VANCOUVER, B.C. – The San Jose Sharks traded veteran defencemen Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich to the Vancouver Canucks on Friday for two prospects in a move to create space under the salary cap.
Vancouver also signed 40-year-old free agent defenceman Mathieu Schneider to a US$1.55-million, one-year contract on Friday. The Canucks are counting on their newest acquisitions to solidify a defence that lost Mattias Ohlund to free agency earlier this summer.
“Defence has been an area we wanted to add skill and depth to and this trade has strengthened our group considerably,” Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said in a statement.
The Sharks save nearly $5 million in the deal, with Ehrhoff due $3.15 million and Lukowich owed $1.8 million this season. They also acquired 20-year-old centre Patrick White and 22-year-old defenceman Daniel Rahimi, two players who could contribute to the team down the road.
General manager Doug Wilson did not preclude making another deal before camp opens Sept. 13, although he said he wouldn’t rush into anything.
With the economy leaving some teams strapped for cash, Wilson wanted the flexibility to be able to make a deal when one came his way.
“It gives you the ability to explore all opportunities that do come our way,” he said. “I’ve constantly said, this team won’t truly be finished until March around the trade deadline.”
Wilson said the Sharks still have a very “mature” defence heading into the season, led by Dan Boyle, Rob Blake, Douglas Murray, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Kent Huskins.
This deal gives young players like Derek Joslin, Mike Moore, Nick Petrecki and Jason Demers a chance to make the team when training camp starts next month.
“This is a reflection of where our young players are at,” Wilson said. “You’re not going to keep these guys off the team. … We’re excited coming into camp that we have young people who have worked their butts off who are battling for spots.”
The Sharks were looking to make some changes after the best regular season in franchise history was followed by a first-round playoff exit against the eighth-seeded Anaheim Ducks. San Jose posted 117 points and 53 wins on the way to the first Presidents’ Trophy in team history.
All that was erased in six playoff games that provided yet another disappointing and early end to a once-promising season. Wilson said he believes that last season’s bitter ending will make for a more competitive training camp this season.
“This has been a difficult, tough summer. It’s going to be an ongoing opportunity to show where this group is at,” Wilson said. “We have a very good hockey team. The results of this hockey team won’t be shown until later this season.”
Ehrhoff, a 27-year-old with offensive upside, has 25 goals and 132 points in 341 career games with San Jose, including a career-high 42 points last season.
The 33-year-old Lukowich is more of a stay-at-home defenceman, recording 111 points in 640 games over eight seasons with San Jose, Dallas, Tampa Bay New Jersey and the New York Islanders.
White, a 20-year-old centre, was selected 25th overall in 2007 by the Canucks, but has so far struggled to meet expectations that came following a stellar high school career. He had 16 points in 36 games as a sophomore at the University of Minnesota last season.
Rahimi, a six-foot-three Swedish defenceman selected in the third round of the 2006 NHL Draft, has spent the last two seasons with Manitoba of the AHL, recording one goal, five assists and 49 penalty minutes in 58 games last season.