It was just yesterday that Dan Murphy joined me for a podcast in which we discussed the very real likelihood of a deal between restricted free agent Chris Tanev and the Canucks dragging out this summer.
It sure didn’t take long for that conversation to become dated; with a potentially unfavourable arbitration process for the player looming, the two came to terms on a 1-year deal that could wind up being beneficial for both parties in the long run. But particularly the Canucks, as Jim Benning’s largely inspiring first summer as the team’s GM continues on.
The deadline for arbitration filing is set for 2 PM PST today, which surely expedited the process for Tanev’s camp. While there’s a few different ways in which one could make an argument for the player’s value to the team, the unfortunate truth is that the league still hasn’t become as progressive in some areas as it has in others.
One that’s lagging behind is the arbitration process, in which only “official statistics prepared by the league” may be used to make a case by either party. Chris Tanev’s superficial counting stats profile isn’t exactly going to blow anyone out of the water, and I’m sure he and his agent were all too aware of this, giving the Canucks the leverage here. That’s the equivalent of blood in the water for a cap shark like Laurence Gilman, making it none too surprising that the team was able to get such a team-friendly deal like it did today.
There’s no other way to spin it for the Canucks, who just got themselves a player that didn’t look remotely out of place playing on its top pairing for 60+ games for a measly $2 million. After a relatively poor lockout shortened season, Tanev really stepped his game up tenfold this past year.
Despite receiving the fewest percentage of shifts in the offensive zone out of all Canucks defensemen – and going up against the toughest quality of competition, to boot – he still managed to finish the campaign with a positive relative corsi. Playing roughly 75% of those minutes next to a Dan Hamhuis surely didn’t hurt his cause, but for whatever it’s worth Tanev still managed to tread water in those minutes that the two spent apart.
But even with that in mind, arguably Tanev’s most important contribution to the team was his prowess when shorthanded, where his positioning and willingness to put his body in harm’s way were a major reason why the Canucks had one of the league’s most effective penalty killing units for much of the season. Only 22 NHLers averaged more time on the PK than Tanev last year, and just 7 of the guys that logged at least 2 minutes of shorthanded ice-time per game were more effective at suppressing shots in such situations. One of the more impressive stats of all to come out from last season was that large stretch of time where the Canucks were even in terms of goal differential when Tanev was on the ice killing penalties.
With all of that being said, potentially the best part of the deal for the team is that they just afforded themselves another year of sample size to figure out whether Chris Tanev is someone they’d like to invest in long-term. According to 10.1a (i) in the new CBA: “a player who either has 7 accrued seasons or is 27 years of age or older as of June 30th of the end of a League Year shall become an Unrestricted Free Agent“. That means that Tanev still has 2 more RFA years after this one, seeing as he turns 25 during this upcoming season.
It would be somewhat understandable were the Canucks slightly weary of committing to a player of Tanev’s profile long-term. While his offensive production rate jumped up from 0.634 to 0.912 points/60 at 5v5 this past season, there’s still plenty of work to be done in that facet of the game for Tanev. He’s still young, but what his ceiling on that side of the ice is remains to be seen.
There’s also the fact that the style of game he has played up until this point has left him prone to a relatively substantial amount of physical damage. While the band-aid label would be a bit premature, it’s fair to be concerned about the number of hard hits and impactful blocked shots he willingly eats up on a seemingly nightly basis.
It’s because of all of that, that the upcoming season is a monumental one for Tanev. If he’s able to stay healthy and play at the level which he was at last year, it’s easy to imagine that the Canucks will finally pony up and give him his payday after having seen him take two consecutive team-friendly deals. Or maybe they’ll decide the most prudent move is to trade him before that price tag skyrockets like they reportedly considered doing so prior to the draft.
They’ll eventually cross that bridge when the time comes, but for now all we can do is appreciate the value that the team continues to squeeze out of a player that was an undrafted free agent just a few years ago. Buying time before having to make a concrete decision either way was just another notch in what has quickly become a commendable summer debut for Jim Benning in Vancouver.