Canucks sign Swedish goalie Joacim Eriksson

Assuming that Roberto Luongo does finally get traded this off-season, the Canucks will need a backup for Cory Schneider. They have a few different options for finding one: they could try to get a goaltender back in the Luongo deal, sign one of the older, veteran goaltenders in free agency, or let their goaltending prospects battle for the job.

The latter option isn’t particularly appealing, since the Canucks’ available goaltending prospects are Eddie Lack, Joe Cannata, and…nope, that’s it.

At least, that was it, as it appears that they have signed another goaltending prospect: Joacim Eriksson.

Kudos to vancitydan over at Nucks Misconduct for picking up on this: Eriksson’s NHL.com page currently shows him as a member of the Vancouver Canucks despite no official announcement from the team or the league.

His signing also hasn’t been reported anywhere in the mainstream media or, rather, there are no reports in the media on this side of the Atlantic. As Nucks Misconduct commenter Zanstorm pointed out, Swedish newspaper Norran has reported on the signing.

Via the science-magic of Google Translate, here are the key elements of their report:

It is now clear that Skellefteå AIK’s golden goalie joins brothers Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks. Joacim Eriksson has signed a contract with the Canadian NHL club. All that remains now is that the NHL must approve the transfer.

“Joacim has decided to Vancouver and we agree on a contract,” says Joacim Eriksson’s agent Joakim Persson.

“Nothing is still evident, the agreement must be approved by the NHL. I can only confirm that we agree on the contract.”

It appears that the league has yet to approve the contract, meaning nothing is official, but NHL.com spilled the beans. I suspect that it was faxed to the NHL offices right at 4:59 PM, just after everyone but the web editor had logged out of their computers and were about to head out the door. Nothing ever gets done late on a Friday.

So, who is Joacim Eriksson? Up until June 2011, he was one of the top prospects in the Philadelphia Flyers organization. The Flyers picked him in the seventh round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, but failed to get him signed to a contract by the deadline set in the Swedish transfer agreement with the NHL and lost his rights.

Now, two years later, it appears that the Canucks have signed the 23-year-old goaltender to a two-year entry-level contract. Flyers blog Broad Street Hockey was not happy when the team lost Eriksson’s rights:

We say that [Eric] Wellwood is the best prospect in the organization, but until now, that title went to Eriksson.

Drafted 196th overall by the Flyers in 2008, he played this past season in Sweden’s Elitserien, the top league in that country. He expected to get more starts than he did, but being stuck behind an experienced veteran cost him some games.

But Eriksson was not far off, and he almost came over the pond last summer. He’s considered the second-best Swedish goaltending prospect behind Jacob Markstrom, the highly-touted netminder in the Florida Panthers system. Hockey’s Future ranked him above Sergei Bobrovsky in their September 2010 rankings of Flyers’ prospects. Niko Hovinen, the free-agent goalie signed by the Flyers a few weeks back, doesn’t come close to Eriksson.

Now, he’s gone. The Philadelphia Flyers just let their top prospect walk for nothing.

It’s really pretty incomprehensible. It has nothing to do with money or the desire to trade draft picks away for players they think can help the team win now. There simply is no justification for it. It’s just a complete failure.

Back then, Flyers fans were excited about the prospect of a goaltending tandem of Sergei Bobrovsky and Joacim Eriksson. Now Bobrovsky is excelling in Columbus and Eriksson is out of the organization and looks to be heading to Vancouver. Meanwhile, the Flyers have a tandem of Ilya Bryzgalov and Steve Mason.

Eriksson was clearly highly regarded back in 2011 and the subsequent two seasons did nothing to change that. After starting just 17 games in his rookie year in the Swedish Elite League, he took over the number one job for Skellefteå in 2011-12 and posted a sterling .935 save percentage and 1.73 goals against average, finishing second and fourth in the league in those categories.

Last season he continued his stellar play with a .931 SV% and 1.67 GAA, then followed it up with an unreal performance in the playoffs, posting a .952 SV% and 1.06 GAA in 10 games.

His dominant performance in a very tough league at such a young age is remarkable and seems to indicate that he could be very successful in the NHL. For example, at the same age, Henrik Lundqvist put up very similar numbers in the Swedish Elite League: a .936 SV% and 1.79 GAA, then a .961 SV% and 1.05 GAA in the playoffs.

