The Canucks made a minor roster tweak Tuesday morning, claiming winger Dale Weise off waivers from the New York Rangers, and waiving Victor Oreskovich in his place. For many, including Oreskovich himself, probably, the move comes as a surprise. Just who is Dale Weise (apart from the guy from the Gatorade fail video) and why do the Canucks think they’re a better team with him than with Oreskovich?
Weise, a 6’2″, 209 lb. native of Winnipeg, was taken 111th overall by the Rangers in 2008 (20 spots before the Canucks drafted Prab Rai, if you care). He signed an entry-level contract the following fall and has spent the past three years with the Rangers AHL affiliate — then the Hartford Wolfpack, now the Connecticut Whale.
His first season was okay, but Weise really began to put things together at the pro level in 2009-10, his second year. He registered 28 goals, 50 points, and 114 PIM, and established himself as a versatile power winger. He hit, fought, checked, scored in bunches, played in all situations, and cemented his role as one of the stars of the team. Connecticut head coach Ken Gernander compared him to Brandon Dubinsky.
Last season, Weise looked to improve on those numbers but, due to injuries (and a month-long callup with the Rangers), he didn’t. Still, he put up 18 goals and 38 points, number that, on a per game basis, are better. From Rangers.com:
What made Weise’s AHL season so impressive was that he managed to produce despite a series of injuries that caused him to miss more than 20 games in addition to the month he spent playing in the NHL. Had he been healthy all year, he would have easily surpassed his career-highs of 28 goals, 22 assists, and 50 points, because his points-per-game average jumped from 0.68 in 2009-10 to 0.81 last season.
At some point last season, the Canucks began to take notice of Weise, and according to Pierre Lebrun, they even attempted to acquire him. It didn’t happen, but imagine Mike Gillis’s surprise when Weise showed up in the “take one” pile this morning.
With the Canucks sitting at the 23-man NHL roster, putting a claim on Weise meant that they had to lose a player, and since Weise projects as a fourth-line winger (at least to start), it made sense to jettison one of Volpatti or Oreskovich.
So why Oreskovich? I know Canuck fans are conditioned to look for cap trickery under the Mike Gillis regime, but no, it had nothing to do with money: both are on-two way deals that pay $605,000 at the NHL level, so the Canucks gain no additional cap flexibility by claiming one and waiving the other.
Rather, this was an actual hockey move by a team looking to improve at a position where they felt they were weak.
The coaching staff wasn’t high on Oreskovich. While Volpatti made the team with his play, Oreskovich seemingly made it by default, after injuries to Byron Bitz and Steven Pinizzotto left a spot wide open for him. Vigneault said as much last week. From Brad Zeimer:
Vigneault did not exactly give Oreskovich a ringing endorsement, almost suggesting that had Steve Pinizzotto not separated his shoulder on Sunday night against San Jose, Oreskovich might have been heading to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.
“In Victor’s case, with Steve Pinizzotto getting hurt, he is the guy we have there right now,” Vigneault said after Friday’s practice. “I thought he played a little bit better in the last couple of games and I’m expecting him to continue to improve.”
Second, while Weise gives up a little size on Oreskovich — about an inch and fifteen pounds, he’s just as physical, and he more than makes up for the lack of mass with actual hockey ability. That matters. If the decisions to let guys like Tanner Glass, Mario Bliznak, Guillaume Desbiens, and Alex Bolduc go elsewhere this offseason didn’t tip you off, the Canucks are looking to build a fourth line that can take regular shifts and, dare I say it, contribute.
Oreskovich can crash and bang, to be certain, but that’s about it. In 140 AHL and NHL games combined over the past two years, Oreskovich has tallied 12 goals and 36 points. As I mentioned above, Weise had 18 and 38 last year alone.
Weise has the potential to move up the lineup, either permanently, or just for the odd shift here and there, and Alain Vigneault, a chronic line-juggler, has to love that. Canuck fans no doubt remember the way AV liberally sprinkled Tanner Glass about his lineup: many nights, Glass played shifts on the fourth, third, and second lines, and he had nowhere near the upside and versatility that Weise has, especially according to Weise:
“I’m perfectly comfortable playing on the fourth line and being an energy guy, and having to drop the mitts and stand up for teammates whenever I have to,” he said. “I’m more than willing to do that. But at the end of the day, I think once I kind of get going and am playing at that level, I think I can probably be a third-line guy, and if I need to step in and help on the second line, I think I can do that. I have proved at every level that once given an opportunity, I kind of work my way up and continue to score.”
Weise will have the opportunity to prove it at the NHL level with the Canucks.Tags: Canucks, dale weise, Oreskovich, waivers