Ossi Vaananen.


9 defensemen in Canucks active roster. This is the result of the Canucks picking up Finnish defenseman Ossi Vaananen off waiver from the Flyers on Friday. Philadelphia has to clear off cap-room to fit the return of Daniel Briere from injury, hence placing both Vaananen and Glen Metropolit on waivers.

Now, that’s what you called depth in defense. Is it really??

3 Kevin Bieksa   6′ 0″ 205 16 Jun 1981 27 Grimsby, ON, CAN
4 Rob Davison   6′ 3″ 220 1 May 1980 28 St. Catharines, ON, CAN
23 Alexander Edler   6′ 3″ 220 21 Apr 1986 22 Ostersund, SWE
8 Willie Mitchell “A”  6′ 3″ 210 23 Apr 1977 31 Port McNeill, BC, CAN
32 Lawrence Nycholat   ** 6′ 0″ 200 7 May 1979 29 Calgary, AB, CAN
55 Shane O’Brien   6′ 3″ 224 9 Aug 1983 25 Port Hope, ON, CAN
2 Mattias Ohlund “A”  6′ 3″ 220 9 Sep 1976 32 Pitea, SWE
6 Sami Salo   6′ 3″ 215 2 Sep 1974 34 Turku, FIN
5 Ossi Vaananen   6′ 4″ 215 18 Aug 1980 28 Vantaa, FIN

So far Davison, Nycholat and Vaananen are the odd men out, but anyone can tell you (even coach Alain Vigneualt had to agree) that changes are going to happen to the defensive corp sooner rather than later.

But before we go into what might happen before Wednesday’s trading deadline. Let’s take a look at what type of player we’ve picked up.

Ossi Vaananen, 28, was the 2nd round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes back in 1998. He ranked 43rd overall. A stayed-home Finnish defenseman who participated in numerous national competition for his home country, winning a silver medal in 2001 in the World Championships. Ossi played four seasons with the Coyotes before trading to Avalanche, along with a 2nd rounder and Chris Gratton (who also was picked up off waiver recently – by Columbus). Ossi played a couple of seasons with the Avalanche before leaving to play in Sweden last year. During the off season he signed with the Flyers and played 46 games this season notching 1 goal and 9 assists at a +7 rating.

As he himself explained, during an interview in Vancouver, he doesn’t put up a lot of points, and his game is a physical one with focus in the back-end. Vaananen is a physical defensive defenseman with very good experience. He’s very responsible and reliable if he can stay healthy, but has been known to battle through various injuries in the past few years, some suggests as a result to his freaky 2003 car-accident. Throughout his NHL career, he’s been a vagabond, and most of the time the 5th or 6th defenseman, but he definitely has the skills and size to move up the roster if he can prove his worth in the Canucks line-up.

It’s very obvious that by picking him up off waivers, the Canucks intend to use him in the active 6 for the remaining of the season, since we already have Nycolat and Davison standing by, and the one-way contract of Vaananen prevents the team from sending him anywhere else without clearing waiver again. But…is there any indication where he might fit in?

Common sense will suggest that the Canucks is planning on shipping out a Defensive D-man, hence acquiring Vaananen. The most obvious choice is of course Mattias Ohlund, an Unrestricted Free Agent by the end of this season. But is Vaananen good enough to step up to that role?

Mitchell, Bieska and Salo are the back-bone of Canucks’ defense, each with their own uniqueness. Mitchell is smart and reliable, Bieska is tough and can join the rush, Salo is terrific in PP situation with his awesome point-shot. Edler is really maturing into another Ohlund-type of player, except that he has more offensive upside than Mattias. (At least I think so)

Shane O’Brien is also very physical, and has improved a lot after his media fiasco a few weeks ago. With Bieska and Edler playing a more puck-moving style of play, the bottom two D-man will likely play a more defensive-minded game. This is probably where Vaananen and O’Brien will fit in. Aside from handling defensive duties, Killing penalty will probably be their main tasks as well.

If you look at the make-up of the Defensive position:

Bieska – Mitchell
Edler – Salo
Vaananen – O’Brien

It is in fact a very strong line-up, with a lot of grit and experience.

So what’s likely to happen to Ohlund? He’s openly said that he’s quite happy to test out the open market, therefore he will be the prime trade bait for Gillis in this trading deadline. The two teams which have expressed interest throughout the year has been Montreal and Ottawa. Now with Ottawa out of playoff picture, the Senators will likely be sellers instead of buyers. This leaves us with the Canadiens.

But to complicate things, Ohlund does have a No Trade Clause, and he will (if he hasn’t already done so) have to provide a list of teams he’ll like to end up with. I seriously think that he will waive his NTC, especially with his 11 years of relationship with the organization, and his agent J.P. Barry is also the agent of a number of big stars in the Canucks line-up, including the Sedins and Sundin.

I will try a little Eklund this time with Ohlund, (probably the same way he came up with his rumors – I made it up!!! I will use “s” for Saint Pako instead of “e” in my ranking system)

Montreal (s4) – Ohlund  for Alexei Kovalev and 2nd rounder 2009
Boston (s3) – Ohlund + 2nd rounder 2009 for Phil Kessel
Toronto* (s4) – Ohlund + 3rd rounder 2009 for Nik Antropov
New York
(s2) – Ohlund + Raymond for Zherdev

Most of them are quite obvious, except for Toronto. Since Burke drafted Ohlund and he knows he probably can sign back Mattias in the off-season, hence giving away a player he doesn’t like in Antropov for someone he loves.

I love this time of the year, it almost seems like everything is possible. The closer you get to the deadline the crazier it becomes.


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