If the Canucks have indeed signed Eriksson, then it’s a fantastic addition to their goaltending depth, as Eriksson is potentially ready to immediately play at the NHL-level. At the very least, he could battle for the backup job with his fellow Swede, Eddie Lack.

Lack was the favourite to take over the backup role once Schneider was promoted to be the permanent number one, but he had a disappointing 2012-13 season with the Chicago Wolves that ended early thanks to a hip injury that required surgery. Lack’s first two seasons in the AHL, however, confirmed that he is a talented goaltender with NHL potential and will be tough competition for Eriksson at training camp.

After Lack on the depth chart is Joe Cannata, who had a very successful four-year stint with Merrimack College, including a trip to the NCAA tournament in 2011. Cannata certainly has potential and looked good in his 14 games in the AHL last season, but he’s not quite ready for NHL action next season. Without Eriksson or the addition of an NHL veteran, Lack would essentially have no competition for the backup job, which is not an ideal situation by any means.

If Eriksson does sign with the Canucks, we could see Schneider backed up by one of Eriksson or Lack, with the other starting in Utica with Cannata as his backup.

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31 comments

  1. akidd
    June 15, 2013

    well, that certainly sounds like good news. i think…if it’s true…and approved…and eriksson is actually nhl-calibre and all that…then, yes….that certainly sounds like good news. combing the depths. all the avenues. scout, scout. tally ho.

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  2. Lenny
    June 15, 2013

    No please trade Lu already. Or Schneider. I don’t care any more.

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  3. CM
    June 15, 2013

    Nothing happens late on a Friday, except the NHL announcing half of their awards, of course.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      June 15, 2013

      Hahaha, fair point.

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  4. StevenK
    June 15, 2013

    I’ve always wanted a golden goalie.

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  5. Matt
    June 15, 2013

    A decade ago, would anyone have predicted Vancovuer’s greatest strength would be goaltending? To Grade A starters and three exceptional prospects in the system? Ridiculous!

    I sitll think Gillis would be mad not to trade Schneider for a greater return than he’d get for Luongo. Luongo’s got a few good years left in him, and at least one of these guys should end up being an NHL-caliber starter by the time Lou starts to slow down.

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    • Matt
      June 15, 2013

      *two

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    • Trevor
      June 16, 2013

      That assumes other teams are offering a greater return to get Schneider. That return would have to be pretty significantly greater to make the team switch back to keeping Luongo, and there’s also the possibility that Luongo really does want to move on. What do you do if that’s the case?

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    • chicken chick
      June 16, 2013

      I get my laughs from local sports
      So I am all for hiring Torts
      And I’m with you for keeping Lu
      Regardless of what else they do

      And how can one not be amused
      Though all the while a bit confused
      At signing Tom who’ll seldom play
      Resetting things the Gillis way

      Another goalie now I see
      But wherefore no right-handed “D”
      Or forwards who can win a draw
      So many lost this year I saw

      But they must know much more than I
      Whose machinations make me sigh

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  6. Nee
    June 15, 2013

    Pretty excited about this signing. He looks like he has excellent potential.

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  7. Trevor
    June 16, 2013

    Sunshine!

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  8. Tom 1040
    June 16, 2013

    Daniel,

    Good post. I read start to finish and enjoyed.

    If I may expand on point of your post: Do you really think Luongo will get traded?

    IMO, no surprise, Luongo is a so-so goalie.

    With his contract and, I am convinced of this, the anti-Gillis sentiment in the league (I can explicate if need be), I can’t see him fetching much.

    So, I don’t think the Canucks should trade him in the long-term interests of the team.

    If you (or other regulars to this site) were the GM, would consider trading Schneider?

    Dan Russell (my favourite Vcr. sports guy) suggests trading both Schneider and Luongo?

    I wonder.

    Aaron, PB, Chris, akidd, Andre, steveB, NeilB…thoughts?

