Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis didn’t flinch when he admitted that winning the GM of the Year award provided no solace after his team’s Game 7 defeat in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.
That being said, Gillis seemed to make all the right moves in the off-season and through trades. He brought in faceoff wizard Manny Malhotra to put Ryan Kesler and Henrik Sedin in better positions and won the bidding war for shutdown defenseman Dan Hamhuis last summer. It seemed like the two trades to acquire depth forwards Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre would be minor tweaks, but those deals made a positive impact on the team.
Higgins provided another dose of speed while Lapierre proved to be a useful forechecker and intolerable pain for opposing teams. While re-signing pending unrestricted free agent Kevin Bieksa is obviously the biggest move of the day for Gillis, retaining that versatile blueliner wasn’t his only move of the day. Gillis decided that Lapierre will remain a (hopefully useful) villain in Vancouver to the tune of a two-year, $2 million deal.
Lapierre isn’t a scoring dynamo – he scored 12 points in abbreviated stops with the Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks and Canucks during the regular season – but he’s a player who can provide hustle and plenty of agitation. The former second round pick built up such a reputation for diving that officials seemed to usher in a serious crackdown during the Stanley Cup finals, yet his antics seemed to benefit Vancouver more than they hurt the team.
(At least in Gillis’ view, one would assume.)
The Canucks still have some off-season questions to answer, with Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo and Higgins ranking as their biggest unrestricted free agents while Jannik Hansen will likely be a restricted free agent. Re-signing Bieksa and Lapierre on the same day shows that Gillis is mostly happy with the team that brought Vancouver just one win shy of its first-ever Cup, but with about $13 million in cap space in play and 5-8 roster spots to fill, the team might still quite different by the end of this summer.