For the second year in a row, Mike Gillis has used the trade deadline to add depth to his forward corps, acquiring pending UFA Sammy Pahlsson from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for two 4th round picks.
Pahlsson will fit in well in Vancouver. A celebrated checking forward -- his turn as a member of the Anaheim Ducks' shutdown trio on their 2007 Stanley Cup winning team is legendary -- Pahlsson will provide a big defensive upgrade somewhere on the Canucks' bottom six.
The question is where. Pahlsson is a natural centre, which, on the surface, makes his acquisition appear superfluous. The Canucks' already dress centres Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Cody Hodgson, Maxim Lapierre, and Manny Malhotra on any given night. But there are two places where Pahlsson would be an immediate fit nonetheless.
The first is on the third line, where Cody Hodgson has played pivot most of the year. The standout rookie centre has put up a lot of points, but head coach Alain Vigneault has remained skeptical of his two-way game. Last Thursday in Detroit, Hodgson's offensive prowess was clear when he scored the game-tying goal, but his defensive deficiencies were visible when he allowed Justin Abdelkader to beat him in front and let the Red Wings retake the lead just 20 seconds later.
Pahlsson could take over third-line centre duties, shifting Hodgson to the wing, where he can focus a little more on what he does best, which is score.
Additionally, Pahlsson might be used on Alain Vigneault's highly-specialized fourth line, which typically features Malhotra, Lapierre, and grinder Dale Weise. This unit starts in the defensive zone more than any line in the league (Malhotra started 1% of his shifts in the offensive zone in January). Pahlsson would be a drastic defensive upgrade on the Weise, who is also a rookie, and could complete a formidable, gritty, shutdown trio.
Vigneault may wind up deploying Pahlsson on Malhotra's left side with Lapierre on the right. Since the focus of this line is to primarily win defensive zone faceoffs, it would make sense to stack it with three natural centers, including a left-hander and a right-hander to step in should Malhotra get waved out on either side.
This too could free up both Hodgson's line and Ryan Kesler's second line to focus more on offense.
All that said, regardless of where Pahlsson winds up being deployed on the Canucks, he's sure to fit in -- he's Swedish.