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    • akidd
      June 16, 2013

      tom, i really don’t understand the ‘trade schneider’ sentiment at all. it’s some kind of twisted logic. “you’ll get more return, so trade the better, younger goalie.” sure and the pens would get a helluva return if they traded crosby.

      we’ll see how schenider holds up under the pressure of being no.1 in vancouver but i think he’s got as good of a shot as anyone. his postioning is impeccable. he’s always there for the second or third save. i think it’s the way of the future(shotblocking/garbage/scramble goals.) those first save goalies, like lou, will get burned more often than not. they’ll look good doing it but the tally at the end of the day will be more pucks in the net.

      yup crazy to trade schneider at this juncture. he’s really the brightest spot in the whole canucks lineup. the canucks success next year will be ultimately tied to his performance. the trade schneider contingent is just more proof that canuck fans can be the loopiest, whackiest fans out there. (//makes circling gesture around temple with index finger.)

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      • Tom 1040
        June 16, 2013

        Hi akidd,

        First, I agree on your take about Schneider’s ability and future, and I think you will recall that I have been very positive about Schneider. In fact, I have called him an elite goalie for the reasons you listed and more.

        I think that the trade Schneider contingent is coming at things from a different perspective, and having said that, none of what you state provides any point of disagreement regarding goalie ability, etc.

        The difference comes in the perception of ‘window’. The trade Schneider contingent believes, I am sure, that the Canucks’ window has closed.

        Hence, the Canucks are not cup contenders and need to get younger and add to a completely depleted pipeline – whomever is to blame is not important.

        Thus, to ‘re-set’ or rebuild requires the a sacrifice of the immediate and short-term for longer and long-term considerations.

        Thus, trade Schneider and keep Luongo because of the return vs. goalie ability differential.

        [I can talk more about how Gillis screwed up going with Schneider in Game 4 of the LA series which will be exclusively paraphrased from Dan Russell.]

        That is why, I think, Gillis won’t consider trading Schneider because he, like the team, will tread water for a couple of years with Schneider making the team possibly relevant i.e. a possible playoff contender.

        Gillis has no long-term in Vancouver if he doesn’t bring in playoff money.

        IMO.

        Anyway, good post by you.

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        • akidd
          June 16, 2013

          cheers, tom. oh i see. trade schneider(and a few others, i imagine) for prospects and picks and then tank for a few seasons and get even more high picks and in about five years or so have a team that’s about ready to start trying to contend and then a few years after that…put it all on the line at the mercy of refs, bounces and goaltending?

          no thanks. no patience for that. play to win now. might as well. there’s a good d-corps waiting to emerge once the proper shuffle takes place. and as good a goalie as anyone has really. the forwards are the key. and there’s some good parts there.

          the aquilinnis would be better off to spend now on buyouts or burying guys in the minors, etc and make a couple of moves with the resulting cap space. i’m not sure how resilient the fans are. they’re already jumping off the bandwagon like lemmings. rebuild?!? a whole lotta people will stop caring pretty quick. it’s one thing to watch a coyote sludge fest and say, “oh well, at least it’s two points” and quite another when it’s that kid of aesthetic torture and “if we can make a comeback in the third we’ll be just 6 games back of .500.”

          nope, better to just try and win now.

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          • Tom 1040
            June 17, 2013

            akidd,

            That’s the whole point of the trade the Schneider contingent.

            The Canucks aren’t going to win now. The window has already closed.

            Gillis tried to ‘win now’ but failed (came close).

            Of course, in his post-mortem he didn’t use the word ‘rebuild’, he used the word ‘reset’ but nobody really knows what that means – typical Gillis.

            He has signed Tom Reset-stito but is stuck with a lot of other players past their prime – hello, Calgary.

            Thus, make use of any assets you have (and whatever buyouts he can to prepare for the future.

            But, regrettably, he can’t, he has to try to win now but isn’t even close.

            Look at all the other teams that are ‘better’ than the Canucks – LOTS!

            This is Gillis’ last year before the rebuild begins with a new GM.

            IMO.

            We’ll see next year and you can quote me if I am wrong.

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            • Kenji
              June 17, 2013

              Whether or not the Canucks’s window is closed, trading Schneider would not seem to figure into it. Both Luongo and Schneider are credible starters. Either could benefit a team in ‘win now’ mode. A Schneider trade could (because it is just speculation) yield a return in players that could solidify the Canucks to the point where they bounce back, maybe all the way to the Finals again.

