I wanted to give the readers a list of the trades and signings that Mike Gillis has done while with the Vancouver Canucks. We can look at the major moves and give him an overall grade on the job so far. But before we do that, it might be interesting to note just who Mike Gillis is, and why he was chosen as the 10th Canuck's GM in franchise History. He’s currently tied Brian Burke for the longest tenure as a GM with this team.
Mike Gillis was actually drafted in the NHL. He went 5th overall in the 1978 draft, selected by the Colorado Rockies.
In 246 career NHL games, he had 33 goals and 43 assists as a left winger. He played for the Rockies and 125 games for the big bad Boston Bruins.
Upon retiring from playing hockey, Mike Gillis coached the Queen's University Golden Gaels hockey team in 1985–86. He earned a law degree from Queen's University in 1990, and became a player agent. His clientele over the years included Pavel Bure, Markus Naslund, Bobby Holik and Mike Richter.
On April 23rd, 2008, Gillis became the acting GM of the Vancouver Canucks, where he wasted no time in making his mark on the team.
Although there is no proof either way, it is believed the newly minted GM was the main reason why the Canucks did not resign then captain Markus Naslund to a new contract. They let him go to the Rangers to finish out his NHL career freeing up cap space to go after the ever alluring Maple Leafs captain, Mats Sundin.
Gillis offered Sundin 10 million for 1 season, which Mats finally accepted at the mid point of the year. Sundin had 9 goals in 41 games. They did manage to make it to the second round of the playoffs that year, but lost in 6 to Chicago. Seeing as this is the first major move, we can grade this one first.
Gillis then signed Alex Burrows to a 4 year, 8 million dollar deal. Burrows played most of his games with the twins, compiling 3 x 50 point seasons in that stretch. For that we can give Gillis a solid grade.
With the Canucks' Daniel and Henrik Sedin set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1, 2009, Gillis actually flew to Sweden to negotiate with the twins, signing them to identical five-year, $30.5 million deals hours before free agency period was set to begin.
Shortly after signing the Sedin's, Gillis proceeded to lock up another piece of his veteran core by signing Roberto Luongo to a 12 year, 64 million dollar deal. There isn't much about this deal that will benefit the team in the long run. Luongo still has another 8 years left after this season. He is currently 34. Although Luongo is having a career year, this contract sucks for both parties involved.
In 2009 Mike Gillis signed free agent Mikael Samuelsson, who played 2 full seasons with the team. He amassed 103 points in that time. He only played 6 games the final year, before being traded.
Gillis' first big trade occurred on August 28, 2009, when he sent young forwards Patrick White and Daniel Rahimi to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for defencemen Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich. Ehrhoff was the gem in this deal, tallying 94 points in 2 seasons with the Canucks. He eventually left to Buffalo via free agency where he was able to garner some big dollars.
In May 2010, Gillis signed undrafted Chris Tanev, who was playing in the AHA before being found by Dave Gagner, the teams director of player development. Tanev is a sturdy stay at home defenceman who is starting to show glimpses of offensive production.
On June 25, 2010, during the NHL Entry Draft, we saw what could go down as one of the worst trades in team history. Kieth Ballard was traded to the Canucks from the Florida Panthers. Ballard was traded along with Victor Oreskovich, for Michael Grabner, Steve Bernier, and Vancouver's first round pick. Since Grabner has left the Canucks, he has 70 goals and 44 assists. He also had a hat trick for the Canucks before being traded.
July of 2010 was a big summer of signings. Gillis put his stamp on the team signing free agents in Dan Hamhuis and Manny Malhotra. Hamhuis has since been named to team Canada for the Sochi Olympics. We are all aware of the eye injury that Malhotra suffered the year the Canucks went to the finals. The saddest part about all this is that Gillis didn't want to put Manny at risk playing him. He sat out the centreman for the rest of the next season after giving him a sample try at the beginning of it. Malhotra currently has 11 points with the Carolina Hurricanes and is a plus 8 so far this season with his new team.
In one of the few trade deadline deals that actually worked out for the Canucks, Gillis acquired Chris Higgins from his favourite trading partner in Florida for Evan Oberg and a 3rd round pick. Oberg has played 7 NHL games in his career with 0 points.
On October 4th, 2011, the Canucks GM picked up Dale Weise off of waivers from the Rangers. Weise has been a solid 4th line player. He was the Canucks fastest skater in the teams skills competition this year. He has 26 points and 183 PIM in his career.
For some reason Gillis enjoys dealing with a Florida organization that keeps giving us their castoffs. In October of 2011, Gillis acquired David Booth, Steven Reinprecht and a 3rd round draft pick, in exchange for Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm. Booth has been nothing short of disappointing with his 4.5 million dollar salary while playing like a 1.1 million dollar winger. He has been called "weird" by his coach, and has been in the doghouse more times than on the ice over the last 2 seasons between previous Canucks coach Alain Vignault and current bench boss John Tortorella.
There is no way to grade this one accurately, and I am sure many of you will have your own thoughts on the matter. Trade deadline of 2012 was a move that shocked the Canucks community. Prized Gillis draftee Cody Hodgson, who was just starting to put up some reasonable numbers, was traded for the ogre like boy in Zack Kassian. Although there were "reasons" for trading away Hodgson that Mike Gillis professed to the media at the end of the regular season, it is yet to be decided who really won this trade. Hodgson has had injuries this season with Buffalo, but still leads the team in points with 27. Kassian has 14 points and sits 9th on a Canucks team that has trouble putting the puck in the net.
Grade: C+ (so far)
In July of 2012, Gillis signed free agent Jason Garrison. Garrison was a power play specialist with the Florida Panthers, using his big shot from the point. His only knock, he doesn't always hit the net.
If you have forgotten about the goalie controversy the Canucks had over the previous two seasons, I would be remiss to remind you about the Cory Schneider trade that somehow veered the storyline off course, like a well timed plot twist in a thriller movie starring Bruce Willis or Steven Segal. Gillis this time traded away the goalie of the future for a 9th pick in the most recent draft, Bo Horvat. Horvat's numbers my be impressive in junior, but they don't tell the full story. He currently has 50 points in his first 31 games with the London Knights. Horvat is also on a stacked team that has 4 players ahead of him in goals in London. We are all hoping this guy can learn to put the puck in the net in the NHL.
Grade: C- (Potential is the only hope at this point)
Lastly, and if I missed any you felt were important during the Gillis era, I apologize. Most recently the Canucks GM resigned the Sedins to another pair of identical contracts. This time totalling 4 years and 28 million each.
Overall, GM Mike Gillis has made some moves that have paid off for this team. Unfortunately, all the latest moves haven't helped the one area they are currently having the most trouble with. The goal scoring department and the power play.
So Mike Gillis, for the moves you have made so far, you get a final grade of B-. It's what you do now that will define your legacy with this team. Perhaps they need you to do something, now more than ever.