Over the course of his tenure as Canucks GM, Mike Gillis has earned a reputation as an eleventh hour dealer. Typically, the Canucks go completely quiet right up until the deadline appears to have passed, and then, just as Vancouver hockey fans begin to pout, it’s announced that Gillis’s paperwork has just beaten the buzzer.
Not so this time around, where it would appear Gillis’s New Year’s Resolution was to stop leaving things until the last second. A day in advance of the trade deadline, he’s made what may be his big splash: the Canucks have acquired centre Derek Roy and his expiring $4M contract from the Dallas Stars in exchange for a 2nd round pick and prospect Kevin Connauton.
Don’t weep for Connauton. While the defenceman has a lot of offensive ability, he’s been unable to develop his defensive game at the pro level. Clearly, the Canucks lost hope that he ever would.
As for the incoming player, it’s really not all that difficult to explain the motive here. While the Canucks have been lauded for their centre depth in recent seasons, this year, they’ve been all Malcolm and no middle. With Ryan Kesler on the injured reserve, Cody Hodgson in Buffalo, and Manny Malhotra shut down, the Canucks have been hobbling along all season. Henrik Sedin remains an elite centre, Maxim Lapierre remains a pretty good fourth line centre, and the tiny Jordan Schroeder has shown promise at times, but Vigneault has effectively been working with two and a half men all year.
Considering there are four lines, having two and a half men is about as terrible as, well, watching Two and a Half Men. As a result, Mason Raymond, Chris Higgins and Alex Burrows have all spent time in the middle as Band-Aid solutions.
Roy is no band-aid. He’s actual medical attention.
At 5’9″, 184 lbs, he’s hardly a big, bruising shutdown guy. In fact, he’s more in the mould of Schroeder, who looks like he’s just become a superfluous piece on the club. Update: Yep.
(I feel partly responsible. A week ago, I asked if he had done enough for the team to relax on their hunt for a centre. Schroeder immediately went cold. It’s pretty much the same thing that happened when I wrote about his faceoffs. Note to self: never write about Jordan Schroeder.)
But Roy is a better player than Schroeder at both ends of the ice. He’s an offensive producer, with 22 points in 30 games for the Stars this season. Just four goals, yes, but it’s still a 60-point pace over an 82-game season, made a little more impressive by his own admission that he’s only felt healthy for the last month. From the Dallas News:
Roy was ready for the start of the season in January, but he was sidelined by a groin injury and missed an additional five games in late January and early February. Now, he has five points (two goals and three assists) in the last three games, and appears to be finding his groove.
“I’m not making excuses for Derek Roy, but yesterday was the first day he said he felt 100 percent healthy,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. “I thought he was really good tonight, he was quick on pucks, he made good little plays, that’s what we’re going to get moving forward. It’s been a while since he felt 100 percent, but we’re relying on him, and we think he can deliver.”
But Roy can defend as well. Although his faceoff percentage is a concerning 46.7, worst among the Stars’ four primary faceoff men, Glen Gulutzan hasn’t shied away from starting him in the defensive zone in Dallas as a means of sheltering some of his prospects. He’s not exactly a Selke candidate, but by all accounts, he can hold his own. As TSN’s Scott Cullen points out, while he’s not producing offence at the point-per-game pace he used to, he’s still improving his club when he’s on the ice, at both ends of it:
While his own shooting percentage (6.2%) is a career-low, his linemates have been more effective, as his on-ice shooting percentage (10.31%, 5-on-5 per www.behindthenet.ca) is second-best among Stars forwards.
What does stand out, in some respects, is that Roy started a lot of shifts in the defensive zone, faced a higher-calibre of competition and still generated a positive shot differential with the Stars, so he was moving the puck the right way, even if his point total hasn’t been up to his previous standards.
Plus, Ryan Kesler still exists, and is reportedly returning in a week. While Roy’s no Malhotra in the defensive end, that’s okay: Ryan Kesler’s still pretty good at defence. The Canucks can probably afford to sacrifice a little of Kesler’s offence to increased defensive responsibility, especially considering Roy’s also no Malhotra in the offensive end.
As with all deals, time will tell, but on the surface, it’s a good deal for the Canucks.