Between Milan Lucic and Andrew Ladd, we have already devoted a bit of space to potential B.C.-born free agents. Feel free to add another to the list: Vancouver’s own Troy Brouwer.
After a successful playoff where he recorded 8 goals and 13 points as the Blues made it to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001, Brouwer is poised to cash in come July 1st. In a TSN 1040 interview last week, he indicated that re-signing in St. Louis is his main focus. Given that St. Louis is a Stanley Cup contender, and could make another run in Ken Hitchcock’s final season behind the bench, it would be reasonable to assume that Brouwer is being entirely honest. That said, it is still absolutely within the realm of possibility that Brouwer makes it to the open market come Canada Day, and the interview hinted that he might be leaning towards that option. If that’s the case, there is a chance the Canucks may be interested.
When questioned in that same interview about whether or not he would be interested in returning to his hometown, Brouwer called the opportunity “appealing.”
Using data from the last three seasons, we see that Brouwer has been a consistently poor possession player – both individually and in relation to his teammates. This encompasses both his time in St. Louis and with Washington, where Brouwer was only a marginally worse possession player than his teammates in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. However, upon arriving in St. Louis, a strong possession team, his underlying numbers took a downturn. All told, his teams have generally controlled play far better when Brouwer was on the bench than when he was on the ice.
Brouwer brings many of the attributes that hockey minds have traditionally valued. At 6’3, 213 pounds, Brouwer possesses a hulking frame and physical presence. He is solid in front of the net and he is always willing to drop the gloves and stick up for his teammates. He has an excellent shot and a nose for the net that has allowed him to average over 20 goals per season over the last five years. A right-hand shot, he scores many of his goals from high in the slot or close in front of the net with an exceptional release. He is very durable and has missed only one regular season game since 2011. He has won a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010 and, after this last post-season with St. Louis, has seemingly earned himself the reputation of being a “playoff performer.”
Nevertheless, Brouwer is not the most agile of skaters and this is partially reflected in his possession metrics. Defensively, he leaves a lot to be desired, suppressing shots at a borderline 4th line rate. And despite his decent goal-scoring ability, he manages to produce offence at roughly the same rate.
With Radim Vrbata almost assuredly on his way out of Vancouver, the Canucks will likely be looking to add another top-six winger on the right side. Brouwer might appear to fit that bill. After all, he is a right-handed shot who is a consistent threat to net 20 goals every year – and on the Canucks, only Daniel Sedin has averaged more over the last three seasons. Imagining him lining up alongside the Sedins might be a tantalising option, provided Coach Desjardins would utilize him in that role. This has been said before, however, for other players. Recall that the most complementary linemate the Sedins have had over the years was a quick, defensively responsible, and left-shooting player. All things Troy Brouwer is not.
Icing such a young roster, the Canucks will have ample cap space this season. With the playoffs he just completed, Brouwer will likely be expecting a significant raise on his current $3,666,667 cap hit, and possibly some term. Turning 31 in August, this might be Brouwer’s last chance to hit a home run in free agency. Should they want to sign him, the Canucks will likely have the space to afford him. But looking at his overall game, would such a contract bring adequate value?
While Brouwer might find the chance to return to his hometown of Vancouver appealing, he probably would fit better as a complementary player on a contending team (i.e. St. Louis) and not a rebuilding one. At his age, the contract he is likely to sign will probably pose a problem down the road for a team like Vancouver that expects its young players to develop. Although Brouwer is a dependable goal-scorer – something Vancouver desperately needs – his defensive deficiencies would probably offset any offensive benefit his presence in the lineup would provide. He will offer solid scoring depth wherever he signs, but it is probably best for both Brouwer and the Canucks that he does so elsewhere.