When True North Sports & Entertainment purchased the Atlanta Thrashers and moved them to Winnipeg, it had a profound impact on three other professional hockey teams. The Manitoba Moose became the AHL affiliate for the Winnipeg Jets and were shipped out to St. John’s, Newfoundland. This meant the Vancouver Canucks were without an AHL affiliate and the Chicago Wolves, former affiliates of the Thrashers, were without an NHL affiliate. Naturally, the two clubs came together to resolve the issue.
Of course, this means that Vancouver’s prospects will now play in Chicago, where, rumor has it, they’re not too fond of the Canucks. It’s like trying to make a good first impression with a girl who has been told by all her friends that you’re a violent chauvinist Nazi skinhead who wears a wig as a disguise. It’s a tough sell.
That’s why one of the main priorities at the start of free agency on Friday was to get on the good side of the Chicago Wolves and their fans. The only surefire NHLer that Gillis signed is Marco Sturm. The other signings are a little more calculated. While any one of them could surprise and make the Canucks, if they don’t, they’ll be star players for the Wolves.
The first player signed was Mark Mancari, who was a 2010-11 AHL First-Team All Star, scoring 64 points in 56 games last season. Over his AHL career, he has 360 points in 418 AHL games. With his size and skill, he’ll certainly get a chance to play for the Canucks, but he has never stuck in the NHL for long periods of time, so it’s expected that he’ll spend some time with the Wolves. Also, since he has a one-way contract, he’ll still receive his NHL salary while doing so, as the Canucks show that they’re willing to spend money to improve their AHL affiliate.
The Canucks also signed Andrew Ebbett, an under-sized center who has struggled to stick in the NHL for long stretches. In the AHL, however, he has been very productive, scoring 204 points in 210 regular season games and 17 points in 18 playoff games. With Henrik, Kesler, Malhotra, and Lapierre ahead of him, Ebbett will need to make the Canucks as a winger or center a top line in Chicago. And again, it’s a one-way contract that will pay him his NHL salary while with the Wolves.
Finally, the Canucks re-signed Nolan Baumgartner, who is a veteran leader and was captain of the Moose in 2010-11. He’s a 3-time AHL All-Star, served as an AHL All-Star Game captain in 2010, has scored 368 points in 818 games in the AHL, and is solid defensively.
Add in the fact that the Canucks prospect pool is significantly stronger than that of the Atlanta Thrashers, and this could be the start of a beautiful relationship. Forwards Billy Sweatt, Cody Hodgson, and Jordan Schroeder were all productive for the Moose last year, while Prab Rai, Anton Rodin, and Darren Archibald will be solid additions. Meanwhile, defensemen Kevin Connauton, Yann Sauve, Sebastian Erixon, Adam Polasek, and Ryan Parent will round out a formidable defense corps.
There were some people disappointed in what Mike Gillis did on July 1st, but the Chicago Wolves are not likely among them.Tags: Andrew Ebbett, Canucks, Chicago Wolves, featured, Mark Mancari, Nolan Baumgartner, spotlight