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Strengthening the Blue Line

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks
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Mike Gillis had a busy Friday indeed

Since Mattias Ohlund bolted for Tampa Bay almost two months ago, the Vancouver Canucks have been in need of a defensive replacement. Friday afternoon GM Mike Gillis addressed that need three times over.

The announcement that Mathieu Schneider had signed in Vancouver was about as surprising as Liberal's sudden love-affair with the HST, but a trade that brought defenders Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich in from San Jose certainly got Canucks fans buzzing.

Canucks GM Mike Gillis dealt rugged Swedish rear-guard Daniel Rahimi and 2007 first-round pick Patrick White in order to flesh out a blueline in need of NHL-caliber talent.

"Losing Mattias [Ohlund] was a big blow to our team and this is the route we chose to take to overcome it," said Gillis.

"We've been talking about this for a couple of months with San Jose… there were a lot of discussions but yesterday we settled on what would help them relieve some cap issues."

In Ehrhoff and Lukowich the Canucks add upwards of $4.8 million against the salary cap while Rahimi has yet to claim and NHL roster spot and White is still at the University of Minnesota.

"[San Jose] wanted young players - and we were reluctant all summer to give up young players - but we felt at this point heading into camp we wanted another solid top-five defenceman and we wanted another depth defenceman with good experience," said Gillis. "We felt it was the right move to make."

Gillis insists that the added salary will not handcuff his team going forward.

"We're right at the cap right now, but we'll be completely compliant with the cap come October 1st," he said. "We don't have to move anybody. I think there are a lot of things that can happen between now and October 1st in terms of injuries and a variety of things."

Salary implications aside, the trade certainly looks attractive from a hockey perspective.

In Ehrhoff, the Canucks get a 27-year-old defender with 341 NHL games under his belt who has two years remaining on a three-year contract.

Gillis said Assistant GM Lorne Henning has been working on acquiring the lanky German defender for "quite some time."

At 6-foot-2, Ehrhoff is a solid defender who averaged 21 minutes last season. Most importantly, he knows how to run a power play. He posted eight goals and 34 assists in 77 games with San Jose last season, and logged significant minutes in the playoffs paired with Doug Murray.

"I was aware of the [trade] rumours going on and that's why it didn't surprise me as much… I kind of figured the sharks had to make a move to create some cap space. I knew that [a trade] was a possibility."

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"I'm definitely excited. I know Vancouver has great fans and I'm excited to be a part of a great hockey community."

In Lukowich, the Canucks add a steady NHL veteran who won't dazzle, but also won't falter. At 33-years-old he's played 11 seasons in five different cities and knows exactly what he has to do to be effective in the NHL.

"For the immediacy of our situation - for where we felt our team was - we wanted strength and depth on our defence," said Gillis, whose team suffered last season with injuries to core defenders Sami Salo and Kevin Bieksa.

"In the West, what we've found is you can never have enough good defencemen, and it will be very competitive in camp… we'll see what comes out of the mix."

 
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