Canucks Make Splash at Draft
by Bill Kellet
The NHL entry draft has come and gone and for the most part things went as expected. The Taylor vs Tyler debate was extinguished as soon as Steve Tambellini stepped up to the microphone.
It was a day that aside from some surprising first round selections, the day went off without a hitch.
Also, pretty much without any major trades.
The one deal that was made of significance was between the Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers. The Canucks acquired mobile defenseman Keith Ballard and former second round pick Victor Oreskovich from the Panthers for Michael Grabner, Steve Bernier and the Canucks first round selection, #25 overall. It is a trade that addresses a glaring need on this team, but was it too much? Lets examine the deal objectively.
The Pros: The Canucks get a much needed injection on the back end. Ballard, though not overly big, plays physical and is one of the best open ice hitters in the league. He has an offensive upside and could be relied upon to give a boost to the anemic powerplay. The Canucks also now have a solid top three blue line who can play in all situations and adds a dimension the Canucks were missing in the playoffs. He is also deemed affordable as he still has 5 years remaining at $4.2 million per season, a workable number in today’s salary cap world.
In Oreskovich no one is quite sure what the Canucks are getting. He is touted as having a great upside and was a former 2nd round pick; not too shabby. He is also a big man and someone the Canucks could rely on for some toughness. He is, however, no more than a project at this point and his 2 goals in 50 games last year is a sign that offense is not his forte.
The cons: Ballard has spent a relatively short time in the league, yet is joining his fifth team already. He has moved around quite a bit and has never really reached the next level of development that the Buffalo Sabres had hoped he would get to when they drafted him. This is also a deal that could come back to bite the Canucks n the ass. Consider that IF (and i say IF) Grabner rounds into the player that the Canucks all expected him to and start potting 20-30 goals consistently, this deal will look bad. Bernier is a throw in in this, and was often a media and coaches whipping boy in Vancouver, but he was a physical force and a warm body, something which now the Canucks lack.
The first round pick is not the main concern as the Canucks drafting record would deem it moot, but it brings up depth issues, who replaces Bernier and Grabners spots? Where does this leave Willie Mitchell? Can the Canucks add competent players as free agents now that they added another $4 + million to the payroll?
The emphasis on shoring up the defense is evident and GM Mike Gillis has stated that its a priority, but focusing too much on one area leave the other areas exposed. How will Gillis fit everything into his plan? That remains to be seen, but this move makes the situation a bit more cloudy in my opinion. Too much was paid for a number 3-4 defenseman who will be best on most teams second unit, the sad part is he will likely be #2 or # in Vancouver and that speaks volumes for the depth problems this organization faces.
Ballard will help without question, and for the most part is an all around sound d-man, the question is was this deal worth making when you consider the loss of two forwards who played a role for this club? Grabner is the wildcard in all this, if he is a bust in Miami than this deal was great, but if he turns it on GM Dale Tallon may have just been pegged as a genius.