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  9. PB
    June 16, 2013

    I think it’s a good signing, but he’s yet to prove anything over here. Good depth for the system and potentially a backup, though we don’t know what Lack will look like. I am intrigued by Matt’s point about having Luongo stay as the starter and one of these younger guys as the backup. I don’t know how much he necessarily would act as a mentor though — he seems to need a lot of work to thrive and though he and Schneider clearly got along, they did so because of their personalities, not necessarily because they complement each other as players. I think Trevor’s right, Lu’s moved on mentally and I think so too have the Canucks. Tom, with respect, I don’t think there’s any evidence that Luongo’s skills have diminished. Whether he can win in the biggest games remains a question mark, no doubt, but in terms of actually getting you there, he hasn’t shown any signs of fading. Yes, the later years of his deal are troublesome given the changes to the CBA, but at present he’s a pretty decent cap hit and I think he’d give you at least another 5-6 solid years. For a lot of teams that is more than enough to take a risk with. He hasn’t flamed out like Bryzgalov, he’s a different kind of head case (and a less troublesome one) than Miller or Thomas, younger than Khabibulin and Nabokov, and far better than Emery or Smith. I think there will still be a taker.

    I think the idea of trading BOTH Schneider and Luongo is insane. You go from a position of real strength and dependability with either of those guys to real question marks. I think because we’ve had such solid goaltending for so many years people forget the dark days before and after Kirk McLean when this really was a goalie’s graveyard.

    Does anyone know if Gradin is still the Canucks’ chief European scout? I’m wondering what inside edge (if any) the Canucks might have had in this signing. I mean what exactly would convince Eriksson that this would be a desirable location given the ongoing controversies? They must have made it clear that one of Luongo or Schneider was on the way out to make it more attractive.

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  10. Tom 1040
    June 16, 2013

    Okay, re: skills degradation.

    I have a different opinion on Luongo’s ability, but each his own.

    It’s just that I was not surprised that Luongo wasn’t traded earlier.

    I think the Luongo saga is far from over.

    I can’t really think of too many teams that would be interested though we likely have different opinions on that too.

    Anyway, time will tell. To tell the truth, I have no idea what is going to happen/could happen.

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    • akdd
      June 16, 2013

      surely they could in the least give lou away to florida, just for cap floor reasons. no? not gonna happen?

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  11. PB
    June 17, 2013

    I think the delay on Luongo’s trade has more to do with the contract and the truncated season than it does with any notion that his skills are declining. Nothing I saw from last season made me think he’s lost a step; in fact one of the things I’ve admired about Luongo for a long time is the adjustments that he seems to have made to his game as he’s gone along. I think he’s still going to get flipped for a pick or two, with the Canucks having to pick up salary (either part of his own or a smaller one coming back that’s not equivalent to a “hockey deal”). I don’t think it’s an optimal situation, by any means, but I also don’t think it’s unusual but the new reality in the NHL with so many long-term contracts signed. And regardless of what happens with the new CBA, people will still try to circumvent its rules, as they did last time.

    I would imagine (and certainly hope) that a new coach and a Lu trade will happen within the next couple of weeks prior to the draft, but who knows

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    • Tom 1040
      June 17, 2013

      I agree that the contract doesn’t belp, but I think the truncated season would have facilitated Luongo’s trade.

      As Gillis said, not enough time for separation but that means that many teams had a playoff shot not to mention a pro-rated salary.

      Hence, someone to put you over the top? Not Luongo, I guess.

      We’ll see. Either way, an interesting off-season it will be.

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  12. PB
    June 17, 2013

    Tom, part of your criticism of Gillis seems to include the notion that a deal (Luongo or otherwise) is hard to do because of animosity by the rest of the league towards him. I agree that this might be the case in terms of Nonis and TO (and Burke before him) due to all the reasons we understand (replacing Nonis, the tampering accusations, etc) but where do you see this league-wide dislike of Gillis? He won the GM of the year award only three years ago, which I don’t necessarily put much stock in but is voted on by all the other GMs in the league in addition to five NHL execs and five media members. Even if he only got 21 votes that’s still at least 11 from other GMs. Just curious as to what you’re basing this interpretation on.

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    • Tom 1040
      June 18, 2013

      Hi PB,

      Valid question.

      And, I have no definitive proof.

      First, the GM of the Year, as posited by someone else though I believe possible, could have been a tongue-in-cheek vote.

      As you say, [you and I and many others feel similarly] you don’t put much stock in the award.

