By Derek Jory
The Zack attack has moved to Vancouver.
In the biggest move of trade deadline day, the Canucks acquired Zack Kassian and Marc-André Gragnani from the Buffalo Sabres for Cody Hodgson and Alex Sulzer.
Shocking, I know.
Of all the trade rumours out there, this deal caught everyone by surprise, but it’s one that makes sense the Canucks, according to general manager Mike Gillis. Players like Kassian don’t become available everyday.
”There’s not much not to like,” said Gillis. “He’s 6-4 and 225 and he just turned 21 a month ago. He put up almost a point a game numbers in the American League, so for a player who is that physical who can do that, it’s a rare opportunity that you get the chance to get a player like that.”
Kassian, a 21-year-old from Kingsville, Ontario, is a big boy, as Gillis mentioned, he’s 6-foot-4, 230-pounds, and the 13th overall pick from the 2009 NHL Entry Draft is jacked to be coming to Vancouver.
”I’m definitely shocked, I was on my way to catch a flight with the team and I got a call from Darcy (Buffalo GM Darcy Regier),” Kassian told Sportsnet. “I’m very excited to be part of a Stanley Cup contender, but at the same time there’s a lot of nerves and expectations. I’m very excited and I just can’t wait to get to work.”
The rookie has 27 NHL games under his belt with three goals and four assists; playing time has been an issue, so he’s excited for a fresh start with the Canucks.
“As a young player you have to work your way up and I think I was doing that in Buffalo. When there’s a lot of injuries I was playing a lot more than I was lately, but as a young player you have to earn it and that’s what I’m going to do in Vancouver. I know they have a deep line-up, that’s no secret, and they have a top team and have a good chance to go all the way. Like I said, I just want to work hard in practice and earn my spot.”
No confirmed word yet on if Kassian will join the Canucks in Phoenix, they play the Coyotes Tuesday night before flying back to Vancouver, although Gillis said he is hopeful all the new additions will play. Kassian will almost certainly be in the line-up this coming Saturday, however, when the Buffalo Sabres are in town.
“It’s going to be fun,” laughed Kassian, who gave a glimpse into what the Canucks can expect from Marc-André Gragnani, a puck-moving defenceman that can also play the wing, one Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman said Vancouver tried to get last year at the deadline.
“He’s a great offensive defenceman, I think his number in the American League have shown that,” said Kassian. “He hasn’t been given a great opportunity with Buffalo, but I know him personally and he’s very excited to earn some playing time and hopefully get some chances with the big club.”
Trading Hodgson has presumably caused a tidal wave in Vancouver where the youngster was becoming a fan favourite, but Gillis knew he’d have to give up a solid player to help the Canucks improve as they prepare for hopefully another lengthy playoff run.
“Cody is a really good young player, he’s going to continue to develop and be an excellent NHL player, but for our needs immediately and moving forward, we felt that we needed better balance on our team and we needed size and we needed toughness,” said Gillis.
“I think we got more balance in our line-up, more diversified. If you look at centre ice, we’ve got a lot of strength with a lot of veteran players there and the only real power forward we have on our team with that kind of size and speed would be David Booth and we now have a younger player, whose 21, who has that. With Marc-Andre we got a puck moving defenceman who can play on the power play and he’s got really good offensive skills.”
Gillis ended his scrum with a quote that truly resonated with me.
“It’s about balance and it’s about being able to play in any situation and I think we’re better able to play in any situation today than we were.”
REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD
From worst to first, it was a great day for Samuel Pahlsson.
The 34-year-old Swedish forward was traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for defenceman Taylor Ellington and two 2012 fourth round draft selections in Vancouver’s second move during trade deadline 2012.
The move gives the Canucks five natural centers, so there’s some line juggling to be had, but acquiring a gritty player with Pahlsson’s experience is a depth move, it gives the team options.
It also reunites Daniel and Henrik Sedin with a fellow countryman and former teammate; Pahlsson played three seasons with the Sedins for Modo and again for Team Sweden at the Olympics winning a gold medal.
Pahlsson has a laundry list of reasons to be happy in moving from the 30th place Blue Jackets to the top team in the NHL and he’s ready to play for a true Stanley Cup contender.
“I’m going to do everything I can to help the team win,” Pahlsson told Sportsnet. “It’s been a couple years since I was in the playoffs, but I’m know I can give everything I’ve got.”
In 61 games this year Pahlsson had two goals and nine assists while playing a shutdown role, the role he’s thrived at throughout his 11-year career. He was a big part of helping the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim win the Stanley Cup in 2006-07, the same season he was nominated for a Selke Trophy.
The 6-foot-, 212-pound centerman has played for four teams in his career and picked up 182 points (64-118-182) in 718 games. He’s also played in 81 playoff games, including two deep runs with the Ducks and one with the Blackhawks.
Pahlsson isn’t sure how he’ll help the Canucks, but he knows he will.
“It’s hard to say, but they’ve been through it now, they’ve been all the way to the finals and Game 7 there, so they have a lot of experience, but they haven’t won it. I can’t really say what I’m going to do, but I hope I can help somehow.”
Two vowels, two S’s, a P, H, L and N, how exactly do you pronounce Pahlsson? It’s PAWL-suhn and this video will make you laugh.
Vancouver’s only other move of the day brought in forward Andrew Gordon from the Anaheim Ducks.
The 26-year-old from Halifax, Nova Scotia, has 12 NHL games to his credit, having scored once (on Martin Brodeur) and collected an assist. He was drafted 197th overall by the Washington Capitals in 2004, but opted to play three seasons with St. Cloud State Huskies in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.