What Would You Do Wednesday: Re-signing Luca Sbisa

Welcome to a mid-week favourite feature here on Canucks Army and all sites on the Nation Network: What Would You Do Wednesday, where we put you, yes YOU, in charge of your own imaginary Vancouver Canucks. We’ll present you with a different scenario each week, and you tell us how you’d solve it in the comments section below. Give props to the answers you do like and trash the ones you don’t. Easy! So let’s get started: 

Trade rumours have been swirling around Vancouver’s 2nd and 3rd string goalies for a while now, so last week we asked you which of Eddie Lack or Jacob Markstrom you would trade. It was one of my favourite What Would You Do‘s so far, and oh man do you guys ever not like Ryan Miller.

The top answer from Ruprecht:

Miller.

Which Lemming clearly agreed with:

I don’t think anyone else needs to really post anything anymore; I think we all know the winner is whoever says Miller should go.
I agree wholeheartedly, as did many other Canucks fans as soon as he was signed…
I don’t think anyone has any ill will towards him, but you just don’t need a 6 million dollar goalie. Period. If he was signed for 3-4, it would be easier to swallow, but one of the highest paid goalies who is really only average?
It’s no surprise everyone says Miller. No surprise at all.
Miller.
Miller Miller Miller.

And so did Steampuck:

I’ll sort of umpteenth the sentiment that the Miller signing was a bad idea. A one-year deal, and I’d be all over it. But three years kills any of that enthusiasm. Already this year, he’s flashed brilliant play but he’s also looked pretty run-down at times, too. That can only get worse. And he’s not a marked improvement on Lack, who’s a lot cheaper and younger.
Best case scenario (and you never wish injury on anyone): a cup contender loses their goalie around the trade deadline, and we can unload Miller (assuming a cup run might get Miller to waive his NTC) in order to move ahead next year with a cheaper and younger goaltending duo. I can live with Lack starting, so long as he’s spelled more than he was at the tail-end of last year. Or, better, yet: Markstrom’s actually turned the corner and you have a platoon.
As ever in Canuckland, there’s no good decision. I don’t like the play, but I think I’ll hold onto all three if at all possible (without breaking the bank). If Markstrom becomes the next Bishop, there’ll be hell to pay if he’s not in blue and green. If he’s Reto Berra and we’ve just dealt Lack, it’ll be even worse. Regardless, any move needs to be a package deal that makes the team younger. I’d take prospects over picks, especially if we can move out some of the aging core…

Meanwhile, Origamirock designed a time machine to sort this out:

Honestly, this is it. I would build a time machine, go back in time and not sign Miller in the first place. Having said that, if there’s any way they can move him (even if the return is subpar or minimal or a roll of hockey tape) that is the best step to take. Nothing we’ve seen this year gives the indication that Miller + Lack is better than Lack + Markstrom. The former will not be as good in the long term and is certainly more expensive in the short term.

The time machine idea picked up some steam, as friend-of-the-blog NM00 (or N-moo, as he’s called on the streets) saved us all about four years of goalie-related stress and silliness:

Trade Schneider to improve the team in front of Luongo while the Canucks are still at the top of the win curve…

Ruprecht made his second appearance and made us all sad soon after:

This is a time machine I can get behind. I say to Columbus for Carter plus. If we don’t make the move perhaps one of our rivals might, and that could come back to bite us for years to come.

At the end of the day though, it was Char Richo that bit the bullet and pulled the trigger on a non-Ryan Miller deal:

UGH. I’d trade Lack. I hate myself for even saying that. It’s awful. I love him. He is like unicorns and candy and puppies and rainbows.
That being said… he would get the best return. And did we learn nothing from the Luongo-Schneids situation? Schneids should have been traded as soon as it became clear he was too good to be a backup. His value was highest then, and we would have got way more for him if we weren’t completely backed into a corner.
There is a caveat to all of this though, and that is that I’ve heard rumours that Markstrom is already wanting out of the organization, regardless of what happens with Lack. If that is the case, then obviously you have to keep Lack and try to trade Markstrom. No sense going into RFA negotiations with someone who doesn’t want to be here, he will just make trouble. I kinda doubt there is any truth to this though, I assume Markstrom would be happy to come up to Van and play here if Lack is traded, just doesn’t want to stay in the AHL.

(You can go back and read the thread here). We’ll miss you, Eddie.

