Though free agents can’t sign with a new club until July 1st, the week-long period that precludes that allows for preliminary discussions to begin between teams and players on the verge of hitting the open market. At least that’s what this window is supposed to allow for. Realistically, it’s tampering season.
So far the Vancouver Canucks have been connected to anyone of circumstance. Most especially Milan Lucic and Steven Stamkos. They’ve also declared their interest in acquiring P.K. Subban — landing themselves in hot water for the trouble. Very little’s been made of the secondary market and the Canucks plans therein, though. Until, of course, the indispensable Canucks Now (who I recommend you follow as soon as yesterday) dropped this nugget connecting the Canucks to Thomas Vanek.
The #Canucks have called the agent of Thomas Vanek to express interest. He is not the No. 1 target, but VAN may circle back to sign him.
— Canucks Now (@CanucksNow) June 27, 2016
Canucks General Manager Jim Benning knows Vanek well. He was with the Buffalo Sabres when they drafted the Austrian winger in 2003, fifth overall. They’ve been separated for a decade-plus since, but surely familiarity abounds in much the same way it did when Benning courted Ryan Miller in the summer of 2014.
The player Benning scouted then and the one he’s entertaining the possibility of reuniting with now are hardly one in the same, though. Vanek, a two-time 40 goal scorer by his 24th birthday, can hardly be relied upon for half that number now. A reality reflected in the Minnesota Wild’s decision to buy out the last remaining season on his contract.
Adding a player that’s good for somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20 goals is nothing to baulk at. Of this much, there is no denying. The problem, and it’s one that’s followed Vanek for his entire career, is that his defensive value is so substantially negative that one might reasonably wonder whether the strong offensive contributions aren’t a near-wash.
In spite of spending much of his time on the flanks of strong two-way centres, Vanek’s 60.2 CA60 ranks 31st worst among forwards with 1000+ minutes of ice-time over the last three seasons. Having played on strong possession teams for much of that span makes it all the more egregious.
If the Canucks value Vanek’s goal-scoring and are willing to suffer the pains at their own end to secure it, it’s certainly a worthwhile gamble. In a prescribed offensive role that allows the Canucks to capitalize on his finishing ability, while limiting the opposition’s opportunities to feast on his flaws, there might value added at a reasonable cost.
A low-term and cost controlled Vanek might not be the worst addition. In fact, it could prove to be a savvy decision that allows the Canucks an expendable trade piece, should they fall out of playoff contention as they close in on the trade deadline.