrasso & others.
So who will get in?
Who should get in?
Who really doesnt have a lot of hope?
Will get in
In my opinion, theres really 3 pieces to this puzzle that should be a lock. First would be 2 womens players. I dont see just 1 getting in because frankly, it would seem cheesy to only bring 1 in, as well, there is little to split between the two top womens players that are eligible.
American Cammi Granato, the Captain of the 1998 Inagural Olympic gold medal winning squad is first up. This superstar of the womens game will get in.
She is already a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall Of Fame, The IIHF HOF, the HHOF seems like a reasonable step. If by some injust fluke they only take 1 female this year, she will probably be the one based on being more well known to fans & likely the committee as she still played till only a few years ago, being American, and having an Olympic Gold Medal.
Canadian Angela James, the first major superstar of modern women's hockey is next up. At one time, the highest scoring women's hockey player of all time, James was one of the biggest names in women's hockey thru the late 80s & early 90s. She has 4 World Championships, 12 National Championships, 8 National Championship MVP titles. A member of the IIHF Hall Of Fame with Granato, a member of the Canadian Sports Hall Of Fame & has the unique honour of having the championship trophy of the most notable womens hockey league the CWHL named after her. Before there was Hayley Wickenheiser, there was Angela James.
NHL star Joe Niewuendyk, will more than likely join the HHOF this year. With 3 Stanley Cups on 3 different teams, in 3 different decades. Joe shows that he had endurance & skill. Add in the Calder Trophy for leagues top Rookie that he won, an Olympic Gold medal, 4 NHL all-star appearances & the amazing NHL stats of 563 Goals & 1126 points & its hard to figure any way this Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 1999 could be ignored. This top 20 all time career goals scorer is as close to a lock as there is this year for the men.
Should get it??
This is a murkier pond to wade thru. Legitimately, a dozen or so names from the list above belong. But realistically, only at most 3 more names can go in, as there is a cap of 4 male members annually (2 female)
Phil Housley- Although the all time points leader amongst U.S. born defensemen has no major awards or championships, it is hard to imagine the former career top scoring American (still 2nd to Mike Modano) not getting in... Especially when you realize he put these amazing numbers up during his 7 time All-star ladened career as a defenseman mostly. He is already a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall Of Fame. It would be a sizable surprise if he doesnt add the HHOF to his amazing resume.
Adam Oates- If 16th on the career NHL points list doesnt wow you. How about 4 100 pt seasons, and 6th in career assists? Like Housley, Oates has no major awards or championships. What he ahs though is, consistancy over a 19 year career. With 12 seasons as a point per game or higher player, few have that level of regular production on their resumes. He also had 7 post-seasons where he was a PtPG or more player. In a word, amazing. This former 5 time NHL all-star should get in.
Might get in??
Eric Lindros- Once believed to be the next big thing in hockey, The Big E enjoyed a decent, but not amazing career as some had hoped. Injuries plagued the former Hart Trophy winner. But in the time he did play, he was a force. Going to 7 NHL all-star games, winning an Olympic Gold & Silver medal, as well as a Canada Cup and 2 World Junior Championships, he has lots of championships on his limited resume. Statistically, he doesnt register a lot of awe. Not in the top 100 in career goals or points, its hard to think of him as a dominant player. But he was. His first 9 seasons in the NHL, he registered over a point per game, also doing the feat 3 times in the playoffs. His shortened career may hinder his decision in this years voting. But for the next couple seasons, his name will get consideration almost every time, as the stats he put up whe he was playing...were impressive.
Pavel Bure- It seems silly to assume that a 3 time NHL top goal scorer wouldnt get into the HHOF. Yet, Bure is a bubble name to most. Once the most lethal scorer in the game, Pavel suffered continual injuries like Lindros. Forced to retire after 12 seasons, the last 2 only a combined 51 games, the Russian Rocket was cheated out of the chance to vault himself up into the career stats elites. Even with his shortened career, he still made it to 63rd in career goals. He has a World Championship, a World Junior Championship, 2 Russians Championships, 3 European Championships. A 6 time NHL all-star & the winner of the Calder Trophy, his resume certainly is full of success. Just not longevity.
