Mike Gillis

Welcome to the ‘re-tool,’ Vancouver


Three years ago, the Canucks were one win away from their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Today, that seems like a distant memory.

Vancouver is in the midst of a “re-tool” according to GM Mike Gillis, a statement confirmed with Tuesday’s stunning trade of goalie Roberto Luongo to Florida — one that came just nine moths after firing head coach Alain Vigneault, and eight after dealing Cory Schneider to New Jersey.

If the re-tool wasn’t on before today, it sure is now.

Gillis later acknowledged the magnitude of today’s deal, and what it represented.

“It takes a lot of courage to trade a player like Roberto Luongo,” he said. “It’s a wake-up call that we’re not performing where we should be.”

It appears as though more dominoes will fall. Ryan Kesler is one of the hottest commodities heading into tomorrow’s trade deadline and likely to be moved, as the Canucks are primed to capitalize on his highest market value. Alex Edler’s popped up in trade conversations for the second straight year, and Kevin Bieksa’s name has been bandied about too.

New faces are on the way in. Jacob Markstrom, 24, will join new No. 1 Eddie Lack (who’s 26) in an all-Swedish goalie tandem. Fellow 26-year-old Shawn Matthias, who Gillis called a “critical part” of the Luongo deal, will give Vancouver a new look up front.

“I’m so excited,” Matthias said. “I told my agent a while ago I’d love to go to a Canadian city. I’ve heard rumors of Vancouver for a while, I’m glad it happened.

“I’ve been smiling ear-to-ear since I got the news. I think my game is going to elevate playing in front of fans like that.”

Eventually, former first-round picks Nicklas Jensen, Brendan Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk and Bo Horvat will get their opportunities as well. But it’s worth noting this is being labeled a “re-tool,” not a rebuild. This isn’t about Vancouver waiting for the kids to mature — it’s about fixing things on the fly, mixing youth with experience, which is a necessity given how many veterans Gillis is locked into (and the fact nine of ’em have some form of a no-trade clause.)

Gillis acknowledged as much in his Tuesday conference call, explaining his goals for future trades.

“I don’t know if we’re done yet,” he explained. “If we do something else, it will be in the same vain of trying to get younger and trying to get more depth and more balance.”

Like we said: Welcome to the re-tool, Vancouver.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.