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Canucks go for need in Shinkaruk-Granlund swap

The Canucks made a surprising move on Monday, dealing talented forward Hunter Shinkaruk to the Flames for Markus Granlund. But the trade could end up looking much better than it seems now.

There seems to be a consensus in the wake of the trade that saw the Flames acquire Hunter Shinkaruk from Vancouver in exchange for Markus Granlund:

The Canucks got fleeced.

Which makes sense, at least on first glance. Shinkaruk is certainly the shinier toy. The 21-year-old was a first-round pick in 2013 (No. 24) and plays a flashy game that's easy to love. He’s an effortless skater who is dynamic on the rush and has the kind of finishing touch that resulted in 49 goals during his draft year.

The potential is there for Shinkaruk to become a solid top-six winger ... but potential doesn’t mean anything if it’s unrealized. And it’s clear that the Canucks had misgivings about his trajectory.

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Shinkaruk got off to an excellent start this season, scoring nine goals in his first 11 games, but had just 12 in his next 34. That’s not a terrible pace overall, but his inconsistency was a concern. There also were questions about his work ethic and his willingness to battle down low. Those are areas that can be worked on when an organization believes in a player, though, so you have to wonder if there’s something about his game, or Shinkaruk himself, that made him expendable.

Or it may be something as simple as redundancy. The skill set that Shinkaruk brings to the table is already there in the form of Sven Baertschi, who is enjoying a breakthrough season in Vancouver, and, to a lesser extent, in prospect Anton Rodin, who has 16 goals in 33 games for Brynas of the Swedish league.

So Vancouver GM Jim Benning took advantage of an abundance in Column A to address a shortfall in Column B.

What Granlund brings to the Canucks is versatility and reliability. The 22-year-old is a natural center with playmaking ability, which fills a position of need in Vancouver. He’s also a reliable defensive presence, and a more naturally physical player. Both traits better fit Benning’s vision of this team moving forward.

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Granlund doesn’t have that “wow” factor. He’s clearly less skilled than Shinkaruk, in terms of scoring and mobility. And top-six? Forget about it. He projects as a depth forward, albeit one who’s more likely to reach that potential than Shinkaruk.

That won’t soothe Vancouver fans who are concerned about the very real risk that Benning gave up the better player in the deal. But there’s also a chance that he moved Shinkaruk at his peak value.

It might not seem like it now but this deal is closer than many would think. And there’s a good chance it’s exactly what the Canucks needed.