The Vancouver Canucks added to their thin roster with a significant trade Wednesday, but bolstering the blue line came at a hefty price.
Two days ahead of the NHL’s trade deadline, the Canucks picked up defenceman Filip Hronek and a fourth-round pick in the 2023 draft from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a first and a second-round selection this year.
Vancouver (24-31-5) got the conditional first-rounder from the New York Islanders in a deal for centre Bo Horvat at the end of January.
“We are excited to add a 25-year-old right-shot defenceman who handles the puck well and possesses a strong two-way game,” Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said in a statement.
“He has steadily progressed throughout his time in Detroit to show that he is a top pairing defenceman in this league. We are happy to continue to add younger pieces to build out the core of this team.”
Hronek has nine goals and 29 assists in 60 games for Detroit this season.
Selected by Detroit in the second round of the 2016 draft, the six-foot, 190-pound blue liner from Hradec Kralove, Czechia, has amassed 156 points (30 goals, 126 assists) and 162 penalty minutes in 305 regular-season games with the Red Wings.
Vancouver’s defence has been left thin by a spate of recent injuries and trades.
The club dealt blue liner Luke Schenn to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a third-round pick on Tuesday and traded Riley Stillman to the Buffalo Sabres for forward prospect Josh Bloom on Monday.
Defenceman Ethan Bear was placed on injured reserve after taking a puck to the face in a loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday. Oliver Ekman-Larsson (ankle) was already on the IR list, and fellow D-man Travis Dermott has been out with an undisclosed ailment since Jan. 25.
Vancouver has called up players from the Abbotsford Canucks of the American Hockey League to fill the holes, and veteran defenceman Tyler Myers said he’s doing his best to help the new faces acclimatize.
“The biggest difference probably comes in the room,” he said Wednesday. “You want to talk to the guys as much as possible, help each other out with systems as best we can.
“But guys that have stepped in have played really well. I really liked the way our team structure is going right now. And we’ve just got to keep talking about it in the room and keep building on it.”
Vancouver has relied on Abbotsford to flesh out its forward ranks, too.
Canucks centres J.T. Miller and Curtis Lazar have both been listed as week-to-week with lower-body injuries, while wingers Ilya Mikheyev (knee) and Tanner Pearson (hand) are done for the season.
The team also bid goodbye to Horvat, Vancouver’s captain and leading goal scorer, in the first major deal of the NHL trade season. The Canucks got winger Anthony Beauvillier and Aatu Raty back in return, and added winger Vitali Kravtsov in a deal with the New York Rangers on Saturday.
Trying to develop chemistry and implement systems is a challenge with an ever-evolving roster, said Rick Tocchet, who took over as the team’s head coach on Jan. 22.
“I think when you have people in and out of the lineup, it is tough,” he said. “But I think for the most part, especially the last couple of weeks, guys are starting to really get the stuff we’re doing.”
More changes could be looming for the Canucks ahead of Friday’s trade deadline.
Rumours have linked right-winger Brock Boeser to a number of teams, including the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The 26-year-old forward admitted that he’s having a hard time blocking out the trade chatter.
“I think it’s a little more serious this time around but I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m still banking on staying here.”
Boeser said he’s trying to take his precarious situation as it comes.
“I can really only take it day by day and focus the day that I have in front of me,” he said. “That’s all I can worry about right now. I can’t worry about the future or anything.
“Just like today, I’ve got to come to the rink and I had to go on the ice and work my butt off and try to be better and get better.”
—Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press