With trades and passing time, are the Vancouver Canucks finally putting COVID behind them?
The team swung 3 trades at the NHL deadline, including dealing Adam Gaudette to the Chicago Blackhawks
NHL trade deadline day delivered a mixed bag of news for Vancouver Canucks fans, including a sense the team is finally starting to turn the page on the havoc caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Forward Adam Gaudette, the first Canuck diagnosed with COVID-19 on Mar. 30, was dealt to Chicago for little-known forward Matthew Highmore.
"With Adam Gaudette, we felt like it was time for a change of scenery," said Canucks General Manager Jim Benning. "To be quite honest, we expected him to take another step this year. We didn't feel like he did that."
In the weeks following Gaudette's positive test, 21 more Canuck players and four staff contracted the virus, shutting down the club and forcing it into a highly condensed end-of-season schedule that will see the team play 19 games in 31 nights.
A former Hobey Baker winner as the top U.S. college player, Gaudette scored 33 points in 59 games with Vancouver last season but trailed off this year with only seven points in 33 games. He was removed from the NHL COVID-19 protocol list on Sunday.
Highmore, 25, has no goals and two assists in 24 games this season with the Blackhawks.
In other trades, the Canucks dealt defenceman Jordie Benn to Winnipeg for a sixth round draft pick.
Vancouver also swung a second deal with Chicago adding defenceman Madison Bowey and a fifth round pick in exchange for a fourth round draft pick.
Bowey, a former Kelowna Rocket, has appeared in just two Blackhawks games this season.
Benning said 10 Canucks players skated today as the team appears to be moving into the COVID-19 recovery stage.
Winger Tanner Pearson, who is injured and did not contract COVID, said it's hard to know what to expect when the onslaught of games kicks off Friday versus Edmonton.
"That's a pretty crazy schedule if everyone is healthy," he said.
"Who knows how guys are going to react when they come back. Hopefully it's good, but no one knows how your body is going to feel."
Benning said not all players are well enough to return to practice just yet, and said the remainder of the season will be an opportunity for prospects in the Canucks system.
"Some guys feel really good and ready to go. Other guys are still feeling some residual effects of the COVID. The next step for them is to start working out, getting back on the ice and getting back into shape," he said, adding he was hopeful the full team would be back for Friday's game.
Officials have confirmed a variant of the COVID-19 virus is responsible for the Canucks outbreak, which is the largest in the NHL this season.