Doug Gilmour- Just behind Adam Oates on the career points list by 6 pts & 1 spot is the man known as Killer. Gilmour is 55th in career goals, and 17th in career points. The former Stanley Cup winner has an impressive resume to throw into the ring. A Selke trophy for top defensive forward is something you rarely expect to see from one of the top 20 career points leaders, yet he has 1. Once nominated for the Hart Trophy, Gilmour played a tough gritty game that helped him to 9 seasons of a ptPG or higher rate. His playoff career stats are just as amazing. 188 career playoff points, puts him 7th all time. More amazingly, he did it in only 182 games. A career playoff PtPG player, Gilmour tallied 4, 20+ pt playoffs, including a 35 pt campaign in 1993. What might hold him back is his off ice life has been clouded with controversies.
Pierre Turgeon- A 500 goal scorer, and 30th on the all time points list. Turgeon has a decent resume statistically. Unfortunately, he doesnt have major awards or championships to pad the numbers. With 12 season of a ptPG or more, he will be considered. But the lack of major hardware will likely keep him watching the ceremonies at home.
Alex Mogilny- A member of the Triple Gold Club (World Championship, Stanley Cup & Olympic Gold) also has a World Junior Championship to pad the trophy case with. Best known for his 76 goal, 132 pt campaign with Buffalo in 92-93, Mogilny finished 65th in career points, after an injury shortened career. His 473 career goals gets him into 49th on the all time goals list. Much like his former linemate Bure, injuries prevented him from placing higher in the career marks. His trophy case however gives him a lot of consideration & maybe, if the HHOF is looking to add some european flavour, he might get in.
NO HOPE... this year
Dave Andreychuk- 640 career goals, 13th all time. all time leader in PP goals. 28th in career points & has a Stanley Cup. But never really was at the level of "great" for too long. Spent most of his 23 year career as a "very good" player.
Andy Moog- 4 time NHL all-star. With a Jennigs trophy. His 3 Stanley Cups with Edmonton gives him major championships. His 372 career wins puts him 14th all time in that stat, as well as his 68 career playoff wins puts him 10th on the all time list for that. Only thing missing from his resume that may hold him back, is major individual stats. Not in the top 20 in career GAVE, SPCT or SO will hinder his chances.
Tom Barrasso- 2 Stanley Cups, 1 Vezina, 1 Calder, 1 Jennings, 3X All-star, member of U.S. Hockey HOF. 15th career wins. 13th career playoff wins. Not in the top 20 in GAVE, SPCT or SO though.
Geraldine Heaney- The maximum 2 womens player quota is filled. But Heaney can start writing a speech for 2011 most likely. She was elected to the IIHF HOF along with James & Granato & is 1 of only 4 women in the IIHF hall to date.
Riikka Niemenen- Regarded the top felame hockey player not from North America will get some consideration in the near future, but with James & Granato on the list for this year, she will have to wait it out. The only non North American female in the IIHF Hockey Hall Of Fame
Cassie Campbell- the limit of 2 female players is reached with James & Granato. But Campbell will get her day someday...just not this time.
Manon Rheaume- Maybe the most well known female hockey player to NHL fans because of her 1 exhibition appearance, she too will have to wait till Angela James & Cammi Granato have been chosen to see her chance.
Dawn McGuire, Katie King, France St. Louis- they have to hope to get in very soon....before the next batch of names start coming thru like Danielle Goyette, Vicky Sunohara, Karen Bye or Katja Riipi.
I cant believe how in love the Flames fans seem to be with Dion Phaneuf.
They are acting like Bobby Orr got traded for Martin Kariya.
Sure Phaneuf is a tough as nails hard hitter that CAN change the momentum of a game. But that skillset isnt enough to pass up the chance to make your team better now. Especialyl when your team was in dire need of an offensive boost.
The Flames pick up offensive depth with Matt Stajan & Niklas Hagman that they desperately needed. They get some offensive depth. Instead of being a 1 line team with 1 or 2 other mid level scoring options, they now have 2, maybe even 3 capable lines with 1 trade.
They get rid of a terribly underachieving Fredrik Sjostrom in the deal (although they were forced to take Jamal Mayers to offset that..so essentially that part of the trade is a wash).
The Flames pick up Ian White. In White, the Flames get a very capable power play quarterback who will fill the absense of Phaneuf relatively fine in that regard. He managed to be a +1 in Toronto this year, so he obviously is doing something well defensively. as well. Where the Flames lose on this swap White for Phaneuf straight up, is size. Phaneuf is 5 inches taller and 30 lbs heavier. But grit & toughness is the one thing this defense had an abundance of with Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr, Cory Sarich & Adam Pardy. They needed a puck moving skater. White brings that to them. Sure, Toronto gets the flashier name out of the defenseman swap, and probably even the more talented one. But Ian White is no slouch & if Phaneuf doesnt progress much more, this part of the trade isnt too lopsided at all.
