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.
But he wont be. Realistically he will face some disciplinary action, but firing will not be it. Its not practical for the NHL to take such a heavy handed action on him.
A little back story on why the suggestion he should be fired. Lets take you back to just last night when the Nashville Predators faced the Vancouver Canucks at GM Place. Stephane Auger was one of the referees in the game that the Preds eventually won 3-2 on a late power play goal by Shea Weber.
The questions have arised as to whether or not Nashville should ever have been on the power play. Far more importantly, did an NHL official directly affect the outcome of a game by trying to even a score with a specific player that he felt embarrassed him in a completely different game?
It was clear by the actions of Auger in the last period of the game that he had every intention of "getting" Vancouver Canucks forward Alex Burrows any way he could. First he called Burrows for diving early in the period. Was it a dive? Perhaps. It certainly wasnt a blatant one. At best, it was borderline. Its a call that probably should not have been made, but in the grand scheme of things... Ok, fine you got him. You got him on a questionable call. Score settled. From there you move on.
However, later in that same period the Canucks got a power play with 4:49 to go in a tie 2-2 game. Burrows was on the ice to start the power play. Only 4 seconds in, with not even a slightly valid case, Auger called Burrows for "interference" to even up the sides to 4 on 4. Burrows was livid. His teammates were livid. The fans were livid. It was a crap call. There was no merit to it. Everyone in hockey knows it. The play Burrows was called on happens literally dozens of times a period without ever being called. Off a faceoff Burrows skated close to an opposing player making very light (by hockey standards) contact with him on his way to the front of the net. It didnt impede the opposing player too much, if at all. Let alone in a 2-2 game late in the 3rd period, it should NEVER be called, especially since its probably not even a penalty in childrens hockey.
After the game Burrows ripped Auger publicly. He stated that he was approached by Auger before the game & told that he was going to get him. The reason, for making him look bad on a call in a game Devcember 8th where Burrows seemed to embellish a hit to get a more severe penalty against an opponent. Were these penalties in last nights game pre-meditated? Seeing them, it might seem like it. Burrows scored 2 goals in the game and was looking to make a little NHL history if he could have scored a 3rd. Auger clearly tried as much as he could to prevent Burrows from having this chance. Taking him off the power play late in the game on a phantom call was his revenge. Considering he got Burrows for "diving" earlier in the period, this latter call should never have happened. He had evened up any debt he thinks Burrows might have owed him. The late call was purely a spiteful vendetta filled attack. This is action unbecoming of a professional sports league official.
What Burrows did by publicly chastizing Auger is likely going to get him in hot water with the league & he will probably get a moderate fine. I doubt a suspension will come of it. But it is a possibility. Maybe a game? He'll deserve it. You cant just go around ranting publicly all the time. That being said. he has a valid argument, and one that the league needs to deal with.
The real question for the NHL is what to do with Auger? He will continue working as a ref while the investigation goes on. What should they do in the end? Its clear they cant let it slide. This is a ref that is now at the centre of 2 of the NHLs larger black eyes for referee incidences. He is the same referee who claimed Shane Doan, (one of the friendiest & nicest & most humble players in the league) once made derogatory remarks about francophones in a game. He handed Doan a 10 minute misconduct penalty (like what Burrows recieved at the end of last nights game...sound familiar yet?) for making culturally offensive remarks towards the refs who were all francophones. The NHL investigated this allegation & found it to be totally baseless.
No actions were taken on Doan by the league. But the actions of this ref caused such an uproar that a francophone MP wanted Doan to pay. Denis Coderre, a liberal MP demanded Doan be removed from Team Canada & a public apology. Doan fought back & sued the MP for defamation...all because of a ref who clearly has some sort of warped vendetta. Shane Doan would go on to play for Team Canada AND was made team captain.
Just a little over 4 years later, Auger is at the centre of another controversy on the ice. This time, all because a player made him look bad on a call a month earlier. This type of action happens dozens of times a year to refs. Refs deal with it either by letting it roll off their back, or they get the player back privately with a slightly questionable call down the road. But not 2 of them, and certainly not one as dreadful as the interference call. Certainly not in a 2-2 tie late in the 3rd period. Its an abhorent abuse of power.
The NHL knows it will eventually have to deal with Auger. They SHOULD fire him for now being at the middle of 2 hugely embarassing moments for the league. But they wont. What they may do is give him a hefty fine & a moderate suspension.
My suggestion (one that I think is practical for the NHL)
-Surrender all salary from that game, plus an additional 5% of his salary fine.
-Not allowed to ref any games Burrows is in for the duration of the 09-10 season & playoffs.
-Suspension of 2-5 games.
This in my mind seems like a more logical and reasonable assessment. Its certainly more practical, as the NHL would have a huge issue with trying to reschedule so many games from here to the end of the season if they suspended Auger outright, not to mention the fight it would cause with the NHLOA, the officials association. But a penalty is needed against Auger, and it cant just be a stern finger wagging. This is after all his 2nd offense of grossly questionable conduct, it very likely affected the outcome of a regular season game this time, perhaps prevented a player from obtraining a piece of NHL history, and worse, it puts the NHL in a bad light.
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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.