Chris Tanev’s Next Contract

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

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.

  • KleptoKlown

    “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.”

    Is that a subtle way to say “Trade Edler for Couterier”?

    I was actually thinking about a potential Tanev trade just before this article went up – specifically, about the Canucks possibly bundling Tanev’s RFA rights with their first-round pick to move up at the draft. Giving up Tanev to get someone like Sean Monahan would probably be great for Vancouver.

  • BrudnySeaby

    The fact that he played mostly against the bottom pairings of the other teams, would that be partly due to Tanev playing with less reliable partners (Ballard, Alberts) in the coaches eyes?

    For nest season, wouldn’t the following D-pairings make sense:
    Hamhuis -Bieksa
    Elder -Tanev
    Garrison – Corrado

    Would you say Tanev would resign for 3 years @ 6 million, so $2m/year? And would he be good value? I would say he would be for that kind of money.

  • Fred-65

    Better to trade Edler than Tanev. You clear a lot of Cap space and Tanev will not cost as much as Edler. Garrison can move back to his preferred side. The inclusion of Corrado gives us three RH Def and three LH Def. As much as I like Edler and it wouldn’t be good to see it will return a better player in return.

  • BrudnySeaby

    Tanev is the type of player that should be amenable to a relatively team friendly contract extension.

    1) He has zero pedigree
    2) He doesn’t put up a lot of points
    3) He has reason to be loyal to Vancouver considering his background
    4) Self-representation would imply he is not chasing every last dollar.

    I think 2 years and $3 million or 3 years and $5.25 million are in the ballpark and it gets done prior to free agency opening up.

  • KleptoKlown

    A 2nd round pick would be the equivalent of dropping the soap in a prison shower. I have no idea which way the Canucks are going to go with Tanev’s next contract. Either a 1-2 year cheaper deal, or a 3-5 year contract with a higher cap hit. Either way, trading him has to be one of the worst options to consider.

    Corrado and the Canucks AHL farm team may be something to pay attention to in the next month. If the Canucks farm team does go dormant for a year, Corrado would be better served in the NHL on the bottom pairing with sheltered minutes(Like Tanev the last couple years.) However if the Canucks do find a city, wouldn’t Corrado be better served playing 20 minutes a game on the top pairing in the AHL? Lack of other options and cap restrictions may force the Canucks to keep Corrado with the big club though.

    With the cap the way it is, I think the Canucks are forced to try and move Edler before considering moving Tanev.

  • Mantastic

    Where is all this Edler for Couterier stuff coming from?

    Edler, even with the defensive mistakes, is worth far more than a young 3rd line centre with upside.

    He’s on a great contract and the most comparable trade off the top of my head would be Johnson for Stewart & Shattenkirk.

    If Philly wants Edler, it should be for the Schenns (perhaps adding in a Tanev or Schroeder if necessary).

    Defenseman like Edler do not grow on trees. He is the Canucks’ lone ultravaluable chip assuming Schneider isn’t dealt.

    If a team wants him, they should pay a steep price. The Canucks certainly don’t HAVE to move Edler.

  • Mantastic

    Myers has struggled since his rookie season and he’s not a risk I’d like to see the team take on.

    Couterier is only 20, on an ELC, is a third-line centreman with lots of upside. Edler is a great defenseman, but he’s not Weber or Chara.

    • Mantastic

      This isn’t baseball. Tanev is not cost controlled during his RFA years.

      I also suspect he is valued more by Canuck fans and the analytical community than by NHL GMs.

      Whereas Edler is undervalued by Canuck fans simply because of the defensive mistakes.

    • Mantastic

      With the prospects we have, don’t you have to make that trade if you can, in a deep draft? (Tanev for 1st)

      With the cap coming down, why assume the Canucks use a 23 man roster?
      Assuming we’ll be right up against it, it could help to lose a player or two.

  • UkeeRob

    Edler for a 3rd line center on an ELC? Seriously? An under 30 defenceman who averages 0.5pt a game would easily be Top 2 on almost all the teams. I’d be asking for the moon…

  • UkeeRob

    “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.”

    See I don’t agree here. As nice as the capspace would be, I think if you can get an established scoring winger (which I think Edler can get) then you pull the trigger. A Bobby Ryan or Loui Eriksson would help this team enormously.

  • UkeeRob

    Ya, I have zero desire to trade Tanev, esp if he only returns a 2nd rounder. Right handed d-men are hard to find. After Corrado, Canucks only have Price on the right hand side on the farm. That’s basically nothing. Given the injury issues this team always faces on the back end, trading him would be disastrous IMO.

    Lots of team are going to have cap issues next yr. Not a big deal. There should be buyouts from other teams, hopefully those guys will sign cheaper (a la Gomez/Redden).

    But they’re gonna have to get a guy on an ELC in a Luongo trade. They can’t afford to take a top 6 guy making $4+M.

    I’m still pushing for the Canucks to ‘buy’ back a good return in Luongo trade (or other trade). Take back a bad contract, buy it out – and take some of their good prospects on ELC in return. How much would Islanders pay to rid themselves of Pipietro? How much would Fla give to get rid of Upshall? I allows Canucks to hold on to the Edlers and buy themselves a good package. It only comes around every 7 yrs or so, take advantage of it.

  • orcasfan

    I doubt Tanev or Edler get traded. Which may not be the best choice, however. It’s not easy to properly judge what Tanev’s development curve will look like. No doubt he has considerable potential, but, as a late-sprouter, he certainly needs a couple more years before we can really see what he can bring. The question is – wouldn’t it be wiser to wait a year or two, and hope for continued progress, as well as increased asset-value, before considering a trade?

    I am definitely a fence-sitter when it comes to looking at trading Edler. AS someone mentioned, a new coach (especially defense coach) could really make a difference. I don’t think it’s fair to judge the guy on this half season. He was shunted back and forth between partners and sides. That messed him up. And despite the messes, he still managed to produce significant points!

  • UkeeRob

    I feel that trading Tanev would be a ridiculous, knee jerk decision. We had been short of right side d for ages (especially since salo was always hurt). Trading Tanev would be silly. We don’t even know what we have in him yet. Especially for something as silly as a low first. Now, if Tampa offered us the 3rd overall to take Drouin for Tanev and our 1st, you do it. But Tampa would never do that. All of this to say it should take ridiculous overpayment to move Tanev.

  • asdf

    1. Uh, I for one would not mind keeping both Edler and Tanev, because you know they are pretty good hockey players at less than market terms. Vancouver’s strategy is to convince core players to take less and spend $$ on free agents to push in the playoffs. Don’t think that will change.

    2. Maybe get a better defense coach than bowness?

    3. Also, cap will go up again and this money crunch issue will be solvable without such urgency to shed so many good players just bc they’re relatively more expensive than others.

    4. Tanev can fetch a late 1st rounder if it meets a team’s need. at least that’s how this organization will view/approach Tanev’s situation. If they’re not getting a late 1st rounder worthy value in return, Tanev isn’t going anywhere.

    5. Injuries. canucks fans should know well by now, we can never have too many defensemen.