What are you doing Mike Gillis?
If there was one thing about the Vancouver Canucks lineup that I thought needed a change it was addressed in this trade.
Don't get me wrong - I like Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm. It is hard to see Samuelsson go - he is a very likeable guy who worked hard and it was always evident how much he cared about his performance. But there was always the matter of fit. Samuelsson doesn't really have the puck possession skills to make him a suitable line-mate to play with the twins. His style of play did not seem to mesh with Kesler's either. I did not like seeing him on the point on the power play when there are a wealth of talented d-men on the club. I thought Samuelson looked best when he played with Malhotra and Torres last season - those are two guys who don't cycle the puck a great deal and Samuelsson could be the central scoring threat on a line that often managed to create turnovers on the fore-check and quick but not necessarily sustained scoring chances. However, Samuelsson is not likely a guy who is happy on the third line with third line minutes, and when it comes to the defensive side of playing on a line with Malhotra, he wasn't a great fit there either. I'm not saying that Samuelsson is merely a scoring threat. When he had trouble scoring last season he seemed to shift his focus to a more rounded game and I actually preferred that version despite the reduced production, over the flashes and streaks of scoring. In the end, he is a valuable guy but it makes perfect sense to move him to a club where he can play the kind of central role he is capable of and will likely be accommodated in a way that did not make sense in Vancouver. I hope the move has positive results for both Samuelsson and Sturm.
Acquiring David Booth is another of Gillis' moves that makes great sense, and the timing isn't so bad either. His potential is unquestionable. He may be stepping into a much more pressure-packed environment, but he won't be expected to be a primary producer, and won't be facing opponents shut down guys night after night with a patchy supporting cast. He will be on a line with two excellent two-way players who he has played with - the question of whether he is a better fit seems like a relative no-brainer. He also comes in under contract - in Florida his contract may have seemed hefty, but if he lives up to his potential with Kesler and Higgins, the 4.25 could potentially turn out to be a bargain, and no more than the Canucks were spending on Samuelsson and Sturm, two guys who will be UFAs and who were acquired as UFAs. Adding a top six forward at this price is a very pleasant surprise, and for all the criticism that Gillis seems to take, he has managed to make yet another intelligent addition, at a very acceptable cost. If Mason Raymond manages to heal and return to form, you have to like all the options the Canucks have deep down the forward lines - and the addition of Reinprecht, a solid depth player as well, gives the Canucks even more depth up the middle.
People may be expressing concern about Cody Hodgson's role, but I think this is a win win situation even where Cody is concerned. As talented as he is, and as good as he has looked at times this year, a second line role may have been a bit more pressure than was appropriate at this stage of his development, and moving to the wing added an extra complication that didn't help. There is no shame in lining up with players like Malhotra and Hansen - those guys are outstanding two-way forwards with an emphasis on shutting guys down - and a third line of that quality can really make all the difference. Hodgson will face opponents' third defensive pairings and may even force his way up the lineup in due course, but Higgins' versatility, which has become more and more evident the more you see him play, remains a serious asset. He has looked outstanding in all his roles, including when he has played with Hansen, and if Hodgson should force that change in the future, so be it.
You never know, but at this point this trade looks like it couldn't have been scripted better, and I'm sure AV won't mind the 'dilemmas' he will face with this wealth of possibilities.