Canucks bolster blueline

The Vancouver Canucks started the day with five National Hockey League defencemen and one Stanley Cup ring on their roster, and ended it with eight defencemen and four rings, which is an impressive feat in itself. But what’s even more impressive is that Mike Gillis and the Canucks organization did so without losing a single roster player.

On Friday afternoon, the Canucks sent prospects Patrick White and Daniel Rahimi to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for defencemen Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich. White, Vancouver’s first round selection in 2007, was not developing to Gillis’ liking at the University of Minnesota. Similarly, Rahimi has struggled to adjust in the American Hockey League. Less than an hour after the trade, the Canucks officially signed defenceman Matthieu Schneider to a one-year contract, a deal that had been rumored throughout the week.

According to Gillis, the Canucks had been talking trade with the Sharks for a month before finally pulling the trigger. Ehrhoff’s name had been tossed around in trade rumors involving Dany Heatley earlier this summer, so he wasn’t shocked with the news of his departure.

“Yeah, I was aware of the rumors going on; that’s why it didn’t surprise me as much,” said Ehrhoff in a conference call following the trade. “I kind of figured the Sharks had to make a move to create some cap space. I knew that it was a possibility that this could happen.”

Ehrhoff, 27, recorded 42 points in 77 games with the Sharks last season. The Moers, Germany native is generally known has an offensive defenceman, which alleviates the Canucks most pressing need. Although his competency in the defensive zone has been questioned on occasion, his mobility alone will add greatly to the Canucks defensive core, which was exposed against the Chicago Blackhawks in the postseason.

Although Ehrhoff has spent his entire NHL career in San Jose, he’s not concerned about the pressure of playing in a hockey-crazed market like Vancouver.

“No, I’m definitely excited,” he said instantly. “I know Vancouver has great, passionate fans and I’m excited to be part of a great hockey community.”

With the additions of Lukowich and Schneider to boot, Ehrhoff realizes there is now a logjam on the Canucks blue line, but he looks as this as a positive more than anything else.

“I’m not worried about it. It’s good to have some depth on defence. I’ll just be ready when camp opens, and show my best.”

Just as Gillis had been working on this deal for a month, he had been attempting to acquire Matthieu Schneider since last summer. According to Schneider, the Canucks were a “day away” from acquiring him last September, before he was moved to Atlanta. The Canucks wanted Schneider, and the feeling was mutual.

“I kind of handcuffed my agent Patty Morris a little bit,” said Schneider in his own conference call. “I pretty much told him that [Vancouver] was the place that I wanted to be and until we exhausted negotiations with Vancouver, I didn’t really want to negotiate with anyone else. So I never really took any offers from any other teams.”

Schneider, 40, put up 32 points in 67 games last season with Atlanta and Montreal and won a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1993. He says that he courted Vancouver for a number of reasons, such as the opportunity to play in a hockey town again, the Canucks’ competitive roster, and his relationship with his former agent Mike Gillis.

“When you sign with a team, your relationship with the GM and management is certainly a factor,” said Schneider. “I’ve had a great relationship with Mike throughout the last decade. I talked to some guys that played here last year and the organizational things are being run first class and I’m not sure how things were there before Mike, but I know form talking to people within the organization, everything has been done right and that was something that I was looking for as well.

“I think this is definitely one of the top teams in the league right now, one of the up-and-coming teams, and playing for great ownership and management make it pretty much the perfect place for me.”

Schneider also realizes the Canucks now have an overload on the back end, but he’ll accept any role on this team, even if it’s a lesser one.

“I conveyed to everyone in the organization that I just want to help make this team better in any role I can play,” said the New York native, who also looks forward to being a mentor to Alex Edler and the other Canucks defencemen, as he was to Niklas Kronwall in Detroit. “Anything they feel they need from me, I’m willing to do. I’m excited to be part of a winning organization and to make this team better and get to the next level. It’s definitely not about me; it’s about the team.”

Lukowich, a British Columbia native with two Stanley Cup rings to show for, will slot in as the Canucks eighth defenceman, barring any trade or injury.

It’s safe to say that by adding three quality defencemen and three Stanley Cup rings to their roster, Friday was a good night for the Canucks organization. And that’s more than just a feeling.

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