VANCOUVER – A funny thing happened to Derek Roy at this year’s NHL trade deadline.
His move to the Vancouver Canucks from the Dallas Stars generated little fanfare.
Usually, the acquisition of a top-six forward at the deadline would generate more buzz than a 1,000 bumble bees. Instead, Vancouver’s goalies were in the spotlight as—in case there’s a remote chance you haven’t heard—Roberto Luongo was not traded and said his US$64-million, 12-year contract “sucks.”
As a result, the purpose of Roy’s acquisition was also almost forgotten, but he doesn’t need a reminder.
“They didn’t bring me in for the last 10 games of the season,” he said. “They brought me in for the playoffs.”
Accordingly, he is looking forward to playing an important role as the Canucks renew their quest to return to the Stanley Cup finals, starting with a Western Conference quarter-final series against the San Jose Sharks that begins Wednesday at Rogers Arena.
Roy will play on the second line as well as on the power play and possibly in penalty-killing situations. He hopes to repay the Canucks for their loyalty after acquiring him from the Stars for minor-league defenceman Kevin Connauton and a 2013 second-round draft pick.
If Roy had stayed in Dallas, he would have missed the playoffs for the second straight year. The 29-year-old Ottawa native has only played one post-season game since 2010-11, when he returned to the Buffalo Sabres lineup for the seventh and deciding game of their first-round series with Philadelphia after recovering from injury.
“It’s great, I think, being back in the playoffs with a really good team, a good coach and everything,” said Roy.
“It’s been a great experience so far and, hopefully, it lasts a long time here going forward.”
Roy, who has recorded seven goals and 18 assists in 41 post-season contests, will be looked upon largely for scoring as the Canucks attempt to avoid another first-round exit after losing in five games to the Los Angeles Kings last spring.
Despite his lack of notoriety, the pending unrestricted free agent faces high expectations as he plays out the final year his contract and attempts to prove himself worthy of a new deal with the Canucks or another club.
“He’s like all of our veteran players,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “He’s expected to go on the ice and make plays a be a difference-maker.
“He has an opportunity here to be in the playoffs. He likes playoffs, like all players, and he’s got experience. So we expect him to be a difference-maker both offensively and defensively.”
Before heading to Dallas in a trade last summer, Roy made a difference with Buffalo, helping the Sabres reach the Eastern Conference finals in back-to-back seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07.
Such experience will come in handy as the Canucks look to eliminate the Sharks two years after ousting them in the Western Conference finals. This season, San Jose won all three meetings with Vancouver.
Since arriving in Vancouver, he has produced three goals and three assists in 12 games and revived a power play that has struggled most of the season.
“He’s been great. He brings a really skilled centreman into our lineup with (Ryan Kesler, a centre who has played wing)—or bring him down to the third line and make their line really dangerous offensively,” said Canucks captain Henrik Sedin. “He gives (Vigneault) a lot more options for lineups.”
Combined with his Dallas output, Roy managed to finish third in scoring with the Canucks with a total of 28 points in 42 games. Henrik Sedin said Roy has managed to avoid the pressure that a deal at the trade deadline can put on a player.
“Maybe (Canucks management) didn’t do the trade that everyone thought was going to happen,” said Sedin. “There’s been a lot more discussion on the things that didn’t happen than the guy they brought in.
“I don’t think he cares. I think he’s happy being where he is, and he’s been a tremendous influence.
“If you look at the team we have, he doesn’t have to be the top-top guy and he can fly under the radar a little bit.”
Time will tell how long Roy can do so, but he again has goalie talk on his side as Canuck Nation waits and wonders whether Cory Schneider will recover in time from a mysterious injury that kept him out of Vancouver’s final two regular season games.
Schneider, who displaced Luongo as the team’s starter in the 2011-12 playoffs practised again Tuesday, but the team has not yet indicated whether he will start.
He and Canuck coaches, trainers and doctors will determine his status.
“I’d love to play—no matter what,” he said. “So I’ll probably tell them I want to play and then it’s up to them to decide if that’s the best course of action.”