Anybody remember Daniel Briere? If you’ve forgotten, he’s a short, waifish forward currently playing for the Philadelphia Flyers. In the summer of 2007, Briere cashed in on a career best 95 points (previous high: 65 points) to the tune of 52-million dollars (and a no-movement clause) over eight seasons. He’s been injured for much of this season, but last year he recorded 72 points and a team-worst -22 rating (next worst on the team: Sami Kapanen’s -12), prompting questions on whether Paul Holmgren (a media favourite for Executive of the Year last season) made a mistake in signing him to such a long-term, big-money contract.
In any case, Daniel Briere has returned to the Flyers line-up, and so the Flyers decided to clear cap-space by waiving forward Glen Metropolit and defenseman Ossi Vaananen. Once Kimmo Timonen is healthy enough to play, the Flyers are also expected to send 7th defenseman Lasse Kukkonen to the minors. Montreal picked up Metropolit, a relatively anonymous journeyman who has had some success in soft-minutes roles in the past.
The Vancouver Canucks decision to pick up Vaananen is a curious one, given their current blue-line situation. Prior to yesterday, the Canucks already had more than a full set of defensemen on their roster: Mattias Ohlund, Willie Mitchell, Sami Salo, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Shane O’Brien, Rob Davison, and Lawrence Nycholat, with capable fill-ins like Nathan McIver and Nolan Baumgartner in the minors. Vaananen makes nine blue-liners on the NHL roster; in other words, heading in to the trade deadline, I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Canucks are looking to move a defenseman.
As for Vaananen himself, he’s one of the least offensively-able third-pairing defensemen in the NHL. He set his career high in points in his rookie season (16) and has averaged less than ten points a season during his NHL career. Still, there are some positives to Vaananen, starting with the fact that he stands 6’4” and weighs 212lbs. More than that, though, he doesn’t get scored on, averaging just 2.05 GAON/60 this season, the second-best mark on the Flyers. Surprisingly enough, he’s also scoring at a decent rate this season (0.65 PTS/60).
Alain Vigneault said that Vaananen is “a sixth, seventh defenseman on a good team,” which rings true to me. While he’s always posted decent numbers on the third pairing, he hasn’t shown much to be considered beyond that, and while he is putting up nice numbers this season, he’s riding the percentages a bit; his Corsi number is the worst on the Flyers.
No, the interesting thing about this waiver-wire claim is how loaded with defensemen the Canucks are. My guess would be that Shane O’Brien is going to find his way out of town because publicly criticizing the G.M. is always a stupid career move. On the other hand, Kevin Bieksa was frequently mentioned in rumours to start the season, while Mattias Ohlund has seemingly decided to test the free agent market this summer. Complicating matters is Ohlund’s no-trade clause.
It seems safe to say that one of them will be gone by the deadline though – and you can trust me on that, since I’m nearly twice as accurate as Eklund (although I suppose that probably qualifies as damning with faint praise).
And since we’re on the subject of trades, TSN has a nice rumour roundup on their site. The following players from or to the Northwest are listed as possibly in play:
Colorado – Out: Ryan Smyth, Jordan Leopold and Ian Laperriere
Calgary – In: Olli Jokinen, Steve Sullivan Out: Matthew Lombardi
Edmonton – In: Christoph Schubert Not Out: Erik Cole
Vancouver – Out: Kevin Bieksa
I wouldn’t want to bet on any of those, but outside of the possibility of Bieksa, the Jordan Leopold and Olli Jokinen rumours seem most sensible.