Back in October the Canucks didn’t just bring in David Booth via trade with the Florida Panthers, they also acquired 35 year old center Steven Reinprecht. Reinprecht came with a cap hit of $2 million and the with the Canucks right up against the cap ceiling he reported directly to the Chicago Wolves of the AHL, where he has remained the entire season.
On Team 1040 radio earlier today Mike Gillis (GM & President of the Vancouver Canucks) intimated that either Reinprecht or Byron Bitz would more than likely find themselves called up for the playoffs.
The Canucks are already deep at center but the addition of Reinprecht could be a good insurance move for the playoff push.
Reinprecht signed as a free agent straight out of college with the Los Angeles Kings in 2000. Since then he has spent time with the Kings, Avalanche, Flames, Coyotes and Panthers, accumulating career NHL stats of 140-242-382 from 663 games played.
Interestingly, in 50 playoff games (all with the Avalanche in the early 2000′s) he is 10-10-20 and a +8. It appears he can handle the pressure of playoff games. In 49 games with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL this year he is 10-25-35 and a +10.
He comes advertised as a two-way center who can play in all situations. He has 35 career powerplay goals and 5 short handed goals (in the NHL). If the Canucks find themselves short down the middle due to injuries, Reinprecht could be the perfect replacement – experienced, steady and keen to play in the big league. He is an unrestricted free agent this summer and the playoffs could be his chance to prove that he still has value at the NHL level.
He will be fired up, but he will need to be. Andrew Ebbett is back practicing with the Canucks, even centering the 2nd powerplay unit in drills over the past couple of days. Ahead of Ebbett on the depth chart are Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Samuel Pahlsson, Max Lapierre and Manny Malhotra. Then comes Ebbett, then Reinprecht. If he gets a chance to play for the Canucks he will have to grab it with both hands and run with it because he may not get another chance to prove himself at the NHL level.
Bitz is the most likely candidate for a recall. He has already played 8 games with the Canucks this season, where he made an impact with his size as well as playing on the Sedin line (!). He scored 1-3-4 and did not look out of place. His advantage over Reinprecht is his size (Bitz is 6’5″, 215lb, handy for the playoffs) and the fact that he is a natural right winger. Canucks have lots of depth at center but not so much at wing. Advantage: Byron Bitz.
Whoever gets the call up, it’s likely they won’t see much ice time unless existing Canucks players get hurt. With the ramped up physicality of the playoffs players getting injured is not unlikely so if they do get their chance, Reinprecht and Bitz had better be ready.