Welcome to the ‘re-tool,’ Vancouver

21 Comments

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.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

blackhawks
Harry How/Getty Images
13 Comments

CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

Getty Images
3 Comments

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

tampa bay lightning
Scott Audette/Getty Images
2 Comments

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

Rasmus Sandin
Julian Avram/Getty Images
2 Comments

TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.