Before the Canucks could clean out their lockers, their GM cleaned out his closets. Vancouver GM, Mike Gillis made a revelation during his presser on the subject of trading Cody Hodgson to Buffalo on trade deadline day.
Gillis didn't sugar-coat his feelings when he talked about his former first round draft choice. There were rumours of unrest for a couple of years between the Canucks and the Hodgson camp. The reasons are still yet unknown. I asked Hodgson about it a couple of times when he first arrived in Buffalo and all he'd offer was a polite smile and a compliment about his new team mates and his pleasure to be playing in Buffalo.
Hodgson's back injury in his first Canucks training camp and ensuing rehab can be looked at as "issues". The comments made by Canucks coach Alain Vigneault after the fact, questioning the validity of Hodgson's injury, certainly didn't create love and laughter between the two sides. AV intimated that rather than an injury, Hodgson was feeling bad for himself after being a training camp cut due to a poor camp by the Canucks. Something about pouting about being shipped to AHL Manitoba. Then, there's the alleged pre-trade deadline meeting between CoHo and AV, when the young gun asked his coach for more ice time. At the time, Hodgson had a valid argument as to why he had earned more playing time and a heightened responsibility role on the Canucks.
On Tuesday, Gillis added another chapter to the on going drama.
The GM admitted that he showcased the former Brampton Battalion scoring star so that he could land himself a bigger, nastier forward. Gillis opted for a "rare commodity" in Zack Kassian, rather than cultivating and mentoring the more offensively gifted Cody Hodgson. Hidgson's stock soared through the roof as to played outstandingly from late November through the end of December. Hodgson was being mentioned as a rookie of the year candidate at the deadline. When he was traded, he had scored 16 goals and added 17 assists. He was +8 at the time.
Hindsight being 20/20, I'd say Gillis made the right choice. Kassian has tremendous upside, however, he was left to play with his Iphone in the press box while his team was being gonged by the LA Kings in the elimination game of round one. Gillis had a plan right along. On Tuesday, at the official season-ending presser, he took a skate down memory lane to set the record straight.
Gillis on the trade deadline deal that sent his former first rounder (10th overall) and D Alex Sulzer to Buffalo for Kassian (14th overall) and MA Gragnani:
“Well.. You know.. There’s a lot that goes into that, and at the end of the day, you know, I chose not to speak about what happened behind the scenes because I expect our players to come in and have the opportunity to speak to me without it being made public, and I’m going to continue with that. But, clearly, there were issues that were on going. I spent more time on Cody’s issues than any other player combined on our team the last three years. You know, we made a determination that he (Hodgson) didn’t want to be here (in Vancouver). We built him into something that we could move (via trade). There were six young players on some other teams that I would have traded him for, if any of them were ever made available. One of them was made available at the trade deadline, it was Zack (Kassian). Zack is a commodity that is impossible to get if we develop him and make him into the player that we think he can be. There’s five players in the league that I think are the equivalent and you cannot get them. You can’t get them in free agency, and you can’t get them in a trade. So, its really up to us, and I think Zack is going to be a more influential player for us moving forward”.
Gillis' bootom line: Hodgson wanted out of Vancouver and he covets the pugnacity and truculence of Zack Kassian.
Jordan Staal's name has been trending in Buffalo for the past couple of days ever since the star centreman and his Penguins were bounced from the playoffs by the Flyers. The Sabres are in the market for a big, scoring, veteran centre who can segue directly into their core group. Staal is just the man for the job.
At 23 years of age, Staal has one year left on his contract with the Pens. He can opt to go to free agency next Summer and then sell himself as a #1 centre to a number of teams. Or, he can opt , where he can sign a new contract to stay in Pittsburgh, and ride the coat tails of top centres Crosby and Malkin.
The mathematics do not work in Staal's favor in Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby will be UFA on 7/1/14, as will Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke, and Craig Adams. Crosby enters the last season of his deal with an $8.7 million cap hit; Staal $4 million; Dupuis 41.5 million, and Cooke $1.8 million.
There aren't enough dollars, minutes, or pucks for that matter in Pittsburgh.
Staal would be a fool to pass up a trade opportunity or his UFA options.
On Tuesday's locker clean out day, Staal was asked what the incentive is for him to stay in Pittsburgh.
I see Staal working. He's loyal to the boys in the room and the city of Pittsburgh, where he arrived an 18 year old prospect. Today, he's a 23 year old stanley Cup champion who's about to enter to enter the prime years of his stellar career. To say that Staal is a highly sought after man is the under statement of the century.
Stall led his team in goal scoring against the Flyers. During the regular season, his ice time and point totals soared while Crosby was out of the lineup with injuries. He got a taste of the good life.
Why wouldn't he want to be the #1 centre on a club like Buffalo?
The onus is on coach Dan Bylsma to cut up and distribute the minutes in the Pens "Three Centre Model". There just isn't enough ice time for Staal to play 20+ minutes, plus first unit PP and PK in Pittsburgh, all things being equal with Crosby, Malkin and Staal all healthy at the same time.
Listen to Bylsma's explanation of the "Three Centre Model":
Of course, the coach thinks the three headed monster can work. He's the coach. He won a Cup with the three tenors, and he must dream at night of winning multiple Cups with 87, 71, 11 down the middle of his lineup. Who wouldn't want to be charged with the task of finding a peaceful accord with Crosby, Malkin and Staal? Sorry to say, nothing lasts forever. Staal got a taste of the bright lights and the bigger city while Crosby and Malkin were sidelined the past two seasons with their respective concussion and knee surgery issues. Now that all three are healthy and entering their prime production years, its time for Staal to fly.
The Sabres have exactly what Ray Shero and the Penguins are looking for in a trade partner: 2 first rounders and two second rounders in this June's draft. They also have Derek Roy who is a true #1 centre with term left on his deal (1 year $4 million). Buffalo also NHL-ready prospects like Luke Adam and TJ Brennan. Whats more, Mr. Pegula has the financial where with all to meet Staal's financial demands. Pegula can craft a deal akin to that of Ehrhoff and Myers in order to create the needed cap room to sign and retain the essential pieces to the puzzle.
Jordan Staal is EXACTLY the player that can lead the Sabres to the playoffs and an eventual legitimate run to Lord Stanley's Cup.