Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis sent shockwaves throughout the National Hockey League Tuesday, one day prior to the league’s annual March 5 trade deadline, dealing Roberto Luongo to the Florida Panthers.
In exchange for Luongo the Canucks received prospect goaltender Jacob Markstrom and centre Shawn Matthias, who has nine goals and 16 points in 59 games for the Panthers this season.
Flash back to last year for a moment. The Canucks are sitting on two No. 1 goaltenders in Luongo and Corey Schneider — both combining for 434 wins in their NHL careers.
Now, in Eddie Lack and Markstrom, Vancouver has a duo who combine for 20 wins — a somewhat frightening thought for the short-term.
When you break it down the Luongo and Schneider deals look like this: Vancouver received a backup goaltender in Markstrom, a potential third-line centre in Matthias and a ninth overall pick in last year’s NHL entry draft, Bo Horvat.
Gillis’s popularity continued to spiral downward Wednesday when it was expected he would continue to abandon ship on his players and trade two-way centreman and 2011 Frank J. Selke Trophy recipient Ryan Kesler at the trade deadline in: “Trying to get younger, (with) more depth and more balance.”
A deal never materialized and now Canucks fans are left wondering what’s next. Likely, Gillis is choosing to wait until the 2014 NHL Entry Draft to see what type of deal he can drum up for Kesler, or any other players he’s willing to shop around in order to continue the restructuring process.
An agitated Gillis spoke to reporters Wednesday roughly 45 minutes following the trade deadline from a lush, golf and country club — likely inciting more outrage in Vancouver’s rabid fanbase on trade deadline day — saying he didn’t believe any teams were offering enough in return for any of his players.
The good news, however, is Gillis got rid of Luongo’s massive contract, adding flexibility in the off-season. Many Vancouver fans are also happy Kesler will be sticking around for a possible playoff run.
But by doing so Gillis has left a window of opportunity open for Kesler to create more influence into which team he gets dealt to — much like the situation Luongo found himself in prior to being traded back to the Panthers — a team on his list of desirable cities to play in.
Failing to pull the trigger Wednesday could limit the options Vancouver Canucks’ management now has to secure a quality return for one of its premier players. And by no means was what the Canucks acquired for Luongo a grand slam for the organization. That blame has to fall on Gillis’s shoulders.
If a rebuild is in order, trading Luongo and potentially Kesler is a necessity, despite how well-liked they are in the city. With a roster clearly beginning to show its age, let’s just hope the job gets done properly.
We’re not quite sure, though, if Gillis is the man to lead the charge.
– Williams Lake Tribune