With the placing of defenceman Keith Ballard on the long-term injury list the Vancouver Canucks create a great deal of cap room - Ballard's at $4.2 million a year - and it seems likely they'll seek a defenceman before Monday's trade deadline.
Ballard has a concussion and is out the rest of this regular season, though it's hoped he'll be back for the Stanley Cup playoffs. And while his replacement, Chris Tanev, looks steady as always, the need for yet another blueliner is evident. Besides, the biggest cliche about the playoffs? You can never have enough defence, something Vancouver found out last year when Dan Hamhuis went out in game 1 of the final, Aaron Rome was suspended in game 3 and others played hurt.
GM Gillis: "you never know"
The Vancouver brainthrust has decamped for Scottsdale, Arizona, for reasons not made entirely clear, and have set-up a trade-deadline war room down there. GM Mike Gillis is naturally not giving anything away but judging from statements made to media today he's clearly picking up the phone and talking.
“We want to try and keep our roster, but you never know what is going to happen between now and Monday afternoon. Suddenly one deal gets made and that frees up something else. It’s really difficult to say. There’s constant pressure to think you need to get better but our team has been playing really well, the last month in particular. There’s not a tremendous amount we can improve on.”
The team has been on enough of a tear that after a 2-1 win in New Jersey Feb. 24 - a night after ending Detroit's NHL record-breaking 23 home-ice win-streak in a thriller - they moved into first place overall. But while acknowledging there's not a lot to improve when you're at the top, Gillis still said what GM's like to say this time of year: "If we have an opportunity to improve the team, we’re going to act upon it."
Look for that improvement to be in the form of a veteran defenceman.