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The February 28th trade deadline came and went, with the Vancouver Canucks adding without subtracting. With the additions of Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre, the Canucks now find their forward ranks replete with depth and character. Roles once filled by Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows as agitating, shift disturbing defensive types, have been filled by Lapierre and Higgins. General Manager Mike Gillis added the two players without surrendering a roster player. Instead, he moved 3rd round picks to both the Anaheim Ducks and the Florida Panthers, as well as minor leaguers Joel Perrault and Evan Oberg. "I think we added experience and we added a little bit of a different element than we possess on this team currently." New Canuck recruits, Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre Higgins, though currently out of action with a broken thumb, is likely out another 10 games. Though he will debut on the fourth line, there is the opportunity for him to bump up to another line. Higgins, though with only 11 goals and 23 points this year with Florida, had three straight 20 goal years with the Canadiens. "It wasn't predicated on Mason's play at all. What we wanted to do was to strengthen in areas we didn't currently have," Gillis added. Lapierre, who was brought in to center the fourth line between Tanner Glass and Jeff Tambellini, has worked under Alain Vigneault before. He played three seasons of junior hockey in Prince Edward Island, and he credits Vigneault with improving his play within a system. "He was in the NHL before he came to junior so he helped me a lot in my development when I was young and I'm glad to be back with him." He played 5:41 in his first game with the Canucks Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and was a minus one, with two penalty minutes. Maxim Lapierre studied under Alain Vigneault for 3 years in Prince Edward Island Lapierre and Higgins were teammates for three seasons in Montreal. "I have always been a pretty versatile player who can be used in a variety of different situations," Higgins explained. "I am just looking to build chemistry with whoever I am playing with in Vancouver. If I can score some goals, that would be great, but I am just looking forward to finding my niche on the team and being able to contribute every night." Canuck fans were head over heals for this boisterous hit on Jakub Voracek by Dan Hamhuis (photos courtesy of AP Photo) As he quite often does, Alex Burrows added a little humor. In his response to having another Francophone joining the club, he quipped: "It's always good to add a few French Fry guys. There's too many Swedes in this dressing room." Of course, in our household, there's still only one "Little Frenchie". But we certainly are curious to see what dynamic the newest Canucks add.
So at the end of the day, still no Zenon Konopka. That's unfortunate. I really think he could've helped. But Mike Gillis had the most productive deadline day of his career, bringing in veterans Chris Higgins from Florida and Maxim Lapierre from Anaheim. On a day in which little activity was anticipated, in part due to the large number of trades that occurred weeks before the deadline, Gillis accounted for 1/8 of all total trades. This despite Vancouver supposedly being one of the quietest teams. How do these two players change the overall makeup of the team? <img src="http://www3.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Toronto+Maple+Leafs+v+Florida+Panthers+aokOrc1maZil.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Chris Higgins, #20 The former Yale University product was selected 14th overall by Montreal in the 2002 draft, a year that produced very few impact players. The 2002 class produced only four all-stars (Rick Nash, Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Semin, and Cam Ward) and Higgins is only one of four players to have scored more than 100 career goals. However, Higgins' offensive struggles in recent years has been well documented, having been traded three times in the past two years, having been part of the deal that sent Scott Gomez to Montreal and Olli Jokinen to Calgary. While his 20-something goal-scoring days are over, Higgins is still a big-bodied forward with good skating ability who is able to play in the top nine. Maxim Lapierre, #40 Lapierre is an agitator, a fourth-line centre that brings speed and tenacity to the lineup. Another Montreal pick from the 2003 draft, Lapierre was instrumental in the Habs' upset of Washington last year. His speed, size, and general physicality caused problems in the offensive zone. But like Burrows and Kesler in year's past, Lapierre's antics, chirping and diving (he was once penalized for it in a playoff game) to name a few, began to limit his effectiveness as a hockey player. His (somewhat public) feud with Jacques Martin over his diminishing playing time earned him a ticket out of town, where even the grumpy Randy Carlyle couldn't harness him (Lapierre played 3:09 in his last game as a Duck and had started out on the third line). But like I've said before, if Gillis was to acquire a player, he better run it by Vigneault because there's no point in acquiring a player if your coach won't play him. That won't happen here with such an established veteran locker room presence with a clear focus on winning the Cup, and not to mention that Vigneault was once Lapierre's junior coach. Of course, lost in the shuffle is former Minnesota-Duluth star MacGregor Sharp (what an awesome name), who was acquired along with Lapierre from Anaheim. If Minnesota-Duluth rings a bell, it should: Mason Raymond was a Bulldog for two years, as was Evan Oberg, who went to Florida for Higgins. Current NHLers Jason Garrison (Florida) and Matt Niskanen (Pittsburgh) are also Minnesota-Duluth products. While Minnesota-Duluth is not exactly known as a NCAA powerhouse, it has become one of the better programs today, currently ranked 11th according to US College Hockey. However, Sharp is not expected to have a significant impact for Vancouver or Manitoba. And what did the three players cost us? A minor leaguer in Joel Perrault, two 3rd round picks, and Evan Oberg, who has since been leapfrogged by Chris Tanev, Lee Sweatt, Yann Sauve, and perhaps Kevin Connauton on the depth charts, making him expendable. You can certainly say that Gillis got great value, not sacrificing anybody on the current roster or significant prospect in the pipeline to nab two NHL veterans. But what about Marty Reasoner and Zenon Konopka, two players featured heavily in the Canucks' rumour mill? Well, there are reports that since Reasoner's wife is expecting soon, it didn't seem right for Tallon to deal him. Kudos to Tallon. And Konopka? The early rumour was that the Ducks were about to acquire the big centre but balked at Garth Snow's 2nd round pick asking price, which, to say the least, is idiotic. And we continue to wonder how and why Snow still has a job. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/images/upload/2011/01/107894055_std.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">While Lapierre will most certainly become a fixture on the fourth line, finally giving the team stability in that spot, the more interesting case is Higgins. He certainly has the ability to put the puck in the net but so do Mason Raymond and Jeff Tambellini and Mikael Samuelsson, but it's not the ability that's in question, it's the consistency. Higgins isn't the most consistent player by any means but at least he gives Vigneault other options after a clearly frustrated Kesler was trying to keep his mouth shut after a painful loss against Boston. Higgins can line up on the left wing on the second line with Samuelsson on the right, or even on the third line alongside Malhotra should Raymond or Tambellini re-find their touch. Given Higgins' size and physicality, it should relieve a little pressure off Kesler's shoulders, who has taken a beating every night on the powerplay and neither Raymond nor Samuelsson are as willing as Kesler to mix it up in the corners. That's not mentioning that Vigneault has lost so much faith in the rest of his lineup that Kesler's TOI/G has soared to over 22 minutes a game (including 26+ vs. Montreal) for the last six games. Even Sidney Crosby only averages around 22 minutes a night. But for the moment, Kesler will have to continue to keep his mouth shut because Higgins is still two weeks away from playing due to a fractured thumb. With the acquisition of Higgins, I hope Raymond hears the message loud and clear: score or sit. EDIT: Looks like Lapierre will be wearing 40, not 24. NOTE: I feel like I've been getting away from blogging about the Canucks, and since this is a Canucks site, I need to get back on track. For a breakdown of all the big deals, visit www.armchairhockey.net or follow me on Twitter @jasonchen16. Thanks for reading.