Two RFA deals down, two to go; Zack Kassian signs on for 2 years, Yannick Weber for 1

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The Canucks made two very notable signings this past week, leaving them with roughly $7 million left in cap space to lock up their four restricted free agents. They got one of those done on Thursday evening when they agreed to a 2-year deal with Zack Kassian.

Kassian’s time in Vancouver has been a rather bumpy one thus far – having been traded for a polarizing young player like Cody Hodgson, then being asked to live up to expectations ranging anywhere from Milan Lucic to Todd Bertuzzi – but despite all of that, he’s trending in the right direction. He may never wind up reaching the lofty goals some people have built up for him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t continue to grow into a fine player over these next two seasons.

To be fair, a good chunk of the angst about Zack Kassian’s development to-date has been self inflicted by the player himself. The two sizeable suspensions he incurred last season, which were both totally avoidable, certainly didn’t help his cause.

But they did play into my theory that he’s some sort of robot who has an internal on/off switch that’s controlled by the hockey puck and whether or not it’s on his stick. When it’s not, he roams around like something of a comatose nomad, and that’s where he gets himself into trouble. Then the puck reaches him, and suddenly he turns into a legitimately slick, talented playmaker that you wouldn’t have been able to guess was in the body of that guy stumbling around the ice prior. The two extremes couldn’t be more different.

So ideally, the linemates he’d be matched up with would be ones that: a) were able to retrieve the puck as efficiently as possible, and b) were willing shoot-first types. It’s why I’ve never been a member of the crowd that has vocally wanted to see him add some meat to the top line next to the Sedins. 

That’s at least part of what made him so successful with someone like David Booth last season; whenever the duo was on the ice at the same time, the Canucks controlled 53.8% of all 5v5 shot attempts. Unfortunately, as we came to learn with more and more visual evidence bluntly hitting us across the head — David Booth can’t really shoot anymore. Neither can Brad Richardson, which meant that while the line was controlling their fair share of territorial play, Kassian’s talents were being somewhat wasted. 

Despite that, Kassian was still a productive player for the Canucks last season. While his 15.4 shooting percentage is a red flag, the fact of the matter is that he ultimately led the team in points/60 at 5v5 despite starting just 43.5% of his shifts in the offensive zone. I imagine his counting stats would look even more favourable if he hadn’t been the 17th most readily used player on the team whenever they had the man advantage.

But back to his prospective spot in the lineup next season. I think this was actually another hidden added benefit of the Radim Vrbata signing from a few days ago. With a proven scorer like Vrbata now in-tow, maybe Willie Desjardins and the Canucks won’t feel the need to bump Kassian up with the Sedins. He’s probably far more well suited to playing on a second line with someone like Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins, whose games would in theory mesh quite nicely with what Kassian is trying to accomplish out there. 

Zack Kassian’s size is both a blessing and a curse. He’s listed at 6’3”, 214 lbs and because of that he has been miscast as a rugged player that should be finishing around the net. But in reality, he’s probably best served continuing to work as a playmaker, like he’s shown he’s predisposed to do.

UPDATE:

Shortly after posting, news broke that the Canucks came to terms with both Yannick Weber and Joe Cannata on one-year deals. There would have to be an ungodly sequence of events for Cannata to even sniff the NHL next season; he’ll serve as the back-up to Joacim Eriksson down in Utica one would think.

Weber on the other hand, should fill a similar role to the one he did last year as a depth, 7th or 8th defenseman that can slot into the lineup if there are injuries to the guys ahead of him. Injuries happen over the course of an 82-game season, and it’s good to have someone that can fill in and not look horribly out of place. We saw that last year with Weber, where he definitely had some moments

You’d think the team envisioned a lot more of those sorts of sequences from him when they initially signed him last season, but he oddly enough wound up receiving quite limited power play ice time despite the unit’s sustained struggles (he finished 12th in PP TOI/game, but that figure was boosted by the final stretch of the season after it was already lost). 

Anyways, his underlying numbers aren’t all that great, but it is worth noting that they were all probably suppressed by the time he spent filling a hole on the 4th line during the most condensed stretch of injuries.

With the $2.6 million spent on Kassian and Weber combined, the Canucks are now left with just over $4 million in cap space to lock up Chris Tanev and Linden Vey, their two remaining restricted free agents.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    A fair bridge deal and raise for Kassian.

    He definitely showed improvement last year.

    Fingers crossed that he consolidates the modest breakout without Booth and solidifies himself in the middle of the roster…

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      Tanev has no arbitration rights and little leverage. So he waits. He can sign an offer sheet from another team but the Canucks would most likely match it, or he can bolt to go play in Russia.

