Moose as trade bait?

KEN WIEBE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

Silly season could be just around the corner.

With less than a month before the NHL trade deadline, we should soon know what direction the Vancouver Canucks plan to take in the annual swap meet.

Will the Canucks be buyers or sellers before March 4?

It's entirely possible general manager Mike Gillis could choose to stand pat but that seems unlikely.

In his first year on the job, Gillis has proven to be anything but conventional. He's willing to be patient and take risks, depending on the situation.

Despite the recent struggles heading into last night's game with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Canucks remain in the thick of things for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Sure, the Northwest Division title -- which seemed like a legitimate possibility earlier this season -- is becoming more remote but is not entirely out of the question, should the Canucks reel off a hot streak and the Calgary Flames continue to struggle.

With Mats Sundin beginning to show signs of life and only on a one-year deal, the Canucks want to show they're committed to winning now.

That commitment could prove essential in trying to sign all-world goalie Roberto Luongo to a contract extension this summer (which is only possible after July 1).

Sundin took a little less money upon his return so the Canucks could go out and add someone at the deadline, but which road will Gillis choose to explore?

Perhaps more importantly, at what price?

Folks around the Manitoba Moose are certainly going to keep an eye on the situation to gauge what impact any moves by the parent club could have on their Calder Cup pursuit.

It's no secret the Canucks could use another Top-6 forward, either to play with Sundin or with the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel.

The defence has a strong core, but has struggled at times this season and faces some uncertainty with pending unrestricted free agency for Mattias Ohlund.

Bargaining chip

About the only place the Canucks are set is in goal, with Luongo getting back to form and Jason LaBarbera ready to spell him when needed.One of the Canucks' biggest bargaining chips is Moose goalie Cory Schneider, who is considered one of the top prospects in the game.

Schneider is having an unbelievable American Hockey League season and is sure to draw plenty of interest as Gillis tries to put a package together.

However, there's plenty of risk involved in moving Schneider, who seems well-positioned to graduate to the NHL as Luongo's back-up next season.

The Canucks don't have ample depth in goal throughout the organization and obviously it's one of the most important positions on any team.

But to bring in a quality player, Gillis is going to have to give up either a top prospect like Schneider, a young player with potential like Mason Raymond and/or a host of draft picks.

When Gillis took the job, he talked about the need to re-stock an organization that wasn't filled with high-end prospects.

But when push comes to shove this season, does that plan get put on the back-burner, at least temporarily, in the pursuit of immediate success?

That's a question Gillis and those in the player personnel department will be wrestling with in the coming weeks.

Regardless of which direction the Canucks decide to go, Moose GM Craig Heisinger and his hockey deparment will do everyting in their power to ensure their club is well positioned for a long playoff run of its own.


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