The Canucks had two losses on Wednesday night: one on the ice and one in the room.
On the ice, it was a tough shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers, with whom the Canucks are competing for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. In the room, they lost a well-liked teammate, as Michael Del Zotto was traded to the Anaheim Ducks for Luke Schenn and a seventh-round pick.
“We just heard after the game,” said Brandon Sutter. “It sucks. It always sucks. He’s been a pretty good friend of mine and a lot of guys in the room. Very popular guy in the dressing room.
“It’s unfortunate. Hopefully there’s a better opportunity for him.”
Del Zotto had been a frequent healthy scratch all season. The last time he played was January 3rd and hadn’t played a game since December 4th before that.
“It just didn’t work out this year,” said Canucks head coach Travis Green. “A lot of it was just based on timing… We started winning some games when he came out of the lineup and we kinda stuck with that lineup.”
“I like him a lot,” added Green. “I wish him nothing but the best. He’s been a good player for us, good in our room, good with our young guys. I hope he does well.”
In Anaheim, Del Zotto could potentially get more playing time. He might be an upgrade on Jacob Larsson on the third pairing for the struggling Ducksm who also have one of the worst power plays in the NHL. Perhaps they’ll look to Del Zotto to slot in on the second unit.
The Ducks have been looking for a way to shake up their lineup, as they’ve lost 12-straight games and slipped out of playoff position. They also traded Andrew Cogliano to the Dallas Stars for Devin Shore.
Much like the Anders Nilsson trade, this is a small deal for the Canucks that accomplishes some big things. With Elias Pettersson set to return, moving Del Zotto clears a roster spot. It clears most of Del Zotto’s $3 million contract off the books, though they'll retain 25% in the trade. Schenn makes just $800,000, so the Canucks save $1.45 million overall.
It also provides Del Zotto with a place to play. As much as Del Zotto was popular in the room and had friends here in Vancouver, he’s still a professional hockey player that wants to contribute on the ice.
“The past two months has been tough on him, when you’re a veteran guy and you’re not playing,” said Sutter. “He’s a good player. He battles every night. He’s a physical guy out there, he plays the game tough and he’s very much a professional. I really relished the chance to play with him.”
The Canucks get a 2020 seventh-round pick, which isn’t much of a return for Del Zotto, but there likely wasn’t much of a market for him this season. Getting something for Del Zotto, who looked nigh-untradeable, is better than nothing. While it won't let them make another pick at the 2019 draft in Vancouver, one gets the sense the Canucks aren’t done making deals.
The Canucks also get Luke Schenn. Or rather, the Utica Comets get Luke Schenn. The former fifth-overall pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2008 has had quite the fall from grace and has been playing for the San Diego Gulls of the AHL. Schenn will report directly to Utica, where he’ll provide some help for a Comets defence corps that has dealt with injuries, none more significant than the season-ending injury to Olli Juolevi.
Schenn may not be the defencemen the Leafs hoped he would be when they drafted him, but he's still an upgrade for the Comets as they push for the playoffs this season.
Sutter was evidently unaware of the return in the trade and seemed surprised when he heard Luke Schenn was coming back in the trade.
“I know him very well. A good friend of mine,” said Sutter, though it was hard to tell if he was joking. The two did play together for Team Canada at the 2007 World Under-18 Championship, 2007 Ivan Hlinka Cup, and the 2008 World Junior Championship. They were also frequent opponents in the WHL from 2005 to 2008.
“Big solid, steady guy,” said Sutter regarding Schenn. “Keeps it simple. Wherever he goes, he’ll fit in just fine. Very nice guy, again, very much a popular guy in the room. So, I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing him up here.”
Schenn provides a little injury insurance; it’s nice to have someone with significant NHL experience available just in case.