      He is probably waiting for a decent raise via an offer sheet. Give it time, they will get him signed one way or the other.

      • Dimitri Filipovic

        Actually just had this discussion with Dan Murphy which’ll be going up on the site in an hour or two. He seemed pretty confident that it’s going to be a drag-out process, but that it’ll eventually get done and be somewhere in the 2.5-3 mil/year ballpark.

        • Dimitri Filipovic

          Any word on the term?

          My best guess (based on absolutely nothing) would be 2/5 or 3/9 depending on how many years they want to go.

          Thanks for delving into the dark world of rumours and innuendo…

          • Dimitri Filipovic

            Haha, this is a rumours blog after all!

            Unfortunately he didn’t really seem to have a grasp on what Tanev’s camp was asking for term-wise, no.

          • Dimitri Filipovic

            Thanks.

            I was under the impression that, much like Paajarvi-Svenson, you shortened Filipovic-Eklund so it would fit onto the Canucks Army jersey…

        • BrudnySeaby

          I was honestly expecting it to take a while. He is a young guy who has played his way up the depth chart very quickly and wants to be paid like a top 4 d-man but the Canucks want to pay him like a 24 year old RFA with 156 NHL games to his name. I thought that last year he would get 2.5-3.0 for 3 years and my feelings haven’t changed.

          In your podcast you brought up your concern about him getting ‘evaporated’ so often, and the possibility of injuries starting to pile up. I think he is still young enough to be coached how to avoid those big hits and even if he keeps taking them he is still young and will likely recover relatively quickly. I don’t see the same concern with signing him for 3 years.

          A 3 year contract takes him to 27 years old and just entering his prime. At that point they will have a better idea of his durability and if he has learned to avoid getting destroyed. Bieksa and Hamius will likely be gone or playing for less money than they are now which will allow the Canucks to pay a top pairing defenceman (which Tanev will most likely be by then) in his prime exactly what he is worth.

          I’m not sure what Tanev’s camp is holding out for. More money? More term? Both?

          I think anything more than 3yr/9M is too much.

          • BrudnySeaby

            Personally, I think 3/9 is right on the mark so long as Tanev’s camp is amenable to that term.

            If I’m not mistaken, Tanev has 3 years of team control remaining.

            Salaries of $2, $3 and $4 million would take him up to his UFA years at which time he can allow the open market to determine his value.

            Of course, if he believes in his abilities and wants to take advantage of his first legit shot in the top 4, he may prefer another one year contract that would probably end up in the $2 – $2.5 million range.

            A full year of playing 20-22 minutes (good health provided) along with arbitration rights could allow him to get a much bigger pay day in one year’s time.

            Relatively speaking, he has not made much money in his career so perhaps he prefers the security…

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    Good signing by Benning. Time for Kassian to prove himself for a couple years and cash in.

    Tanev on the other hand has played 2 half seasons, and 1 sort of full season (often injured last season), doesn’t offer much offensive punch and is not a physical player. He’s a safe, smart player but also not a top pairing shut down guy on a good team. 3 million for him at this point would be too much. 2-2.25 million x 2 years would be good. With Garrison gone he has a chance to solidify himself as a top 4 D man in this league now but I worry that his style of play with have him on the IR often.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    @Dimitri: Hate to say it, but you’re slipping: You forgot to mention Kassian’s hilarious list of favorites on Twitter, all the tweets of hate against him. 🙂

    Good coverage otherwise, I like the Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde description of Kassian’s play, not to mention it describes the ruthless side pretty well.

  • BrudnySeaby

    I think Kassian is a little boy with a bleeding heart in a big man’s body. He feels awkward about using his size to hit and that shows and makes for his hits being off timing wise and thus resulting in injuries/penalties/suspensions. Hopefully our new coach can really get to work with him and help him progress more into his natural role of playmaking winger who learns to use his big body to keep puck possession.

    • BrudnySeaby

      A big, puck protecting, playmaking winger might actually be more valuable than what they wanted him to be, anyway. A lot of players can crash the net, but Kassian could do that, or he could fend off a defender, and then make a slick pass.

      Kassian was one of the few bright spots, hopefully he manages to prove he belongs on something more than the bottom-6, but we’ll see.

  • BrudnySeaby

    Looks like Webber signed now as well. Is there enough room for Tanev/

    And what about Sestito? With the interest in coke machine’s on skates, does this mean we have to put up with him for another year? Please say no, that he will be put on waivers and picked up by the Calgary Flames.

  • BrudnySeaby

    Sweet deal, Kassian rules. LOVED the trade from day one. I am sure Coho loved Buffalo picking a center, Samson will be their #1 center as soon as he’s old enough.