The 2013-2014 National Hockey League season is a little different. Yes, there is a realigned divisional layout. Sure, every team plays in every building at least once. The major difference though and one that comes around every four years is the Winter Olympics. It’s a hot topic and without the guarantee that NHL players will be playing in the international tournament in 2018, fans, players, and management alike are left wondering if this is the last time we’ll see North American pros represent their country in the most exalted competition in the sport. Personally, I believe the NHL, IIHF, and the IOC will figure something out for 2018 and beyond. Taking the best players out of the game just doesn’t make sense, regardless of the insurance costs, and I think you’ll see homegrown Canadians (for example) who watched the glorious 2002 Gold Medal game in Salt Lake City wanting to replicate that in future contests. With all that being said, there are a few logistical issues that teams will have to deal with in the present.
The NHL’s official Trade Deadline is March 5th, 2014. However, the NHL freezes all transactions during the Olympics, from February 7th to February 23rd. This essentially creates two trade deadlines. With only ten days between the 23rd and the 5th, teams will be eager to have some, most or all of their moving completed before the moratorium. The Vancouver Canucks are no different. With 7 players jetting off to Sochi, Russia, the Canucks will be looking to add pieces to a team that needs a few tweaks and turns. Yannick Weber (Switzerland), Daniel and Henrik Sedin (Sweden), Alex Edler (Sweden), Ryan Kesler (United States), Dan Hamhuis (Canada), and Roberto Luongo (Canada) will represent the Canucks and their respective countries during the break, but before, during, and likely after the Olympics, Mike Gillis will be busy trying to turn this team into a contender. With a couple areas to address, don’t be surprised to see Gillis make a bold move to bring in some top level scoring and/or some depth down the middle. Here are three potential targets for the Vancouver General Manager. One is wishful thinking, one is rumoured, and one is a little off the board.
Ryan O’Reilly (C) – Colorado Avalanche
Admittedly, this falls under wishful thinking, but the demand for O’Reilly is sure there. According to TSN/ESPN’s Pierre Lebrun, the Canucks are “one of those teams that covet” O’Reilly. The ability to move Ryan Kesler over to the right wing and add a much needed big body center to the lineup would do wonders, or so many believe. The return would have to be substantial, but with the Canucks stocked quite well on the back end, it wouldn’t be beyond Gillis to offer a healthy package to the Colorado Avalanche in order to acquire the Clinton, Ontario native. O’Reilly brings a physical presence and a scoring touch, both things that the Canucks have lacked at times this year. Their most recent road swing has exploited that. With only 1 goal in their last 3 game road trip against some of the Western Conference’s best, the Canucks’ failure to get on the board in two 1-0 games makes it blatantly obvious. Those two games sandwiched a monstrosity that we won’t talk about… O’Reilly would fill a major void, but he carries a hefty price tag. Not to mention that every team in the league would like to add a big, scoring center.
Steve Ott (C) – Buffalo Sabres
Ott has been mentioned before in trade rumours surrounding the Canucks, and the attraction is still there. The Sabres captain brings a physical, nasty game that frustrates opponents to no end. With Burrows a little tamer, Kesler letting his play do the talking, and no more Maxim Lapierre, Steve Ott could occupy the role of 3rd line center and thorn in the opponent’s collective side quite nicely. In a year where the Sabres have completely flopped, they may be willing to part with Ott for some young talent, a couple draft picks, or a mixture. If Gillis cannot acquire some top end talent, adding Ott would at least solidify things down the middle. With Henrik Sedin occupying the first line center role, Kesler the second, Ott sliding in on the third line, and the dependable Brad Richardson playing on the fourth line, the Canucks would have a great deal of depth and John Tortorella would likely feel comfortable rolling four lines deep into the Spring and hopefully deep into the postseason.
David Legwand (C) – Nashville Predators
Might as well keep with the positional trend with this next one. Legwand has played his entire fourteen year NHL career with the Predators, but as they look to get a little younger and turn their recent misfortunes around, it’s possible they’d be willing to part with the grizzled veteran. Another player that would fit into that 3rd or 4th line role, Legwand would more than likely be a rental player until the end of the year if he was moved. He’s 33, but is a face-off specialist that can pitch in on the offensive side of the game. Responsible in his own end, you might say he’s Tortorella’s kind of player. Again, Nashville would probably like some of the young talent the Canucks have to offer, and once Vancouver has their defense corps healthy again, there might be a few pieces available to move.