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By Matt Canamucio, NHL Editor

(Sports Network) - The Vancouver Canucks had a glaring need, and they took care of it.

The night before the NHL Entry Draft, Canucks GM Dave Nonis pulled the trigger on a deal that acquired goaltender Roberto Luongo and defenseman Lukas Krajicek from Florida in exchange for controversial winger Todd Bertuzzi, goaltender Alex Auld and defenseman Bryan Allen.

The Canucks' issues in net appear to be over for the time being, as Luongo then signed a four-year, $27 million contract with the club.

In getting Luongo, Vancouver didn't just make a feeble attempt to fix the netminding issues. The club acquired a guy who is one of the few goalies in the NHL you can truly call elite.

In dealing Bertuzzi, the Canucks, while they lost a tremendous offensive weapon, did themselves and the player a favor by separating from the distraction that still lingered from something that happened 2 1/2 years ago.

Of course, the moves hardly ended with this trade. Head coach Marc Crawford was replaced by Alain Vigneault, defenseman Ed Jovanovski and winger Anson Carter left via free agency and a number of other players were replaced.

A season ago the Canucks finished with 92 points, but failed to make the playoffs in the highly-competitive Western Conference. The team was slammed by injuries, especially on defense, and that ultimately proved to be what kept it out of the postseason.

Now, the roster has been shaken up and 05-06 is history. The goaltending upgrade was made at the offense's expense, so it's now a matter if that formula can work or not.

FORWARDS - Bertuzzi's departure leaves a gaping hole on the right side of the top line, but captain Markus Naslund still skates on the left side. Naslund and Bertuzzi developed quite a chemistry in recent years, at one point forming the league's most dangerous duo. Naslund has tallied at least 30 goals in each of the last five seasons, but hasn't reached 40 since bagging 48 in 2002-03. Can he get back to being a 100-point player without a physical force like Bertuzzi on his line?

Playmaker Brendan Morrison has been the resident center on the top line, and he is typically good for between 35 and 45 assists per year. As for who will replace Bertuzzi on the right side, it looks like it will be feisty agitator Matt Cooke. Cooke has been a third-line guy who scores goals in the teens, but he did fill in for Bertuzzi when he was suspended for his attack on Steve Moore back in 2004.

Twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin both finally broke out of their shells with 70- point seasons last year, and they will again anchor the second line. The hope is that newcomer Jan Bulis, who scored 20 goals for Montreal last season, can be consistent enough to be their regular right wing.

Keep an eye on former first-round pick Ryan Kesler, who was signed to an offer sheet by Philadelphia this summer. The Canucks matched the one-year, $1.9 million deal and re-signed him. Kesler was a 30-goal guy in the AHL during the lockout, but managed only 10 tallies and 13 assists in 82 games for the Canucks last season.

DEFENSE - With Jovanovski gone the team lost a bona fied anchor. Nonis signed the hard-hitting Willie Mitchell during free agency, and Mattias Ohlund and Sami Salo return.

Overall, this is a very thin group, which would spell disaster if injuries hit like they did last season. Last March, Nonis was forced to obtain players like Keith Carney, Sean Brown and Eric Weinrich, and none of them are back.

An x-factor in this group is Krajicek, who was a first-round pick back in 2001. He has been pegged for stardom since that time, but hasn't lived up to the billing. The flash and skill he showed as a junior player hasn't revealed itself on the NHL level, and last season was his first as somewhat of a regular player. In 67 games for the Panthers in 05-06 he managed two goals and 14 assists and was a plus-1.

GOALTENDING - Luongo is coming from a situation in Florida where he was peppered with around 35 shots -- or more -- on a regular basis. In 75 games last season he finished 35-30-9 with a 2.97 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

Even with the losses of key defensemen, it's very doubtful that Luongo will see as many pucks as he did with the Panthers.

If he stays healthy, which has never been a problem, Luongo should post another 65-70-appearance season. Mika Noronen, who was acquired from Buffalo at the trade deadline, decided to play overseas instead of being a rarely-used backup, so veteran Wade Flaherty will likely be the understudy.

http://146.145.120.3/default.asp?c=hockeynews&page=nhl/news/ADN4042351.htm
 
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