VANCOUVER – It was a hectic day for Shane O’Brien but the big defenceman liked the way it ended with him being traded to the Vancouver Canucks from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
O’Brien returned from Prague at around 7 a.m. Monday after the Lightning’s two-game series against the New York Rangers. He was told at around noon about being dealt to the Canucks, then caught a flight later in the day that was scheduled to get him into Vancouver at midnight.
“It’s been a little much to handle,” O’Brien laughed during a telephone interview from Tampa while he waited to catch his plane to the West Coast. “Any time you get moved to a team, somebody wants you. As a player that’s all you can ask for, an opportunity to succeed.
“I’m just so happy Vancouver has given me the opportunity.”
To get the six-foot-two, 235-pound O’Brien, the Canucks sent defenceman Lukas Krajicek to Tampa. Vancouver also dealt minor-league forward Juraj Simek to the Lightning for right-winger Michel Ouellet.
Ouellet will report to the Manitoba Moose, the Canucks’ affiliate in the American Hockey League.
The Canucks also announced Monday they were sending centre Cody Hodgson, 18, who Vancouver picked 10th overall in the June draft, back to his OHL junior team in Brampton.
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said Hodgson had been impressive in his first NHL camp but the team felt he would benefit from another year in junior.
“As much as we thought Cody had a very good camp, had a lot of upside, we just thought at this time he wasn’t ready to play at this level,” said Vigneault. “He needs to go to junior and be a solid player.
“We know we have a solid player for us in the future and we’ll let him play at least one more year of junior.”
O’Brien, 25, has played in 158 NHL games, scoring six goals, adding 31 assists and collecting 330 penalty minutes. The Port Hope, Ont., native was selected 250th overall in the 2003 draft by the Anaheim Ducks.
“What we are getting is a big, physical defenceman that will give us more grit, who should be dependable defensively,” said Vigneault. “We are pleased with that.
“In Ouellet’s case we are getting a guy that has put some numbers up at the NHL level. We are going to use him more as a depth player. We’ll send him to Manitoba and see what happens from there.”
Ouellet, 26, has played in 187 NHL games with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, registering 52 goals and 64 assists. The Rimouski, Que., native was taken 124th overall by Pittsburgh in the 2000 draft.
Vigneault said the Canucks were talking to Tampa about O’Brien even before Vancouver lost defenceman Nathan McIver on waivers to Anaheim over the weekend.
O’Brien, who isn’t afraid to fight, brings more grit and toughness to the Canuck blue-line.
“Throughout my career I’ve been know to get in there and mix it up a little bit,” he said. “I have no problem doing that. If someone takes a run at one of our star players, or we are down a couple of goals, that part of my game will always be there.”
Krajicek, a 25-year-old native of Prostejov, Czech Republic, came to Vancouver from Florida in the 2006 deal that brought goaltender Roberto Luongo to the Canucks. The six-foot-two, 196-pounder had 13 points (2-11) in 39 games during an injury-plagued campaign last season.
Simek, 21, had 24 points (7-17) in 66 games with the Moose last season. The Presov, Slovakia native was drafted by Vancouver in the sixth round (167th overall) in the 2006 NHL entry draft.