Report: Canucks have engaged in preliminary contract talks with Luca Sbisa

Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Canucks have engaged Luca Sbisa’s representatives in contract extension talks, according to News 1130 Sports

“Preliminary talks underway,” Sbisa’s Swiss based agent Andre Rufener of Rufener Hockey LLC told News 1130 sports, “the team first expressed interest in early February.”

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Read on past the jump for more.

We’ve discussed Sbisa’s contract status at length in the recent past, in part because the pending restricted free agent is currently signed to a very odd second contract, one that will likely serve to complicate negotiations this summer. 

Sbisa’s deal is backloaded salary wise, so though his cap hit for the 2014-15 season comes in at a relatively affordable $2.175 million, his salary – at $2.9 million – is expensive for a depth defender. 

Perhaps most importantly from the Canucks’ perspective is that the value of Sbisa’s qualifying offer – which the Canucks will have to tender to him in order to preserve their rights of first refusal in contract negotiations – is tied to his salary and not to his cap-hit. In plain english: the Canucks have to offer Sbisa the equivalent of a one-year contract worth $2.9 million in order to preserve the 25-year-old defenseman’s restricted free agent rights. 

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That’s a lot of dough for a player who struggled enormously in the first half of the season, and has continued to struggle since. managing editor Rhys Jessop looked at Sbisa’s performance in-depth recently, and his conclusions were not particularly flattering to the physical depth defender:

Despite a rather significant upswing in offensive zone starts, Sbisa’s Corsi For percentage and Scoring Chance percentage have remained close enough to his first half rates that we can say they’re basically the same. Sbisa is still getting routinely out-possessed and, more concerningly, remaining extremely permissive as far as scoring chances against go….

Sbisa is a well below average penalty killer in a group of elite ones, and not just by relative measures either. Of the 111 NHL D that have seen over 100 minutes of penalty kill time this season, Sbisa is 69th in shots against per minute, and a significantly worse shot suppressor than Chris Tanev, Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, and Dan Hamhuis. Relative to his teammates, Sbisa has the 7th worst shorthanded shots against per minute rate of this same group of 111 regular penalty killing defenders.

There’s really no sugar coating it: right now Sbisa is not good enough to be an NHL regular. He’s been terrible this season, and terrible for every other season of his NHL career. Since 2012, he has been one of the very worst defensemen to receive regular NHL minutes.

In fairness to Sbisa we should mention that he’s a good skater, he’s physical, he’s still young, and he’s versatile in that he can play either side. He’s also been a durable presence on a Vancouver back-end that has dealt with more than its fair share of injuries this season. There’s surely value in that.

Is there $2.9 million worth of value in that? Not when you consider Vancouver’s salary cap situation, in my view.

Following Chris Tanev’s recent extension the Canucks currently have slightly over $60 million committed against the cap to nine forwards, four defenseman, two goaltenders and Roberto Luongo for the 2015-16 season. Factor in their relative depth on defense (Ryan Stanton, who is probably a comparable player to Sbisa will cost roughly a fifth as much to qualify) and it would seem to me that signing Sbisa to a decently sized ticket – or even extending him a qualifying offer – would represent a suboptimal allocation of resources. 

    • YouppiKiYay

      The first part of this comment is the kind of comment that drives me crazy.

      There is no litmus test. The Benning regime uses analytics to inform their decision making. Drance had a post shortly after the Tanev signing that should allay all fears.

      Analytics aren’t, and shouldn’t, be the sole driver of decision making. There are tradeoffs that make Sbisa a useful player even if his advanced stats are weak.

      Sbisa filled in admirably up the lineup during the worst of Canucks defensive injuries, and he’s one of the few physical Dmen on the team. He’s completely serviceable as a bottom pairing D. Hopefully he’s negotiating a trade off between term and AAV that comes in at less than $2.9 million.

      I would also surmise locking up Sbisa means one of Hamhuis or Bieksa gets dealt over the summer. Edler, Tanev, Bieksa and Hamhuis make an expensive D corp.

  • Peachy

    It’s so frustrating to watch Sbisa play. Every time he has the puck, it looks like him and I BOTH get anxious. I thought Garrison was bad with his BOOMING SHOTS that missed the net 97% of the time, at least it didn’t feel like Garrison was coughing up the puck as much. Sbisa has more giveaways than a radio station.

  • Peachy

    While I like his size and the occasional hit that he throws, Sbisa gift wraps far too many presents for opposing teams.

    If he doesn’t re-sign for a replacement level salary, management should waive goodbye to Luca. Weber has passed him on the depth chart, and Stanton, Clendenning and Corrado are cheaper third pairing options for the Club.

    The real consideration for the Kesler trade was the first round pick – Sbisa was just a throw in. Hopefully, Benning recognizes this and doesn’t feel the need to double down on the flaws in the Kesler deal.

    Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

  • Peachy

    With Clendening, Corrado and Stanton in the roster, I don’t think Benning will worry too much about letting Sbisa walk.

