The Vancouver Canucks hardly made a splash Monday morning, but they picked up a couple of spare parts to bolster the fourth line as the NHL prepares to close out the last quarter of the regular season.
Lapierre, 25, has five goals and is a minus-13 in 59 games this year with Montreal and Anaheim. He was traded for forward Joel Perreault and a 2012 3rd-round draft pick. It’s a low-risk, low-reward trade that gives the Canucks some size (Lapierre is 6’2″, 207 lbs) on the fourth line, although Lapierre is known for taking undisciplined penalties and being a mouthy little bugger on the ice.
In 19 games in last year’s playoffs, he took 9 penalties that resulted in opposition powerplays, including a pair of roughing minors (presumably after whistles) and two diving penalties. Since the maturation of Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows, the Canucks have not had that agitating forward and it’s been a treat to not worry about taking an extra deuce in scrums after a whistle.
“We expect a certain type of play that’s going to be effective in our team game,” said Canucks GM Mike Gillis in a press conference discussing the trades, adding that Lapierre “will learn to comply with what we need” and a major force in the deal was that Canucks coach Alain Vigneault had coached Lapierre when he worked for the PEI Rocket of the QMJHL.
Meanwhile, Christopher Higgins, acquired from Florida for Evan Oberg and the Canucks’ 2013 3rd-round draft pick, is currently on the shelf with a broken thumb, but Gillis obviously doesn’t see that as a point of concern. “It’s not that serious,” he said, although he wouldn’t give a timeline for Higgins return and say that the 27-year old forward will be evaluated by Canuck doctors.
Higgins, 27, isn’t quite the faceoff-winning, puck-advancing defensive forward that fans saw Gillis getting, but Higgins led the Panthers in relative-Corsi, a statistic that measures how a player controls possession for his side compared to the rest of his team. This is all despite starting just 42.2% of his shifts in the offensive zone and facing strong quality of competition. While he doesn’t take faceoffs, he’s proven to be a serviceable player in advancing the puck.
There was a time when Higgins was a 20-goal scorer, but his shooting percentage dipped in the 2009 season and he’s bounced around Calgary, the Rangers, and now the Panthers. He won’t be expected to contribute a lot offensively, but he could fit well onto a line with Manny Malhotra as far as being a reliable forward in his own end.
Lapierre will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, while Higgins will be unrestricted.
The deals do mean in the end that Cody Hodgson season with the Canucks is likely over, and the prospect was re-assigned the Manitoba Moose on Monday along with Victor Oreskovich, where he will likely play in the AHL playoffs. “We put a tonne of money into player development and a lot of thought into it,” said Gillis, “this way, he’ll be in Manitoba and he’ll play big minutes.”
“Our philosophy is the best players always play,” added Gillis.