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  Getting Stale
by Jim Iovino, Ace Reporter

Perhaps former Vancouver Canucks goaltender Kirk McLean described his situation best when he said he was "getting stale". And what better way to spruce up a career than with a trade.

The Canucks and Carolina Hurricanes exchanged five moldy players last week in a deal that should freshen up both clubs. The Canucks shipped McLean and left winger Martin Gelinas down south for goalie Sean Burke, left wing Geoff Sanderson and defenseman Enrico Ciccone.

Sanderson and Burke were practically begging for a new rink to call home, while McLean and Gelinas would gladly welcome a new team to start things over with. All four players were, as McLean said, getting stale in their present environments, so a trade was probably a good thing for all involved.

Trade Analysis

What the Hurricanes got:

Kirk McLean was once the backbone of the Canucks franchise. He was the goalie who took the team to a Game Seven in the Stanley Cup Finals against the New York Rangers in 1994. He was the Canucksí starter between the pipes for over 10 seasons. He is the Canucks franchise leader in wins, games played, shutouts and playoff games played.

But the Kirk McLean of today isnít the same Kirk McLean that shined during the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. Since that time, McLean had surgery on both of his knees in each of the last two seasons. While he was never the most acrobatic netminder in the league, McLean did find it hard to return to his previous form after the operations. With Vancouver this season, McLeanís goals-against average ballooned to 3.68 and his save percentage dropped to .879, both were the worst of any starting goaltender in the league at that time.

Of course, the Vancouver defensive system has been less than kind to McLean. If the Canucks wore those red third jerseys they had last season theyíd be mistaken for pylons more times than not. McLean is hoping the ice isnít tilted to his side in Carolina like it was at GM Place.

McLean wonít be the only goaltender the Hurricanes will rely the rest of the season. Trevor Kidd has been impressive at times in his first season away from Calgary and is liked by the coaching staff. Because of his fine play, he was sharing time in net with Burke, a situation that will continue with McLean on the roster. The competition between Burke and Kidd sometimes distracted the team from other things. Trading Burke was supposed to eliminate the problem, but it remains with the addition of McLean. McLean also has another year on his contract. Burke will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Martin Gelinas, like McLean, will have fond memories to look back on of his time in Vancouver. After toiling with several other teams in the league, Gelinas thought he found a home in Vancouver. He strung together a couple back-to-back 30-goal efforts the past two years and was named Team MVP after last season. But early this season Gelinas went on the shelf with a knee injury. After missing 16 games he returned to the lineup but couldnít find his scoring touch. In 24 games with the Canucks, Gelinas scored four goals and four assists. Those numbers didnít make head coach Mike Keenan happy, so he was given the boot.

Gelinas should fit right into the Hurricane lineup. Heís tough and gritty, and is more of a better overall player than Sanderson is. Especially since Sanderson didnít do much of anything this season. Gelinas plays hard in both ends of the ice. Heís the type of player that can quickly become a fan favorite. And if there were any fans in the Greensboro Coliseum, they would probably like him.

What the Canucks got:

Sean Burke could make Mike Keenan a happy man. Well, for a little while, at least. No one can imagine Keenan being happy for long periods of time... The reason Keenan might be joyous is that Burke is a starting goalie who loves to play all time. The more he plays, the better he plays.

Keenan loves goaltenders that he can put in the starting lineup for weeks at a time without needing a rest. Grant Fuhr flourished under Keenan in St. Louis several years back. Ed Belfour did the same in Chicago. All of this could lead to a great mix in Vancouver -- as long as Burkeís back holds up, that is...

Burke didnít play bad in Carolina. The man can still stop pucks. But the fact that he knew he would be traded even before the start of the season weighed heavily on his mind. So did the arrest for allegedly abusing his wife. Burke was also upset that he had to split time in goal with Kidd. Burke had been the Whaleís backbone for a long time, and the thought of sharing the net with Kidd didnít go over too nicely with him.

Burke now has the opportunity to showcase his abilities on a full time basis in Vancouver. This should not only help him get back into the groove, but increase his leverage at the bargaining table this summer when he becomes a free agent. If he plays outstanding hockey the rest of the season, a hefty paycheck should be waiting for him down the road.

By the time the trade between the Canucks and Hurricanes was announced, it was quite clear that Geoff Sanderson was ready for a change. His heart just wasnít in his team anymore, and it showed on the score sheet. Sanderson, who scored more than 40 goals in back-to-back seasons in the early 1990s, struggled to get seven in 40 games with the former Whale this season.

Over the past couple seasons, Sanderson has had to deal with the sale of the Hartford Whalers, the relocation to Carolina, the loss of his centerman Andrew Cassels and the lack of fan support in Greensboro. Sometimes a player just needs to move on and find a new place to call home. Sandersonís time to go was now.

Sanderson still has a cannon of a shot and some great moves. That means he should fit in well with the talented offensive players the Canucks already have in the lineup like Mark Messier, Pavel Bure and Alexander Mogilny. Pairing up Messier and Sanderson could really light a spark under the left wing and get his career back on track. But for now Sandersonís been seeing time on a line with Trevor Linden.

The addition of Enrico Ciccone to the goon department makes the Canucks a lot scarier. Ciccone, who isnít afraid to drop the gloves (or take a stupid penalty), joins the likes of Donald Brashear and Gino Odjick, who already strike fear into many opponents.

But while Ciccone adds more thug life to the mix, his defense is rather suspect. He was a +3 with the Hurricanes, but with him in the lineup the Canes were 1-11-1. Ouch. Much of that is due to Cicconeís keen ability to take dumb penalties at the most inopportune times. Howís the saying go? Heís not the smartest banana in the bunch?

Overall, the trade should help both teams. The Canucks get a solid starting goaltender and a potential 40-goal scorer. The Hurricanes get more grit, feistiness and scoring up front and an experience veteran goaltender in return.

The trade was the first big one for Czar Keenan, but it might not be the last. Rumors abound that have former team captain Trevor Linden getting the boot before too long. Keenan said Linden has been playing at only half speed. And when Keenan gets on someoneís case for poor play and he doesnít respond, itís only a matter of time before he has a new address. Look for more moves out of Vancouver.

The Hurricanes have also been trying to ship off expensive loose ends. Carolina dealt defenseman Jeff Brown, and his $2.1 million salary, to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a fourth-round draft pick. The pick could be upgraded to a third rounder if the Leafs re-sign Brown over the offseason. Brown and Ciccone were dealt to create room on the Hurricane blue line. With the addition of Sean Hill a few weeks ago, Carolina was left with a logjam on defense. There were eight defensemen and only six positions open. Hence, Brown and Ciccone were dealt.


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