VANCOUVER -- Mike Gillis wanted to change the balance of power on his own team as well as in the Western Conference.
The Vancouver Canucks general manager made a splash at Monday's NHL trading deadline by sending slick rookie centre Cody Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres for burly winger Zack Kassian. Both are former first-round draft choices.
"We needed to have more power," Gillis told Vancouver radio station Team 1040. "We have enough skill."
Hodgson ranks among league leaders in rookie scoring with 16 goals and 17 assists. The transaction highlighted an otherwise moderate day of trading.
Several teams, including the Calgary Flames, remained on the sidelines rather than participate in the flurry of deals common on previous deadline days. As a result, some prized players, including Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash and Canucks backup goaltender Cory Schneider, stayed put with their clubs.
The Canucks also sent rarely used defenceman Alexander Sulzer to the Sabres for defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani as part of the four-player deal.
Gillis said the Canucks dealt Hodgson because they have to become more physical in order to get out of the Western Conference. The Vancouver GM said Hodgson probably would have been in the same third-line role behind top pivots Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler for three to five years.
Hodgson was the first player Gillis drafted in 2008 after taking the Canucks' helm, and the deal was "extremely difficult" said the GM, but the club lacked strength at the "power-forward position"
Gillis called Kassian "a force" who has the potential to become a "special player" like Hodgson.
"He skates well, he has good hands and he's a rough, nasty guy," said Gillis.
He said the Canucks never would have traded a young player for an older player. Kassian has a chance to grow with the Canucks and allows Vancouver to give teams a different look and play a different style if necessary.
Hodgson and Sulzer were walking back to the Canucks' hotel in Glendale, Ariz., when they learned of the trade from Vancouver defenceman Chris Tanev.
"It's a new opportunity and we'll see what happens," Hodgson, 21, told TSN shortly after the deal was reported. "But I have mixed emotions."
Hodgson's departure ends a sometimes turbulent relationship with the Canucks. After the 21-year-old Toronto native was drafted by Vancouver in the first round in 2008 (10th overall), he suffered a back injury during a team-supervised off-ice training session in 2009.
When he struggled in the 2009 pre-season, coach Alain Vigneault questioned the seriousness of the injury.
But the problem went undiagnosed for months, forcing Hodgson to miss most of his final junior season with the Brampton Batallion of the OHL and a second year with Canada's world junior team. The injury was finally diagnosed as a torn muscle prior to the 2010-11 season, which he split with the Canucks and their former AHL farm team in Manitoba before becoming a mainstay this season.
"I'm still very shocked right now," Hodgson said.
Kassian, a 21-year-old Windsor, Ont., native, has three goals and four assists in 27 games with the Sabres this season, his first in the NHL. He was drafted 13th overall by Buffalo in 2009.
"I was not expecting this at all," Kassian told TSN.
Elsewhere around the league, the Montreal Canadiens dealt winger Andrei Kostitsyn to the Nashville Predators for a 2013 second-round pick and conditional fifth-round selection. The move reunites him with brother Sergei Kostitsyn, who is a forward with the Predators.
The Kostitsyn brothers played together with Montreal from 2007 to 2010.
Andrei Kostitsyn is earning US$3.25 million and will become an unrestricted free agent July 1. He's struggled recently and has 12 goals and 24 points in 53 games this season.
The San Jose Sharks acquired forwards Daniel Winnik and T.J. Galiardi from the Colorado Avalanche for forward Jamie McGinn and two prospects. Also, Tampa Bay landed veteran defenceman Mike Commodore from Detroit Red for a conditional 2013 seventh-round draft pick.
The 32-year-old Commodore won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and has eight points (two goals, six assists) in 53 career playoff games.
Nash, the biggest name available leading up to the deadline, will finish the season in Columbus despite asking general manager Scott Howson to be traded.
No one met the Blue Jackets' price.
"The price was high and I don't apologize for that," Howson told reporters at Nationwide Arena.
Howson revealed that Nash requested a trade some time in late January, a move he said took a while to digest.
"I was surprised," Howson said of the initial request. "When you hear those words, it has a lasting impact on you. You have a lot of emotions.
"He obviously wants a change," he added. "He's been here a long time and given a lot to this franchise."
But the GM, whose team has the league's worst record, added that the Blue Jackets "don't have to trade Rick Nash."
-- The Canadian Press