      My feeling about league distaste of Gillis comes from two points:

      1. How many teams has he traded with? If you look at those teams they either wanted to unload ballast/bloated contracts and/or fleece Gillis in any deal. This does not happen often anymore. I remember listening to Pitt and Carolina GM’s discussing their trade.

      2. Almost all GM’s in the NHL have paid their dues in the league by assuming various functions with an assortment of teams. Often, they have been the Asst. GM for a number of years. But not Gillis.

      Gillis is an outsider. He never paid his dues. A 1 in 30 position being taken by a player agent with a big mouth and a big ego who chastised the ‘minions of orthodoxy’ (hope you don’t mind the quote – I liked it) vowing to ‘think outside the box’.

      I can only think of one contemporary example of another GM not paying his proverbial dues – Garth Snow.

      Maybe I am wrong with my facts or logic, so I stand to be corrected.

      If you have counter-factual information, please inform. I am open to reconsidering my views though I have formed my opinion after quite a bit of consideration (whatever that means).

      Once again, valid question.

      Best,
      T.

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  13. PB
    June 18, 2013

    That’s an interesting theory. I’m not sure I agree with either point – I think while you’re right that Gillis is one of a very few who’ve come from the player agent side of things, he was a player at one point and coached (if briefly and only in college). I look at the GMs around the league and see a mix of ex-players and some career managers. You’re right that many of them had much longer apprenticeships either on the team side or (as with Burke) with the NHL itself. But I don’t think that necessarily makes Gillis an outsider. I also don’t see any evidence that there’s any reluctance to make deals with Gillis — I think being up against the cap has mitigated some more moves (not that I think moves for the sake of them are necessary). He’s had some clear wins (Ehrhoff, Higgins, Lapierre), middling ones (Booth for injured vets), and bad ones (Ballard, even if the big price – Grabner – was paid arguably by Florida who let him go for nothing). I don’t really care about the big salaries for Booth and Ballard since I’m not paying them, though I will allow that those in turn hamper flexibility in the roster. This season he still managed to land Roy for relatively little (I’d do that trade again in a heartbeat — I’d not have predicted Roy would have sucked in the playoffs as badly as he did and a 2nd rounder and a decent prospect is a reasonable price).

    With respect, I think that this is really beside the point. The GMs of the NHL are professionals and unless you are insane and incompetent (i.e. Milbury) you aren’t going to let vendettas drive your work.

    I think the broader question of whether or not Gillis has what it takes to adjust the Canucks on the fly is a much bigger issue that, as you say, will be determined this off-season. I have hopes, as I always do and am hoping for some bold moves shortly. So far he’s made one necessary decision (getting rid of Vigneault) and one small but rather stupid one in my opinion (resigning Sestito).

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    • Tom 1040
      June 19, 2013

      Hi again, PB,

      Well, we indeed have some common ground.

      I would like to expand on one point – if you don’t mind – that being clear wins.

      Higgins was a very good pick up but…really….how good? He was cheap and is serviceable – but how much has he really contributed?

      Lapierre, the same argument.

      Ehrhoff has different dynamics. First, I never liked Ehrhoff. My nickname for him in posts of yore was ‘Ehrheadhoff’. He reminded me so much of Ed Jovanoski – 2cent head, high risk, high reward. The difference being Jovanoski was very good in the playoffs.

      If you go back to SJ comments boards, they were happy to get rid of him – nickname was Christian Error.

      Wilson could not afford him, so it was a salary dump. In fact, if it were such a competitive negotiation, then how did Gillis get him for two non-NHL players?

      What’s more, Ehrhead had no say in the deal. It was up to Wilson (to my knowledge) alone.

      So, Gillis, who had money available (thanks to Nonis) could eat $5+ in immediate salary: Ehrhead and Brad Lukowich ($1.8M).

      So, it might have been a good move for the Canucks (though I think he was overrated), Wilson was happy as a pig in a pool of corn.

      In Wilson’s mind, I am sure he feels he clearly won the deal because got to off-load another $2M as well as Ehrheadhoff.

      So, in my opinion, clear wins? I think you can say that relative to Gillis’ other disastrous moves they were clear wins.

      But on their own…not so much in my opinion.

      Anyway, I enjoyed your post. We will have to agree to disagree on the ‘outsider’ issue as well.

      Regards,
      T.

