NHL Trade Deadline Focus: Vancouver Canucks

Jeremy GrittenContributor IFebruary 26, 2009

Judging by the standings, one would think the Vancouver Canucks are in the perfect position to be a buyer at the upcoming trade deadline.  

Right in the thick of a heated playoff race, one more top six forward or starting defenseman could be the difference between fifth and ninth. 

However, the best plan of action for Vancouver is to sit tight. 

Currently there are no gaping holes in Vancouver's roster. They could use a top six forward, or a reliable, puck moving defenseman, but so does every other team.  Unfortunately for Vancouver, many of those teams have a lot more to offer than the Canucks.

Down on the farm, in Manitoba, the cupboards are looking bare, as Cory Schneider, Cody Hodgson, and Michael Grabner are Vancouver's only three legitimate prospects.  This is due to botched draft choices, past deadline deals, and tragedy. 

The past few deadlines have seen Vancouver give up crucial second and third round picks for the likes of Mika Noronen and Keith Carney.  Those picks have turned into players such as Milan Lucic and Steve Mason.  Vancouver cannot afford to make any more of these crippling mistakes.

Checking forwards turned scorers Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler will certainly garner attention from teams all over the league for their versatility and work ethic.  Kesler started the year as the checking center, and was fantastic.  He was then moved up to the second line to play with Mats Sundin and Pavol Demitra, where he excelled, scoring 10 points in his first four games on the line.

 Burrows has played as a third line checker, first line forward, even defense for part of the year, and all the while has put up decent numbers.  Both of these guys should be off limits, as these are the type of players Vancouver desperately needs going forward.

The Hockey News suggested a trade that would send speedy winger Mason Raymond and prospect Michael Grabner to Minnesota for the dynamic Marian Gaborik.  Raymond has shown flashes of brilliance since breaking into the league, scoring some highlight reel goals with his speed and soft hands. 

Unfortunately, those flashes of brilliance also come with prolonged slumps, and some say it may be time for a change of scenery.  

Grabner was challenged last year in the AHL, and is now the leading scorer on the Manitoba Moose.  Another young player with soft hands, Grabner has loads of potential, and can only get better. 

Some question whether or not he can perform at the NHL level, but trading him away at this point would look foolish if he turned out to be a star.  Both Raymond and Grabner are very young, and it would take a special package for Gillis to consider moving them.

Although Gaborik is one of the most explosive and dangerous players in the NHL, he can only put up points if he is healthy.  The injury-prone winger has played a total of six games this year, and has had groin problems for most of his career. 

A player who has wrecked his groin that badly will never be able to make a full recovery, and I believe that Gaborik has hurt himself beyond repair.  Regardless, his contract is up at the end of this season, and it would be tough for Mike Gillis to justify trading away two prospects for a player who hardly played wearing the orca.

Another reason Vancouver shouldn't make any moves comes in the form of Swedish center Mats Sundin.  If any team could gain a 6'4" point a game center for nothing, I think they would call that a successful trade deadline.  Mats Sundin is Vancouver's blockbuster.

With Sundin, the Canucks finally have six legitimate first and second line players, something they haven't seen since the Naslund-Bertuzzi era.  Coupled with a strong defensive core, and all-star Roberto Luongo, this team could make some noise in the playoffs. 

If Luongo can catch fire as he did in the '07 playoffs, and the Sundin line can take some defensive pressure off the Sedin twins, who knows how far the Canucks could go.  All this without giving up any prospects or draft picks seems like a pretty good deal to me.