This week, we’ll ask you to determine the fate of an overtime hero rapidly ascending to cult hero status on the interwebs. Yes, we’re asking you if Luca Sbisa should be re-signed by the Vancouver Canucks after this season.

Sbisa’s brief tenure as a Vancouver Canuck can likely be best described as “tumultuous” on the ice, though it’s not devoid of highlights. Most notably, he had arguably his finest moment as a Vancouver Canuck just last night:

The hulking Swiss/Italian defender is a restricted free agent at the end of this season, as his 4 year, $8.7 million contract is up at the end of the year. As his paid salary has risen above his $2.175 million cap hit over the duration of his deal, he’s in line for a raise should the Canucks qualify him. Sbisa is making $2.9 million in actual salary in 2014-2015, which means that his qualifying offer from Vancouver must be at minimum $2.9 million for next season.

On the one hand, Luca Sbisa has not been good throughout his NHL career:

sbisalol

Chart via Domenic Galamini

The fact that he’s hardly been a serviceable depth guy should be argument enough to let Sbisa walk after this season, but there are still arguments to be made to keep him in the fold. Mainly, the fact that he’s just 24 and, if he figures the whole NHL thing out, is young enough to be a steady contributor for years to come. It also appears that Sbisa might genuinely be improving too.

According to Stats.Hockeyanalysis.com, Sbisa’s 47.7% Fenwick is currently tied for the best mark of his young NHL career. While 47.7% isn’t fantastic, he’s also posting it while spending a good portion of the year playing his off-side and in the most defensive-oriented deployment of his career as well. Similarly, Sbisa is also seeing the toughest competition he’s faced since he broke in to the league.

Sbisa is also 4th on Canucks D in PK TOI and is allowing a very respectable 46 shots against/60, filling in admirably for the previously injured Dan Hamhuis and now for the currently injured Kevin Bieksa. In short, Luca Sbisa is a young and growing defender that’s beginning to carve out a role as a physical, defense-first penalty killer – a useful piece to have.

Add to this the fact that non-tendering Sbisa would be an asset management nightmare. He was one of three pieces acquired in the Ryan Kesler deal, and to let him walk for nothing when you still control his free agency rights would be a bit of a head scratcher.

So what would you do? Would you cast Sbisa free to sign wherever he wants? Or would you tender him a qualifying offer at the end of the season seeing as he’s young and potentially improving? Let us know in the comments!

  • SJ

    I think you have to keep him. Management had to know what they were getting into when they traded for him. He was a project from day one – you can’t just let him walk for nothing after a year.

    If you consider him your 5th/6th defender, $2.9 mil is definitely on the high side, but it’s not THAT high. You’re not going to save much in the free agent market on a 5/6 guy of similar calibre (especially one that’s still young and has some potential).

    If you’re committed to this “retooling” thing, you have to keep and develop your guys in the 20-24 age range because they’re on the verge of hitting their potential. That’s what it’s all about.

  • SJ

    He was acquired because Anaheim didn’t want to pay $3 million to a utility defenseman.

    If Benning isn’t delusional – and its been a pretty mixed bag of mediocre transactions thus far – they would do well to move on.

    His contract was/is a sunk cost.

    There’s no need to justify the Sbisa part of the Kesler trade since the non-delusional amongst us understand it was a salary dump…

  • Ruprecht

    I can think of 2.9 million reasons to start looking for better bottom pairing defencemen. Not to slight Sbisa because I do that enough already. But if you are going to have as much cap space tied up in your top 4, then you need younger much cheaper guys on the bottom. Sure you may sign him after arbitration but I also think you need to think about moving him and securing an asset in return. The reality is, for what he has provided this season, it can be found for much less elsewhere and we need to spend money on goal production.

    I think the acquisition of Clendening is a step in the right direction in that regard.

  • Ruprecht

    If Sbisa and his agent are open to the possibility, I wouldn’t be averse to him being signed as a replacement-level 7th-8th d-man on the depth chart.

    When someone above him gets hurt, put him out there in the most sheltered minutes and pull the ol’ Gillis pump-and-dump. Any assets (late round draft picks even) are an automatic win over nothing.

  • Ruprecht

    imo, Canucks shouldn’t make a qualifying offer nor should they make a team submission to arbitration.

    There are better uses for that amount of salary and cap hit. Re-signing him at a much reduced salary would be fine if he’s agreeable.

