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Gillis expects to be quiet at the deadline

by Dan Rosen
Mike Gillis said he has freedom from ownership to spend to the salary cap to make the Vancouver Canucks a better team before 3 p.m. ET on March 4, but the first-year general manager doesn't sound like he's yearning to throw around money before the trade deadline.

Gillis is happy with the Canucks as currently constructed and believes the risk of upsetting the apple cart on a team that has won eight of nine games this month may not be worth the reward.

Vancouver is currently fifth in the Western Conference and second in the Northwest Division with 68 points through 59 games. Calgary is first in the Northwest with 76 points through 59 games.

"When we have a healthy team we have a good team we're very confident in," said Gillis, whose team is healthy now, save for an injury to rookie wing Jannik Hansen, a fourth-line guy. "If there is a major injury in the next four games (before the deadline) we have to do our best to overcome that and do what we have to do to be competitive. We're pretty happy with the group we have now and I think we're playing very well now. We're confident in our guys."

It could turn out that Gillis' biggest move might have come in mid-December when he convinced 38-year-old center Mats Sundin to sign with the Canucks.

Sundin struggled with only three points and a minus-6 rating in his first nine games, but has since been a key force on the Canucks' second line along with Pavol Demitra and Ryan Kesler. He's winning better than 53 percent of his faceoffs and has 4 goals and 5 assists this month. Sundin, captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the previous 10 seasons, scored the shootout winner to cap an emotional return to Toronto this past Saturday night.

Sundin's teammates said over the weekend in Toronto that his leadership is starting to show as well.

"I felt all along this entire season we were building toward something and if we got Mats Sundin that would be our biggest analogous deadline move we could make," Gillis said.

Asked if the Canucks' success in February has altered Gillis' philosophy entering the final week before the trade deadline - going from potential seller to potential buyer - the GM again put the praise on Sundin and how much his signing has affected Vancouver's depth, especially at the center ice position.

"From my perspective, the pursuit of him was absolutely critical to how we made decisions going forward," said Gillis, whose team was 2-5-5 in January while waiting for Sundin to get acclimated and goalie Roberto Luongo to work his way back from an injury.

"The fact (Sundin) came to play for us made the biggest change in our philosophy," the GM continued. "We now have four high quality center icemen and if you include Demitra as a center icemen, we have five. It really has changed the dynamic of our team. We control the faceoff circle that much more. So, getting him has really solidified our group in my mind and has presented much less of an impetus to do a whole lot at the trade deadline."

If he were to do something, Gillis may want to look at adding a wing for depth purposes or another defenseman. That being said, it doesn't appear that he's going to be burning up cell phone minutes in search of the one player who could spark a playoff run.

"We think we have a good team here," Gillis said. "We have a lot of character here. Our team is playing pretty well right now. Our goaltending is becoming really solid again. Unless we have an opportunity to do something really big I think we're going to be pretty quiet."

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