Tanev must’ve forgot his cigarettes.
Photo by John Russell NHLI/Getty
With the salary cap declining for the first time ever the Vancouver Canucks are facing a pretty crunchy salary cap situation heading into this summer. A lot of Vancouver’s flexibility here will be determined by a Roberto Luongo trade, and whether or not the Canucks can clear his deal off the books without retaining salary. For what it’s worth, I think they probably can and worst case scenario they can place him on waivers where he’d probably be claimed.
Assuming Luongo’s salary is cleared and Keith Ballard is bought out, and I thought that was a foregone conclusion even before he didn’t dress for a single game this postseason, the Canucks will have roughly 10.5 million left over to sign eight players (including one top-9 forward)*. That’s not a lot of spare change.
(*) These figures are per capgeek and assume that Eddie Lack and Frank Corrado are on Vancouver’s roster next season.
One situation that will be particularly fascinating to watch is the team’s negotiations with restricted free-agent, fancy-stats darling and third-pairing defenceman Chris Tanev. Tanev isn’t the type of player one typically associates with an exorbitant contract, but he may well have more leverage this summer than your typical restricted free-agent. We’ll get into it after the jump.
Jim Jamieson wrote about the prospect of a Chris Tanev offer-sheet, and chatted with Kurt Overhardt – who to be clear, doesn’t represent Chris Tanev – in a piece for the Province (by way of non-paywalled faceoff.com):
With the NHL salary cap dropping by $5.9 million next season, a number of teams — the Canucks among them — will be scrambling to find ways to reduce their salary commitments under the new fiscal constraints.
So getting pending restricted free agent defenceman Chris Tanev, 23, locked up for a modest raise is unlikely.
It’s thought by some in the hockey world that, with this dramatic lowering of the cap, some NHL clubs may be more encouraged to tender offer sheets to unsigned RFAs, with the thinking that cap-crunched clubs will be less able to match.
Denver-based player agent Kurt Overhardt, of KO Sports Inc., says it could be “a perfect storm” for offer sheets with the cap going down so much, but said many NHL clubs will suffer cap issues — and that will affect the number of clubs in position to make RFA offers. Contract offers — or offer sheets — can be tendered to RFAs by teams other than their own, beginning July 5.
Restricted free agents generally don’t have a lot of leverage in negotiations, but the notion that a player such as Chris Tanev (or Chicago’s Nick Leddy) may be able to find a suitor this summer where PK Subban couldn’t a year ago strikes me as compelling. With the salary cap declining and the demand for NHL defenceman – especially young NHL defencemen who can move the puck – at an all time high, Chris Tanev, who will represent himself in negotiations with the Canucks with the help of his father, will likely have cards to play this summer.
So Mike Gillis and Laurence Gilman – who remember, is Vancouver’s point man on contract negotiations – might find it difficult to grind Tanev down to something like a three-year, four and a half million dollar deal that I’m sure they’d prefer.
I have a couple of spare thoughts on this. The first is that Chris Tanev, though a dynamite possession player, is ultimately somewhat expendable what with Jason Garrison’s successful move to the right-side, and Frank Corrado’s emergence as a seviceable bottom-pairing defenceman. Lots of folks and commentators think that Tanev was Vancouver’s "steadiest" defenceman this season, and he was definitely really good, but he also played far and away the softest minutes among all Canucks defenceman.
Fact of the matter is that Tanev’s matchups were managed very, very carefully. Just look at the guys he spent the most ice-time matched up against this past season: Stoll, King, Stajan, Smyth, Horcoff, Letetsu. What do those players have in common? They uniformly play in their teams bottom-six forward group.
Allow me a digression. There is a lot of chatter these days in the Vancouver sports market about trading Alex Edler, whose inconsistent defensive coverage and habitual unforced errors have frustrated many observers. Realistically, however, Edler is Vancouver’s most frequently played defenceman at even-strength and the backend player most counted on to carry the puck out of the defensive end. That you often notice Edler making errors on the ice, at least somewhat reflects his high usage rate in the Canucks transition game.
I’m not totally against the notion of trading Alex Edler this offseason (even though it would be a dick move to do so on the heels of him committing to the team long-term). But it’s worth mentioning that if you’re not getting a bonafide, young, NHL-ready third-line centre on an entry-level contract in exchange for the Swedish defenceman, it’s just not a deal worth making.
Which allows us to circle back to Chris Tanev. On many teams in the National Hockey League Chris Tanev is a top-four defenceman, and it seems very possible that one or two of those teams might come knocking with a predatory offer sheet if the Canucks low-ball the slick restricted free-agent this summer.
That unappealing prospect combined with Tanev’s carefully managed minutes this past season (which I might suggest make him a potentially over-valued asset on the trade market), suggest to me that the Canucks might be better off shopping Chris Tanev before he hits the restricted free-agent market in July.
To be clear, I’d much rather see Chris Tanev re-sign in Vancouver and continue to mature while completely owning secondary competition on the third pairing. But the Canucks might be wise to set an internal deadline for a Chris Tanev extension, and shop him in Newark at the 2013 NHL entry draft if the two sides aren’t close by then.
Tanev’s RFA rights would very probably net the Canucks better than a second round pick in a trade, and with the Canucks strapped right up against the salary cap this summer and the market for UFA defenceman almost complely bereft of talent, the Canucks will assume an awful lot of risk if they can’t get a deal done with Tanev before July.