  • Dirty30

    When I saw the headline of this thread, I was going to post that I would begrudgingly re-sign him. He is a 24 year old defenseman (defensemen notoriously take longer to hit their stride than forwards) who has a lot of the ‘tools’ that you want to see, and plays hard. I would be a pretty big kick in the teeth to let him go for nothing and have him figure it out somewhere else (you could say that about some other assets in this club too, but.. ok stay on point here…)

    But I didn’t realize it would mean paying him almost $3 million. That’s ridiculous. Are we not already overpaying enough players on this club? And the cap is not expected to go up. Canucks should prioritize re-signing Tanev, Corrado, Matthias, Vey, Clendenning, maybe Dorsett…

    I do not see them having room after re-signing all/most of those, holding some money aside for free agents, potentially re-signing Markstrom if he isn’t traded… how do they then fit in $3 for a 7/8 defenseman. I know that Gilman is a cap wizard but, come on.

    If they can not qualify him and re-sign him as a ufa for much less money then fine. But players tend to move on if they aren’t qualified, obviously.

    • Steampuck

      This. Ship him now. Of the team’s depth defensemen (we seem to have an inordinate number of “depth” guys), he’s probably going to return the highest value. I still think he’s got potential. But where does he fit with Edler-Tanev, Hamhuis-Bieksa, Clendening-Corrado, as a viable top six when Bieksa’s healthy?

      The alternative is he’s Bieksa’s long-term replacement in a year or two. And maybe he grows into that role. But $3 mil/year next year for a sixth/seventh D?

  • TheNitsguy

    I think it all depends on the moves Benning makes at the deadline and on draft day.

    I’m hoping Benning moves Hamhuis for a young top 6 forward +. I don’t see it happening but here’s to hoping. Moving Hammer would allow them to keep Sbisa and hope he continues to develop.

    If we have all of the same D then that is too much $ on the back end and Sbisa has to be let go.

    I think the deadline and draft day will truly show us what Benning is made of. Fingers crossed!

  • peterl

    Barring a trade, the Canucks would have to qualify him for at least another year. We are looking at similar d-pairings for next year

    Edler/Tanev
    Hamhuis/Bieksa
    Sbisa/(Clendening or Corrado)
    Stanton/(Clendening or Corrado)

    Sbisa hasn’t been great this year, but he has been better than Stanton. No left-handed D-man is in Utica that is ready to take a spot from Sbisa or Stanton this year or next. If they want to replace either of them, it would have to come via trade, FA, or waivers.

    Coming off-season RFAs Tanev, Sbisa, Stanton, Corrado. Tanev should get a hefty raise. Corrado will take a bridge deal. Sbisa as an expensive 5th d-man or Stanton as an inexpensive yet troubled d-man? If the team can afford Sbisa, it is better to keep him over Stanton. This will also depend on their plans with UFAs Derek Dorsett, Shawn Matthias, and Brad Richardson.

  • I’m going to buck the trend here and suggest that if the Canucks can afford to keep him after paying their more important players (*cough* Tanev *cough*), they should do so.

    Sbisa has been a very inconsistent player this year. He’s had some very good stretches, and some very bad stretches. But you know who else had great tools and struggled with major inconsistency in his first few years in the league? Alex Edler. I’m not suggesting Sbisa will be as good as Edler – that’s pretty unlikely – but with some maturity and mentoring I believe he has the potential to be a solid middle-pairing defenceman. At worst, I think he’ll stabilize somewhat and become a good bottom pairing guy with some special teams utility. That’s worth $2.9 million, especially on a team that’s lacking defensive depth.

      • Johnny TM.

        …in 2017? No, I would have kept him until he expanded his list of targets (which he would have if he really wanted out). They were under no obligation to trade him. You can’t request a trade and then dictate which team you’d like to be traded to.

          • Thefreshpots

            Luongo and Kesler’s situations aren’t really comparable. The market for mid-30’s goalies (with massive billion year contracts) was and remains cool at best. The market for a 29 year old 1C/2C who was arguably the best player on the team (and who is on a cap friendly contract for 3 more years)? that will always be good.

            Ironically, I’d argue that Luongo’s return was better than Kesler’s. Depends on how McCann works out and what the return for Lack/Markstrom is. I would even take Luongo’s retained salary over Sbisa’s salary dump.

        • Thefreshpots

          “They were under no obligation to trade him.”

          True.

