VANCOUVER — A backup goalie, a third-line centre and a depth defenceman are on general manager Mike Gillis's shopping list as the Vancouver Canucks prepare for a shortened National Hockey League season.
Gillis could conceivably plug some of those holes by trading goalie Roberto Luongo between now and the start of the season, which is expected on or about Jan. 19 after the NHL and its players reached a tentative deal early Sunday to end the 113-day lockout.
There were media reports during the lockout that Gillis and Toronto general manager Brian Burke had a deal in place to trade Luongo to the Leafs.
Both Gillis and Burke have denied that any deal is done, but Toronto or Florida seem like logical landing spots for Luongo.
Wherever Luongo lands, Gillis will be looking for some assets in return to help fill the holes on his roster.
With centre Ryan Kesler still not ready to play after off-season shoulder and wrist surgeries, the Canucks are thin at centre ice. Henrik Sedin, Maxim Lapierre and Manny Malhotra are the only experienced NHL centres currently on the Canuck roster.
Not only would the Canucks like to upgrade their third-line centre slot, they also need someone to fill in as second-line centre until Kesler is ready to go.
Any Luongo deal with the Leafs could include center Tyler Bozak, who had 18 goals and 47 points with Toronto last season.
Bozak could conceivably fill in as second-line centre and then drop down to the third line when Kesler returns.
Prospect Jordan Schroeder, Vancouver’s first-round pick in 2009, will also get a chance to make the team at what will be an abbreviated training camp. The 22-year-old centre has nine goals and 19 points in 30 games this season with Vancouver’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.
A Luongo trade is highly likely but not absolutely guaranteed. The Canucks do have enough cap space to keep both Cory Schneider and Luongo, but that does not seem a palatable option for the team. Look for Luongo to be moved sooner rather than later.
If that happens and Vancouver does not receive a goalie in a Luongo trade, then Gillis will have to find one on the free-agent market. Veteran Dan Ellis, a 32-year-old whose NHL stops have included Anaheim, Tampa Bay and Nashville, has expressed interest in playing in Vancouver and could be a fit.
The Canucks are in decent shape on defence where youngster Chris Tanev, who has spent the lockout playing with the Chicago Wolves, will join veterans Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Jason Garrison, Alex Edler, Keith Ballard and Andrew Alberts. The Canucks will be looking to sign or trade for one more solid defenceman.
© Copyright 2013