This brings us to the rest of the package, Keith Aulie is a young defensman prospect that I am sure the Flames were not keen on moving, but to get as many bodies as they got, they had to dangle something else with Phaneuf. Maybe in 2-3 years, this will be a mistake. But in a "now" driven league, the Flames needed help NOW. Keith Aulie was sacrificed for the greater good of improving now.
The rest of this trade breaks down Aulie for Stajan & Hagman (I dont count Sjostrom or Mayers in this. They were both throw aways). The future of Aulie is still uncertain. He COULD pan out to be a top 4 dman, or could be a career AHL journeyman. Its unknown. For the Flames, they needed scoring help NOW & Hagman with 20 goals and Stajan with 16, gives them that. They just landed a pair of guys who currently have 74 combined points, for a prospect that wouldnt be utilized by Calgary till Kipper & Iggy are past their primes.
Calgary now can roll 3 competent lines (in theory)
This takes pressure off of Daymond Langkow to be a #2 centre which he doesnt really appear to be anymore. Mikael Backlund, assuming he stays up (he may get sent back to Abbotsford with all the new bodies) can slide into a #2 or 3 line spot where there is less pressure on him to perform miracles right away. Olli Jokinen & Hagman could turn into a deadly duo, if the shoot first Hagman and pass first Jokinen get on the same wavelength, while Stajan brings a mix of puck moving & shooting to the 1st line that was missing at centre with Jokinen and Langkow who are both pre-dominantly passers.
This is a sound trade for them if they are thinking of making a run NOW.
Getting 2 top 6 forwards & a bottom 6 forward for a bottom 6 forward & a prospect you might not use for 2+ yrs is a good decision in the short term. They dont have a lot of years left where Kiprusoff and Iginla will be elite top level talents capable of building a winner on. That time is already starting to slip as it is. They need to make use of these assets while they can, and this year could be their final chance to do that. This trade now gives them a better chance to do that.
For Toronto, this is merely a matter of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Phaneuf isnt going to thrust them into the playoffs, and with the additional loss of Jason Blake to Anaheim today, they threw out 100 points in forwards. For a team that is already offensively challenged, they are quite literally pulling the plug on this season. I hope Phil Kessel is on a suicide watch, because after seeing todays moves he might consider it. He now has even less talent to play with than before. The leafs also did a goalie swap. JS Giguere is an upgrade on Vesa Toskala for sure, but he still cant carry a bad team anywhere on his own. Instead of the Leafs losing 5-3 on any given night, now they'll lose 4-2 instead.
I saw a writer today suggested the T.O. trades is to distract the media from the fact the Leafs are in a tailspin. Its true. The media for 2-4 weeks will have Phaneuf Phever. They will disregard them going 1-5-1 or some abysmal mark like that in that stretch, and by the time they start to notice the team isnt any better, the trade deadline will have passed & there will only be a month and a bit left in the season & Burke can do damage control then, for only 4-6 weeks, instead of 8-10 weeks.
The Anaheim Ducks get a small boost of offense that they may need depending on the status of often injured Teemu Selanne in Jason Blake. But they lose in the goalie swap. Will Blakes 1/6 of a goal (he did once score 40 goals however) a game make up for the 1/2 to 1 full goal a game Toskala will give up? perhaps. Afterall, Toskala is the back up & thus wont be damaging them as often as Blakes offense should help....in theory. Anaheim IMO didnt help themselves much in this deal here, and for a team only 5 pts out of the playoffs, they probably needed to do better in this deal. Blake will certainly get a chance to produce there however. As a natural left winger, something Anaheim doesnt really have right now, he instantly jumps into the 2nd line by default, perhaps maybe even 1st line depending how they see things fitting. If he recaptures some of the scoring touch he saw in Long Island where he scored 40 goals once, perhaps he can finish this year with 20 goals & then the Ducks will be able to validate this trade a bit more. For now however, I think they simply did not get enough for an asset like Giguere.
My final grades on this deal
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From time to time I have something to say on hockey. Whether its the Vancouver Canucks, NHL in general, Womens Hockey or International Hockey...if I have something to post, it will be in here.