At the end of any team’s season, there are the inevitable questions around who will stay and who will go. However, when you have an aging core, a nasty cap situation, and a GM who both loves draft picks and isn’t afraid to make moves, there is really only one guarantee going into the offseason: change is coming (again).
There has been a lot of speculation in the Vancouver media over the course of the last couple days, probably best summed up by Jason Botchford in The Provies, who suggested the Canucks move a number of players this offseason, including the rights to Shawn Matthias and Yannick Weber, as well as Kevin Bieksa, Chris Higgins, and potentially Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen.
Given the Canucks cap situation, it seems likely that Benning will be looking to move core players in exchange for draft picks, rather than taking players back in return, so I thought I’d look at trades made over the past few years for players similar to who the Canucks have to offer.
The Rights to Shawn Matthias
Shawn Matthias is big and he can score goals. In fact, he was in the top 40 in the league for both even-strength goals and goals per 60 minutes at even strength. It’s a weak UFA crop this year, and at 27 year old, this is his opportunity for a David Clarkson contract. Given Vancouver’s cap situation, the Canucks really aren’t in a position to re-sign him, so it makes sense for Benning to try to move his rights for a pick. Here is a list of trades made for pending UFAs over the past three seasons:
|June 28, 2011||Christian Ehrhoff||NYI||4th round pick||VCR|
|June 29, 2011||James Wisniewski||CBY||5th round pick||MTL|
|June 29, 2011||Christian Ehrhoff||BUF||4th round pick||NYI|
|June 29, 2011||Steve Montador||CHI||7th round pick||BUF|
|June 23, 2012||Jonas Gustavsson||WPG||7th round pick||TOR|
|June 27, 2012||Dennis Wideman||CGY||5th round pick+ b prospect||WSH|
|June 6, 2013||Sergei Gonchar||DAL||6th round pick||OTT|
|June 12, 2013||Mark Streit||PHI||4th round pick + b prospect||NYI|
|June 5, 2014||Dan Boyle||NYI||5th round pick||SJS|
|June 14, 2014||Louis Leblanc||ANA||5th round pick||MTL|
|June 25, 2014||Nikita Nikitin||EDM||5th round pick||CBJ|
Market Value: As we can see, most deals for UFAs of comparable pedigree to Matthias were 5th round picks. Anything better than that would be a really nice win for Jim Benning.
To look at comps for a Bieksa trade, I looked at defensemen traded since 2011 over the age of 30, who were playing at least third pairing minutes (17 min/gm) with similar cap hits and remaining contract terms to Bieksa:
|Age as of Trade||Transaction Date||Acquiring Team||Player||Team||Compensation|
|31||2011-06-24||TOR||John-Michael Liles||COL||2nd round pick|
|33||2013-03-25||PIT||Douglas Murray||SJ||2 x 2nd round picks|
|34||2011-07-05||BOS||Joe Corvo||CAR||4th round pick|
|37||2012-02-17||NSH||Hal Gill + 5th round pick||MTL||2nd round pick + two low grade prospects|
|35||2012-02-24||NJ||Marek Zidlicky||MIN||Kurt Foster, Nick Palmieri, Stephane Veilleux, 2nd, 3rd|
|30||2012-02-27||CHI||Johnny Oduya||WPG||2nd & 3rd round picks|
|36||2012-06-22||NYI||Lubomir Visnovsky||ANA||2nd round pick|
|34||2013-04-03||SJ||Scott Hannan||NSH||6th or 7th round picks|
|35||2014-07-01||COL||Brad Stuart||SJ||2nd & 6th round picks|
Market value: There’s a bit more fluctuation on this list, with Minnesota and San Jose receiving big hauls for Zidlicky and Murray, both of which were deals made close to the trade deadline. On the other end of the spectrum, Carolina and Nashville didn’t receive much in the way of compensation at all for Joe Corvo and Scott Hannan. When you strip out the outliers on either side, the market value seems to be a 2nd round pick plus either a lower pick or a low grade prospect.
Now, there is a bit of variability to consider here in the case of Bieksa. On the one hand, he still has a good reputation in the league as both a leader and a physical player, potentially increasing his value somewhat. On the other, he does have a no-trade clause which could either limit the list of potential trade partners (as it did in the Kesler scenario), or put a kibosh on a trade altogether.
If Bieksa does go, which wouldn’t surprise me at all given the need the Canucks have for his cap space, Benning will likely get a 2nd in return, plus either a late round pick or a second grade prospect. If he can improve from that, then all the better.
Jannik Hansen and/or Chris Higgins
Similar to the process above for Bieksa, I looked at players similar to Hansen and Higgins, in terms of age, production, and ice time:
|Age as of Trade||Transaction Date||Acquiring Team||Player||Team||Compensation||DOB||GP||G||A||PTS||TOI|
|32||2012-01-20||NJ||Alexei Ponikarovsky||CAR||4th + b prospect||09-Apr-80||82||14||19||33||15|
|32||2012-02-16||SJ||Dominic Moore + 7th||TB||2nd||03-Aug-80||79||4||21||25||16|
|27||2012-02-27||NSH||Andrei Kostitsyn||MTL||2nd + 5th||03-Feb-85||72||16||20||36||15|
|34||2012-02-27||VCR||Samuel Pahlsson||CBG||2 x 4th + b prospect||17-Dec-77||80||4||13||17||15|
|30||2012-02-27||NSH||Paul Gaustad + 4th||BUF||1st||03-Feb-82||70||7||14||21||15|
|30||2013-04-02||VCR||Derek Roy||DAL||2nd + a prospect||04-May-83||42||7||21||28||19|
|31||2013-04-02||NYR||Ryane Clowe||SJ||2 x 2nds, + 3rd||30-Sep-82||40||3||16||19||17|
|30||2015-02-25||PIT||Daniel Winnik||TOR||2nd, 4th, prospect||06-Mar-85||79||9||25||34||17|
|27||2015-02-25||WPG||Jiri Tlusty||CAR||3rd, 6th||16-Mar-88||72||14||17||31||16|
|33||2015-02-28||CHI||Antoine Vermette||ARI||1st, prospect||20-Jul-82||82||13||25||38||18|
|32||2015-03-01||WSH||Curtis Glencross||CGY||2nd, 3rd||28-Dec-82||71||13||22||35||16|
Market Value: In terms of outliers, we see Carolina show up twice more in terms of teams that didn’t seem to get market value for their assets (Ponikarovsky in 2012, and Tlusty this year), while on the other end of the spectrum New York, Nashville and Chicago paid hefty prices for the services of Ryane Clowe, Paul Gaustad and Antoine Vermette, although the later is probably justified given Chicago’s cup ambitions.
When you filter out these deals, it again looks like the consensus for a player like Higgins or Hansen would likely fall around a 2nd round pick.
Where Do We Go From Here?
As reported this past weekend, the salary cap is currently projected to be $71.5M next year, which by my math eaves the Canucks with only $4.86M in space to fill the remaining 6 roster spots. We can assume some those spots will go to RFAs like Linden Vey, Yannick Weber, Sven Baertschi, Frank Corrado, Adam Clendening, and Ronalds Kenins, but at an average of only $0.8M per open roster spot, the Canucks don’t have a ton of latitude when re-signing these guys. Using Jake Virtanen and/or Hunter Shinkaruk doesn’t make their situation any easier, as their cap hits with bonuses are $1.775M and $1.1M, respectively.
Any way you slice it, something has to give. Benning will need to clear cap space, and the assets he has to trade will likely net him a handful of mid-round draft picks. Maybe the Canucks should scout for players available in the second round after all.