Friday, June 23, 2006

Bertuzzi Florida bound in Blockbuster trade

Many said that Todd Bertuzzi wouldn’t return to his former self on the ice until he was clear of the Western Division, Friday night put Bertuzzi one skate closer to proving that theory right or wrong.

On the night before the 2006 Amateur draft, the Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers finished the details on a blockbuster trade that will see Bertuzzi trade uniforms with Roberto Luongo, who now becomes the latest hope for the Canuck’s in goal.

It marks the first big move by new GM Dave Nonis and perhaps signals that changes are in store for the underperforming Canucks. They were a team that many had pegged as potential Stanley Cup champions, but didn’t even make the playoffs in 2005-06.

The power forward who had an inconsistent season for the Canucks will move on to his third NHL team joining Mike Keenan’s Panther circus in Miami. Rejoining the guy that brought him out to Vancouver in the first place, Bertuzzi joined the Canucks during the rule of Keenan in Vancouver, which resulted in all sorts of turmoil. Keenan is a big believer of Bertuzzi, so this may very well be the move that rejuvenates his struggling career.

Also packing up the sun screen for a trip to Florida were Alex Auld and Bryan Allen who both were sent to the Panthers as part of the deal. The Canucks picked up Lukas Krajicek and a sixth round pick in Saturday’s draft.

It brings an end to the Todd Bertuzzi era in Vancouver, at one time perhaps one of the most popular of Canucks, his last season found him the frequent target of the always intense Vancouver media. They of course has been having a field day with the Bertuzzi story since it first broke in Vancouver Friday evening, the Dan Russell show (listen to the program on the audio vault from 9- 12 midnight) spent almost the entire program discussing and dissecting the recently completed deal. Bertuzzi played under the shadow of the Steve Moore incident of a few years ago, he was constantly under the microscope in Vancouver and will more than likely welcome the relative anonymity of hockey life in South Florida.

Luongo’s arrival in Vancouver will send even more dominoes falling one imagines, with Auld already moved, the question remains what will happen to Dan Cloutier. Last year’s starting goaltender until injury forced him to the sidelines, but you have to wonder if he will wish to be a back up and if the Canucks want to pay that much money for a backup with Cloutier’s salary of 2.5 million dollars for next year.

The impression in Vancouver at the end of the season was that changes had to be made, the Canucks began that process with the firing of Marc Crawford and the eventual hiring of Alain Vigneault. Moving Bertuzzi is the first major sign that it won’t be business as usual at GM Place. Now questions will shift to captain Markus Naslund a close personal friend of Bertuzzi’s, will he ask to be traded with his linemate now gone to Florida.

Will all these moves free up some salary cap money for Nonis to settle outstanding contract situations with other prominent Canucks up for negotiation at the moment. It certainly sends a message that the past is now the past and it's a new era in Canucks' hockey again.

It will be quite interesting to see how many of those that wore a Canuck’s uniform on the last day of the season, will be pulling that same uniform on at training camp. On the eve of the 2006 draft, the Canucks have so far made the most noise off the ice, Canuck fans are hoping that it all translates into a little noise on the ice in September and preferably late into June 2007.

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