x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Deadline deal a tough trade for Vancouver Canucks

The trade deadline came and went, and while there was not the flurry of activity of years past, two teams, Vancouver and Nashville, came out ahead of the rest.

Zack Kassian was sent from the Buffalo Sabres to Vancouver for Cody Hodgson and Alexander Sutzer.
Zack Kassian was sent from the Buffalo Sabres to Vancouver for Cody Hodgson and Alexander Sutzer.

The NHL trade deadline passed last week with barely a whimper.

The Columbus Blue Jackets decided to hold on to the big prize, Rick Nash, and presumably will deal him this summer.

Thus, the highly hyped swap-a-thon, when contenders normally load up for the play-offs and also-rans build for the future, fell flatter than Alex Ovechkin's career arc in recent years.

There were only 16 trades - barely half the number of recent seasons at the trade deadline - and very few that will have an impact.

It looked for a while like the biggest deal of the day would be the first one, when Nashville reunited the temperamental Kostitsyn brothers by acquiring Andrei from Montreal a couple of years after they obtained Sergei from the Canadiens.

But Buffalo and Vancouver swung an intriguing deal right at the deadline, and Buffalo and Nashville pulled off a significant last-minute transaction, too.

Buffalo sent the rookie power forward Zack Kassian and the promising Marc-Andre Gragnani to Vancouver in exchange for the freshman, Cody Hodgson, a potential No 1 centre, and the defenceman Alexander Sulzer.

The Canucks immediately become tougher with the addition of Kassian, while Gragnani boosts the team's depth on the blue line and has an offensive flair. Plus, Vancouver added the checking centre Sami Pahlsson from Columbus; he will step into the third-line role vacated by Hodgson.

The moves should address Vancouver's shortcomings of a year ago, when they lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. Vancouver were pushed around by the Boston Bruins in the 2011 final, and these latest line-up shuffles make the Canucks a grittier group.

The Predators pumped up their chances by snagging Paul Gaustad from the Sabres. A solid third-line centre, Gaustad has size and plays a hard-nosed game while chipping in some offence. He is also first-rate at face-offs, a facet of the game that becomes especially important in the play-offs.

Nashville had also obtained the defenceman Hal Gill from Montreal before deadline day, filling out a blue line that is led by the All-Star pairing of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. With unrestricted free agency looming for Suter this summer - and for Weber next summer - the Predators decided to go for it, hoping that loading up for a run at the cup will help convince the two to re-sign rather than test the open market.

By default, the Canucks and Predators were the winners at the trade deadline, making moves of consequence, and they did so without ripping apart their current rosters.

Will the moves pay off?

Only the play-offs will tell.