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    • Tom 1040
      June 19, 2013

      Sorry, forgot…

      Dallas dumped Roy. Clear win for Dallas.

      They may have gotten a 6th, 7th, or 8th D-man for a player that gone from their non-playoff organization in 20 games.

      And, that is not even considering Roy dismal performance for Vcr save for his first game with the team.

      Bad deal for the Canucks.

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      • PB
        June 19, 2013

        I think the Roy deal is not at all uncommon in the NHL — it’s a short-term rental and it’s a gamble. Same thing happened with Pahlsson and with similar results — he looked slow and overmatched and gave us little of what he was supposed to. But that is exactly the same thing that happened to Nonis – he made short-term rental deals for Keith Carney, Eric Weinreich, Mika Noronen, and Brent Sopel. Most of them had little to no impact for us in the playoffs (or getting there) and cost us in some cases decent prospects that were drafted in return — Jonas Enroth, Wayne Simmonds and Akim Aliu amongst them. If you are going to judge Gillis by this standard you have to apply it to Nonis and the rest of the league equally, you can’t cherry pick. It’s a pretty standard gamble and it often doesn’t work out — in the case of Lapierre and Higgins it has in that we’ve had two pretty serviceable 3rd/4th liners for two years (Higgins is far superior to Lappierre though who I don’t think stays this year).

        In terms of the Ehrhoff move, yes, their were SJ fans who called him Errorhoff and I think that Buffalo badly overpayed for his services. But SJ would not have offloaded him if Doug Wilson wasn’t trying to clear salary to land Heatley, a disastrous move in retrospect for him though he did manage to get Minnesota to take him off his hands and give them Burns. But at the time it was seen as a necessary evil for SJ, not a salary dump of a useless player. In fact the real price we paid for taking Ehrhoff was Brad Lukowich’s contract, which we buried in the minors for the most part. Again I think you have to be consistent here — what SJ did is what many are saying that Gillis is going to have to do with Luongo and his contract — get very little in the way for hockey returns in order to make the bigger play. But where you see Wilson as a genius you are castigating Gillis for much the same thing.

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        • Tom 1040
          June 19, 2013

          Yep, I agree that it is a common practice, but knowing what I know now about Roy’s stats, I can’t believe Gillis made that trade.

          The cards were clearly stacked against him. A 5′ 7″ center that was weak in the circle?

          I understand that the Canucks were looking for a centerman but not a paper centerman. I thought they wanted more puck possession and to get bigger/tougher, or at least not to get softer.

          The Roy deal was really, really, really bad for the Canucks.

          I agree that we should be consistent. I don’t remember much about those deals that Nonis made. I don’t remember the what the draft was going to be – good year, bad year . I just don’t remember the situation well.

          So, I will accept your account though I wouldn’t want that meathead Akim Aliu on the any team I cheered for. Simmons is awesome.

          I acknowledge that Nonis made mistakes but I have also not acknowledged him for other things such as the Bertuzzi for Luongo trade.

          I don’t and never have given him much credit for that because it was bonehead Keenan that did that. Hence, I don’t think I cherry pick.

          What’s more, as often stated, Gillis rode the Burke/Nonis core to self-gratification. The less Gillis does the better.

          For the record, I despised Burke and his mouth. I did really like the local (Burnaby) boy and his demeanor – Nonis.

          No, I didn’t say Wilson was a genius but he felt pretty good about the Ehrhoff deal, I am sure.

          What’s more, I didn’t say Ehrhoff was a bad deal, I just don’t see the deal as a clear win for Vcr.

          Maybe both sides won on that one.

          But I don’t give Gillis too much credit for getting the deal done like I don’t give Nonis too much (any) for the Luongo – Bertuzzi trade.

          Because that would be cherry-picking. :)

          Feel free to reply but this is my last post on this article.

          With respect,
          T.

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          • PB
            June 19, 2013

            Tom, agreed on many of those points.

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      • PB
        June 19, 2013

        Also, I don’t see how Ehrhoff can be seen as a bad deal for the Canucks — for the cost of two draft picks who went nowhere (widely seen as amongst the worst picks of the Nonis regime) — we got a defenceman who improved the power play, got 94 points in two seasons, and complemented the Sedins in a way that many of their other D have not. I do like your Jovanovski analogy as he was a similarly risk-reward player though with less offensive ability and more toughess.

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