If you’ve been a Canucks fan long enough, you will likely remember a couple of deadline deals Pat Quinn made with the St. Louis Blues. The most cited is the deal for Jeff Brown, Bret Hedican and Nathan Lafayette (sigh) that set the Canucks up for their unlikely run to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final.
But a few years earlier, Quinn made a much more significant deal when he shipped Garth Butcher and Dan Quinn to the Blues for Geoff Courtnall, Sergio Momesso, Robert Dirk, Cliff Ronning and a 5th round pick. While that turned out to be a great return for the Canucks, at the time there was concern than they had also given away a lot in Butcher and Quinn.
One explanation for the deal, which has stuck with me ever since, was that the real benefit of the trade was that it was addition by subtraction. No matter the player return the Canucks got back, what they really wanted was to get Dan Quinn and his off-ice, playboy lifestyle away from Trevor Linden.
In many ways, addition by subtraction is probably how the Cody Hodgson trade might be described, ironic as that might be, considering the return. Sometimes the best way to make your team better is to jettison some of those off-ice distractions.
So what does this have to do with the current edition of the Canucks? Well, yesterday they engaged in something that I will call subtraction by addition. I mean, what else did you expect at Canucks Army, if not more math?
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that Luca Sbisa and Derek Dorsett are off-ice problems or distractions. In fact, by all reports Derek Dorsett has made a significant, positive contribution to getting Bo Horvat and Ronald Kenins accustomed to life as a professional hockey players.
But the Canucks did make a signficant subtraction yesterday, and that was in the wiggle room they have under the NHL’s salary cap. In today’s NHL, it’s important to remember that cap room is an asset. Just ask the NY Islanders, who managed the snap up two top-notch defensemen in Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk on the cheap precisely because they had the cap room and the Blackhawks and Bruins didn’t.
So what did these two contract extensions do to the Canucks’ cap situation? The Army’s @MoneyPuck_ added it all up and it’s not pretty:
— Money Puck (@MoneyPuck_) April 8, 2015
Based on this tally, the Canucks are sitting at $66.6 million committed to 17 players for next year. Given that NHL teams typically carry a 23-man roster, that means they have to fit six more contracts under the cap. And this is where I differ slightly with Money Puck’s tabulation. He has the cap at $73 million next year, while I’m pretty sure it won’t be any more than $70 million given the state of the Canadian dollar and the likelihood that the NHLPA doesn’t want to apply a large cap escalator due to concerns with escrow.
The leaves the Canucks needing to fit six contracts into about $3.5 million of cap room.
What’s the NHL minimum again?
Now look, I’m not saying Dorsett and Sbisa are completely without value. Well, not Dorsett anyway. As noted earlier, he’s been a great mentor for the kids on the team, and would be a valuable asset over the next couple of years as a few more prospects (hopefully) make the transition from Utica to the big club. But that value greatly diminishes as his salary goes up:
Not only that, but locking him up for four years isn’t just a drain on cap room, but it’s one less entry level roster spot that one of those kids can come up in to develop at the NHL level. I mean, if Dorsett is so good with the kids, and that’s the big value he brings, give him a coaching job. Don’t use excessive cap room and a roster spot on him.
But what about the energy these guys add to the lineup, you say. Who else throws hits, you ask.
Well, we’ve been through this before:
If you’re hitting guys, it means you don’t have the puck.
Yes, it’s great that they can throw thundering body checks. Yes, that can help get the puck back. But if that’s the main tool in your toolbox, it means you are either an overall liability defensively or you can’t do much with the puck offensively when you actually have it. It also means that you are eminently replaceable. And if you’re replaceable, you should be paid at replacement level. In today’s NHL, you cannot waste cap room on the bottom end of your lineup if you hope to be able to afford the skill at the top end.
Depth is important, but it must be efficient.
Finally, there’s been a suggestion that at least the Canucks didn’t give these guys the same no trade clauses that have handcuffed the team’s ability to make significant changes to the roster.
Yes. Thank heaven’s for small miracles.
That being said, I’m not the first one to suggest that the contracts themselves might be all the trade protection these guys need:
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