    If Richardson, Matthias and Dorsett also leave, maybe Benning can pool the cap space ($6.7M?) to acquire another impact player via UFA or trading with a cap-crunch team like Philly.

    • comsymp

      I’d like to see Sbisa walk too. However, I think Benning will try and save face as he doesn’t want to see a piece of a major trade walk away already. Sbisa has the potential but just isn’t putting it together. He doesn’t deserve that much money and he has been given way more opportunities than most would. I would have liked to have seen other D given a shot and Sbisa could sit in the press box; others like Sanguinetti.

      Dorsett is another guy they gave up a decent pick for and he is good on the team. I can see them keep him. I’d like to see Matthias re-signed but not for much over 2.5/year. Richardson can walk.

      Benning will have to deal others as well. I am thinking Higgins is gone and they may try and move out Burrows, Bieksa and maybe even Hamhuis. They need to make room for their prospects that can no longer clear waivers etc.

      Also hoping Subban and McNally get signed.

  • comsymp

    Sbisa sure gets a lot of hate from the Army and a bit of an analytics raw deal. Given the current status of the Canucks as a soft team, especially on D, it’s good to have a bit of ugly grit back there. None of the other prospects are going to be providing it any time soon.
    It’s also interesting that with all of the choices ol Willy has, he goes to Sbisa on a regular basis over the other the depth D-men.
    2.9 Million would be too much, but keeping him as an edgier player while we try to get a bit tougher over the next few years at his current cap hit would suit me fine. Bieksa isn’t going to be doing this much longer and Edler is only other one back there with any teeth (and he’s not getting tougher or meaner either).
    He’s high risk and reward with the potential to settle into a role player that we need.

  • Dirty30

    Maybe they’re just polishing him up for the postseason so he looks good to another team while still playing for the Canucks.

    It’s crappy to be talking contract going into the postseason so everyone is making nice for now.

    Sign and package seems a bit risky and I’d hope Benning is less about ego and more about reality. It was fine to take Sbisa as part of a rough trade situation but if it’s not working move on already.

    I could see Burrows in Montreal but what you get back is a big ????

    Can’t see Juice leaving for any reason so that means moving Hamius and that may not be a good thing.

  • comsymp

    “Perhaps most importantly from the Canucks’ perspective is that the value of Sbisa’s qualifying offer – which the Canucks will have to tender to him in order to preserve their rights of first refusal in contract negotiations – is tied to his salary and not to his cap-hit. In plain english: the Canucks have to offer Sbisa the equivalent of a one-year contract worth $2.9 million in order to preserve the 25-year-old defenseman’s restricted free agent rights.”

    Could I get a little more clarification on this? So, we can offer him less than $2.9M, correct? He would just then be open to offers from other teams without protection. If so then for sure make an offer but keep it low. Like, under $2M low. If someone else signs him so be it. Stanton, Corrado, Clendening, hell maybe even Pedan or Hutton if we really want to jump into the rebuild / retool could all easily take on the role of depth defensemen in over his head who makes several egregious blunders a game BUT still has potential.

    • comsymp

      My understanding is that RFA’s need to be qualifying with an offer that is 10% higher than the last year of salary in their contract. Ryan O’Reilly only resigned with Colorado because they did a back-loaded deal so he could get more in his next round of negotiations.

      However, if I understand correctly, the Canucks could choose to not offer a qualifying offer and allow Sbisa to become an UFA. If no one signs him, he could re-sign with the Canucks at a lower salary.

      But seriously, even if Sbisa was offering to play for free, I’d rather see Benning/WD use that ice time to play Clendening or Corrado.

  • Larionov18

    I will never forget early on this season when Luca was alone in the zone with the puck and Miller started screaming “help him” to the Canucks out of the zone. Now that said a lot. Cannot see him screaming if Tanev had the puck alone.

  • comsymp

    What a joke. This new regime are the biggest idiots. Not only do the botch the original Jesler trade by taking on plugs like Sbisa and Bonino, but now they’re trying to bring back Sbisa at $2.9M? For a bottom pairing d-man who should be in the press box via the numbers. Like, is Benning high? Who trades Jason Garrison and his $4.7M cap hit (a guy who is a legitimate top pairing dman), and keep a legitimate depth defeseman for $2.9M?

    Guys an idiot.

  • comsymp

    The minimum AAV that the Canucks can offer Sbisa and still retain his rights as an RFA is $2.45 or thereabouts, assuming they are willing to take him to arbitration. In arbitration, teams can request a one-time 15% reduction in AAV during a player’s years as an RFA. The Canucks actually did it with Raymond, if you recall. A player must be in his 4th year of player eligibility to do so. As Sbisa played 39 games with he Flyers in 2008-2009 season, he easily falls under this provision.

    Aside from that one-time offer, you are required to offer a minimum of 110% of the final year of a player’s contract if the player earned under $600K, 105% to those under $1 mill (as long as the +5% doesn’t take the player over $1 mill), and 100% to those over $1 mill.