In late breaking and most surprising fashion, the Canucks have dealt Cody Hodgson, the first draft pick of the Mike Gillis era and a player who showed in limited action this season that he can be a legitimate offensive force at the NHL level. Along with depth defenseman Alexander Sulzer, Hodgson heads to Buffalo for aspiring power forward Zack Kassian and defender Marc-Andre Gragnani.
We are most sorry to see Hodgson go. He has, on many nights this season, been the Canucks’ most dangerous offensive player and, only in his rookie season, seemingly has a long career ahead of him. We are also surprised that Mike Gillis would be willing to cut bait on his first ever NHL draft pick. However, without a move to the wing by Ryan Kesler, it was an impossibility for Hodgson to be a proper fit in Vancouver - his skill set was not really complimentary to a team that needs a third line to deliver physically more than it needs to score.
Kassian has the potential to be the kind of player the Canucks have been sorely lacking - a physically imposing player that can play regularly. At the NHL level, he is still an unproven commodity however, unlike Hodgson who is in the running for NHL rookie of the year honours. The 6’ 3” 230 pound Kassian is a former first round pick and has demonstrated a decent scoring touch at the AHL level. Riding shotgun with the Sedins could make him a scorer at the NHL level.
Gragnani fills the void of the injured Keith Ballard and may be what tips this trade in favour of the Canucks. He is a young puck moving defender and of reasonable size. After becoming a point per game player at the AHL level he leads all Buffalo players with a plus 10 rating this year (meanwhile ex-Canuck and $10 million man Christian Ehrhoff is minus 5). He can play top four minutes if required and along with Chris Tanev, Kevin Connauton and Yann Sauve suddenly leave the Canucks with some longer term depth on defense.
In the end, this move (along with the pick-up of checking centre Sami Pahlsson) addresses the weaknesses that were identified (a lack of toughness and grit up front and a need for a Keith Ballard replacement).
This deal will likely rank as one of the biggest in Canuck history and will be a difficult one to assess in the long run because of the diversity of the players being exchanged. It is probable that Hodgson could become a top 10 NHL scorer playing 20 minutes per night. And it is possible that Kassian could become Milan Lucic and that Gragnani becomes the next great Canuck power play quarterback. Alternatively, they could become Jim Sandlak and J.J. Daigneault, respectively. Though if Kassian and Gragnani (not to mention Pahlsson) help to complete Mike Gillis’ Stanley Cup puzzle, then it will be the best Canuck trade ever…