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Heading to Vancouver is 22-year-old Markus Granlund, right, a second-year centre who has played 86 NHL games and scored 28 points. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Heading to Vancouver is 22-year-old Markus Granlund, right, a second-year centre who has played 86 NHL games and scored 28 points. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Hockey

Canucks, Flames swap Shinkaruk for Granlund to chagrin of Vancouver fans Add to ...

In Calgary and Vancouver, the stories were the same: A week before the trade deadline, followers of teams with only fractional hopes of making the playoffs were focused squarely on veteran players who might be jettisoned to contenders for prospects and draft picks.

Instead, Canucks and Flames managers pulled off a deal not often seen around the trade deadline: a one-for-one swap of young players that won’t make much difference to either team in the regular season’s remaining weeks.

Heading to Vancouver is 22-year-old Markus Granlund, a second-year centre who has played 86 NHL games and scored 28 points. He never quite fit in on a Calgary roster that didn’t need additional centres.

In exchange, the Flames receive a Calgarian, 21-year-old Hunter Shinkaruk, who has played one NHL game but this season scored 21 goals in the American Hockey League. Shinkaruk will first play for Calgary’s AHL team in Stockton, Calif.

The trade, announced in the mid-afternoon in Western Canada, was met with widespread upset among Canucks fans. Flames backers were surprised, but weren’t unhappy.

In Vancouver, the team is a grind to watch and has scored the third-fewest goals in the NHL, so depressed fans had hoped Shinkaruk might be a soon-to-arrive antidote. But Canucks general manager Jim Benning wasn’t convinced Shinkaruk’s AHL production would translate in the NHL.

Benning praised Granlund’s character and his all-around game, at centre or on the wing. “It’s maybe not as flashy as Hunter, but he’s a skilled player,” Benning told reporters.

Benning conceded the deal wasn’t perfect. Vancouver had first sought a defenceman in exchange for Shinkaruk before going with Granlund.

Granlund didn’t work as a winger for the Flames, said Calgary general manager Brad Treliving, and with plenty of centres, the organization had a hole to fill, for a goal-scoring prospect, where Shinkaruk fits.

“Hunter is still very much a prospect, but at every level he’s ever played at, he’s scored,” Treliving said. “It’s the hardest thing to do in this league – score goals – and he’s got the pedigree to do it.”

Treliving also noted Granlund could be lost on waivers next season if he doesn’t stick in the NHL – whereas Shinkaruk remains exempt from waivers.

A key person behind the scenes was Vancouver’s assistant general manager John Weisbrod. He was an assistant GM in Calgary from mid-2011 through late 2013 when the team chose not to draft Shinkaruk. He also oversaw the Flames’ farm team, where Granlund was playing well.

Weisbrod spoke highly of Granlund’s “intangibles” and “character,” said Benning, as Weisbrod had spoken about Sven Baertschi, who Vancouver acquired from Calgary a year ago for a second-round draft choice. He has turned out well.

For both teams, the deal sparked a swirl of attention, but it will likely quickly fade as the trade deadline approaches and bigger deals are done. Benning said he wouldn’t talk strategy, but for the first time in years, the Canucks look like obvious sellers.

The most obvious Vancouver veterans to move are imminent free agents Radim Vrbata and Dan Hamhuis. Jannik Hansen’s name has also been floated – at 29, he has a career-best 19 goals this season while playing regular minutes with the Sedins.

“The style is going my way,” Hansen said of the league after practice on Monday. “It’s not big, physical, clutch and grab. It’s a little more freewheeling.”

The Flames, meanwhile, could move winger Jiri Hudler and defenceman Kris Russell.

In Vancouver, the Sedins – two players who likely will never be traded – hold out hope the downward spiral of this season won’t extend through the final two seasons of their current contracts.

“Things can turn around quickly,” Daniel Sedin, 35, said. “We’ve seen that in this league.”

Henrik Sedin was likewise optimistic. “I still truly believe we’re not that far off,” he said. It is, however, a refrain Henrik has clung to for a while.

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