A year later, Gillis has acknowledged the need for a top-six forward and calls keep coming regarding Cory Schneider. And it wouldn't be a stretch to suggest he's fielded a few regarding Cody Hodgson.
"I don't think you can have enough top-six forwards and when you have enough, you're bottom six are that much better," said Gillis, who was named top GM by his peers Wednesday. "But these type of of players don't fall off a truck — you have to work to get them. We have multiple plans we've worked on the last two months and we have opportunities that people probably don't think of right now. But we have them."
Gillis could simply select 29th overall Friday and perhaps land U.S. National Development Team goaltender John Gibson — especially if Schneider fetches a proven top-six forward and the franchise suddenly has a hole in goal. Gillis could also package the pick with a prospect and acquire a promising top-six forward or wait until July 1 to take a run at prime unrestricted free-agent wingers. However, Erik Cole (32, $2.9 million US), Tomas Fleischmann (27, $2.6m) and Brooks Laich (27, $2.0m) could command too much on the open market because they all have a blend of talent and grit and Fleischmann isn't even talking contract with Colorado. More importantly, Gillis isn't into bidding wars. He's into being a step ahead of his peers and might look elsewhere at the draft to the fill the need.
That's why all the plaudits about his players and all future possibilities — including keeping Roberto Luongo and Schneider intact as a tandem that provides stability and durability — could become moot if a trade addresses a pressing need. If it means dipping into the free-agent pool again to find Luongo a backup while Eddie Lack hones his game in the minors, so be it. Mason Raymond and Mikael Samuelsson not only came off sub-par seasons — 15 and 18 goals respectively — they're coming off major injuries. Raymond won't even play until November after suffering a vertebrae compression fracture in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final and Samuelsson had adductor tendon and sports hernia surgery last month and will be 35 years old next season.
"For sure, I get calls on Cory and on all kinds of our guys," added Gillis. "You never know when possibilities may come and if you're prepared to evaluate them correctly, then you react. If there's something better than makes our team better we'll do that."
If not, the better plan will be to keep Schneider because his stock will only rise and he's got a year left at just $900,000. And Luongo proved in the playoffs that as much as he was great at times, Schneider should have started more games. But that's a lesson learned at one position.
As much as the NHL can be a copy-cat league, don't expect Gillis to stray from what produced the Presidents' Trophy winners. The Canucks led in goals, power play, faceoff percentage and allowed the fewest goals and are positioned to dominate the Northwest Division again. They're built on the Detroit model for a reason.
"I don't see why you would take a different direction," said Gillis. "We got to the final game of the Stanley Cup and if we had a full team and a healthy team, I think it would have been a better result. We have to accept the loss of Raymond and Samuelsson and that Manny Malhotra was coming back from a serious eye injury and not 100 per cent.
"You have to accept those facts, but it certainly doesn't change our philosophy. Skill has every opportunity to win over the type of team we played [Boston]."