          Just as they were under no obligation to move him at the 2014 trade deadline when the acquiring team would have had him for 3 playoff runs and would logically pay an increased premium for the additional impact…

          “You can’t request a trade and then dictate which team you’d like to be traded to.”

          Yes you can.

          That’s one of the inherent benefits of a NTC…

          • Dirty30

            > Just as they were under no obligation to move him at the 2014 trade deadline when the acquiring team would have had him for 3 playoff runs and would logically pay an increased premium for the additional impact…

            Not sure what you’re getting at here, this just reinforces my point that Bob Murray (said Brian before, my bad) not only fleeced the Canucks, he managed to even dump salary.

            > That’s one of the inherent benefits of a NTC…

            I was following up my point about not having an obligation to trade him. The NTC works both ways. If you signed a contract to play for the Vancouver Canucks hockey organization, you have to abide by that contract. If you insisted on a clause that your contract may not be traded to another team, you cannot be traded. If the motivation was there, they could have used the NTC against him.

            Of course this opens him up to the option of not reporting, but we know how well that worked out for Yashin. The Canucks would also still own his rights for 3 more years (the tail end of his prime). All I’m saying is that they had a lot more leverage they could have used to get him to expand his list and whip the market up into a frenzy. The fact that they settled for a 3C, the 24th pick and on top of that agreed to take on a salary dump was ludicrous.

  • Too much to qualify him for that role, blocks potential player development at the D (Canucks should have been playing Corrado over him all season), and while he has marginally improved he does so when he’s with much stronger players. I have a hard time seeing him really improve — he’s big, he’s mobile, but little to no offense, makes terrible reads and far too slow to move the puck in his own zone, creates numerous opposition chances out of nothing (not even a real forecheck). Cut bait, hope Bonino can score 10 goals a year and that McCann pans out in five years and that Anaheim craters in this year’s playoffs and Kesler ages quickly next year.

  • Johnny TM.

    I’d try and unload Sbisa at the trade deadline probably won’t get much but i’d even settle for a mid-late round pick (can never have enough draft picks).

    Teams are always searching for depth going into the playoffs and like you said Sbisa is only 24 but with the addition of Clendening its pretty clear we need to ship out a defender anyways(and im not for paying 3 million to a depth guy next year). Once Bieksa is back we’d have 9 defenceman up with the club Corrado can easily be sent back to Utica to finish up the year.

    I’d much rather keep Stanton & Weber as depth d-man whose combined salary is about 1/3rd of Sbisa’s and really they bring about the same assets to the table.

    See if the Oilers are still looking for a hard hitting D-Man to call there own.

  • Dirty30

    With Clendenning showing some potential Sbisa is now expendable. He may have size, occasional skill, and some potential, but the price is too high and it assumes that as time goes on there won’t be any D-men available anywhere.

    Some rumour about Toronto shopping Santorelli … shipping out Sbisa for him and something in return would look okay. It does demo some of the ‘thick’ moves or non-moves management has made because, as was pointed out, Santorelli could have stayed for straight money. Could have saved the pick wasted on Vey.

  • Thefreshpots

    This team is not going to make much noise within the next couple of years, so we might as well send him to arbitration. Sbisa has been a giant heap of burning garbage this year but he’s still marginally better than nothing at all. An asset is an asset, even if that asset is basically replacement-level. Sbisa is in that 22-26 age range that the team is lacking in. He’s still relatively young, has some good tools and has a good attitude. Maybe he can turn things around. The team needs to focus on drafting and developing, so we shouldn’t be looking to spend Sbisa’s salary on a free-agent anyway.

    With any luck, he’ll have a good season next year and we can sell high on him rather than let him walk for nothing.

  • Thefreshpots

    There won’t be much clamor out there for Sbisa unless he dials it up the rest of the way.

    Sign a 1 yr deal aka Kassian and see if an offseason with the new brain trust will help him. Sbisa can skate well, skate well, is big and has a good shot. Unfortunately he doesn’t do that stuff all in the same game, he does one or two mixed in with TO’s and total confusion in D coverage!

    There is talent there, but will he ever put it together? Give Benning one more year to see if his prognostication of top 4 Dman has a chance.

  • Dirty30

    Trade him tomorrow for draft picks. His value today is as high as it’s going to ever get with the OT game winner he scored last game. Better get something while he still has “potential” before other GMs realize that he is at best an overpaid bottom pairing DMan.