Originally posted on Tonight's Healthy Scratches  |  Last updated 2/27/12

The most surprising move of the afternoon didn’t involve Rick Nash. It didn’t involve the Columbus Blue Jackets at all.

Even Paul Gaustad being dealt to Nashville for a first-round pick wasn’t the most stunning move of the afternoon.

The Vancouver Canucks moved Alexander Sulzer and Cody Hodgson, one of this year’s potential Calder Trophy candidates, to the Buffalo Sabres for Marc-Andre Gragnani and former first-round pick Zack Kassian.

The move is rather puzzling on both sides, but it would appear in the long run to favor the Canucks.

Hodgson was having a break-out season with 16 goals and 33 points in 63 games in his first full pro campaign.  Hodgson missed most of the 2009-’10 season in Brampton of the OHL due to a back injury, but rebounded to post 30 points in 52 games the following year with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL.

This year, Hodgson finally cracked Vancouver’s opening day roster, both due to a strong camp and Ryan Kessler’s delayed start to the season.

Hodgson became expendable earlier in the day when the Canucks traded for veteran Sammi Pahlsson of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Pahlsson does not bring the offense that Hodgson does, with only 11 points on the season, but is a proven playoff performer with over 80 games of playoff experience and is more than capable of centering Vancouver’s third line.

Hodgson had only four points in Vancouver’s previous fifteen games.

What Vancouver adds in Kassian is the toughness that was obviously lacking during last year’s post season. Kassian posted three goals and seven points in 27 games of limited duty for the Sabres, along with 15 goals and 26 points for AHL Rochester in 30 games.

Kassian was the 13th overall pick in 2009, a year after the Canucks took Hodgson with the tenth overall pick in 2008, and can join the Canuck line-up right away to add physical toughness to the lower lines, in addition to a developing scorer's touch.

Hodgson isn’t a bad pick-up for Buffalo by any means, but it is a little surprising to see the Sabres give up a prospect in Kassian, that many thought to be untouchable, for a player without a full successful campaign under his belt.

One would have expected GM Darcy Regier to keep his two biggest prospects in Kassian and Marcus Foligno to deal for more impactful players at some point, if at all.

Adding Gragnani gives the Canucks some added depth defensively. Gragnani is a plus-10 on the season, but can at times be a tad “adventurous” in his own zone. Still, it gives Canucks’ Coach Alain Vigneault options.

Sulzer has played just 12 games this season, registering one point.

The deal seems to make Vancouver more playoff ready, deep on defense, more experienced down the middle, and tougher than they were last spring.

Buffalo weakens a defense that was already thin, adding a player in Hodgson who now will get every opportunity to be a top-six forward, which without question he can certainly be. There's no issue with what the Sabres got, only with what they gave up to get it.

This deal, along with Paul Gaustad’s departure that earned a first rounder, might have indicated that the Sabres, only six points out in the East, were throwing in the towel on this season.

Yet would a re-building team have dealt arguably its best prospect for anyone? Probably not. In addition, Derek Roy and Drew Stafford remain.

So what did the Sabres actually achieve? They’re certainly no better for the playoff race than they were 24 hours ago. They are only more confusing.

 

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