More Bold Moves Coming in Vancouver

Following a nine-day layoff for the Vancouver Canucks at the All-Star break, the team is healthier, meaning more big managerial decisions loom.

Along with the return of Canucks captain Henrik Sedin to action Thursday night against Columbus, who had missed four games with an upper body injury, Dan Hamhuis is also set to return from a broken jaw injury that has kept him out of the lineup for 21 games to date. According to TSN 1040’s Dave Tomlinson on the Vancouver radio station’s pre-game show, the Canucks said Hamhuis is ready to be taken off injured reserve and will play on Saturday against the Calgary Flames.

The return of Hamhuis means GM Jim Benning will need to make a tough roster move, as Vancouver is already at the 23-man limit without Hamhuis. Is a trade in the works for a current player on the roster, or will the Canucks inevitably put another player on waivers?

The team recently put Chris Higgins on waivers in mid-January, and did the same with Brandon Prust earlier this week, two veteran players who have underachieved this season. Regardless of what the next decision may be in Vancouver, it appears that Yannick Weber, who was a healthy scratch for a seventh straight game on Thursday, is destined to be the odd man out.

Does Demoting Weber Make Most Sense for Canucks?

Sending down Weber to the AHL’s Utica Comets means that the 27 year-old blueliner, like the aforementioned Higgins and Prust, would need to clear waivers as he carries a one-way contract.

With his poor performance throughout the season, trying to trade or send down Weber would make more sense for the Canucks than with any other defenseman, despite his one-way contract. It’s unlikely the team would carry eight defensemen upon Hamhuis’ return, and no other blueliner on the current roster seems like an expendable option for the Canucks to send down.

Despite the fact that Hamhuis is set to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, trying to trade him before the deadline probably isn’t in the Canucks’ best interest. The Smithers, BC native Hamhuis seems keen on wanting to stay to in Vancouver, and turned down larger contracts to originally sign with the team in the summer of 2010.

An argument can be made that the Canucks could get a sizable return on a potential Hamhuis trade, which would allow Benning to retain some sort of asset, as opposed to potentially losing Weber on waivers for nothing in coming days. However, the Canucks defense would be in shambles past Alex Edler and Chris Tanev should they trade Hamhuis, and the 33 year-old’s trade value might not be as high around the league as it would initially seem.

In Weber’s case, meanwhile, teams hoping for a deep playoff run may be intrigued by the Swiss defenseman, who can bolster any powerplay unit with his heavy shot. But with the poor season he’s had, giving up an asset to acquire Weber’s services doesn’t seem to have much surface value for a lot of teams.

Benning and the Canucks have been transparent when answering questions about Higgins and Prust, saying they tried to work out trades before respectively placing each player on waivers.

Don’t be surprised if the same situation is ongoing for Weber.