On the Vancouver Canucks Reported Interest in Thomas Vanek

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.

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. 

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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.

  • TheRealPB

    Can you please clarify a little bit about the weakness you see in Vanek relative to the ways in which Minnesota fans are seeing this? Here’s one take:

    http://www.hockeywilderness.com/2016/6/24/12027760/thomas-vanek-buyout-bought-out-minnesota-wild-chuck-fletcher-nhl-draft-2016

    It suggests that Vanek is not nearly as poor either offensively or defensively as he’s been portrayed. I definitely don’t think he’s worth the money he was being paid but I think this is along the lines of Burrows (they save 5 million this year but add 2.5 million next year). You could say that paying a 31-year-old Vanek $6.5 million after a 41-point season is not a good idea. But is paying a 31-year old Parise $7.5 million after a 53 point season that much better (I realize the contracts are totally different).

    I still don’t think we should sign Vanek but I think it would be irresponsible for Benning not to kick the tires on a bunch of these guys.

      • JuiceBox

        I’m torn between which is the lesser of 2 evils, a player like Vanek signed to a 1 or 2 year contract versus a Ladd/Lucic/Eriksson 7 year contract.

        Forget the high-profile UFAs. Too expensive and mostly too old for a long-term contract. Eriksson would be great, but every other club thinks so too.

        Take a shot at a restricted free agent who is in his mid twenties and who can reasonably deliver 20 to 30 goals a season. Someone like Braydon Schenn in Philadelphia.

        The Canucks have $10 million in cap space and a fully signed roster. They might be able to bully the Broad Street Bullies off of a major talent.

          • JuiceBox

            Brayden Schenn is massively overrated.

            Schenn…

            1. Is 24 years old and 6’1″ tall.

            2. Has missed only two regular season games over the last three years, meaning he is not injury prone.

            3. Had 26 goals and 33 assists last year. If he had done that on the Canucks roster he would have been 2nd in points production after Daniel Sedin.

            4. Greatly improved his neutral zone and defensive play in the 2nd half of last year, so that he became one of the Phillies best players in that regard. Looks like he got some good coaching.

            5. Has a superb shot but doesn’t shoot as much as he should. Maybe that can be fixed.

            In what way is he “massively overrated?” Was his 59 points “overrated”?

          • Ho Borvat

            I don’t mind Schenn either but you can’t say he’d get similar numbers here. Canucks are rebuilding and the young guys may not have been able to help him out.

            I would definitely add this guy on a buy low basis. He’s worth the gamble.

          • Neil B

            I don’t mind Schenn either but you can’t say he’d get similar numbers here. Canucks are rebuilding and the young guys may not have been able to help him out.

            I’d pair him with Sutter to form two-thirds of a sound second line, something the Canucks are desperately in need of if they are to compete next season.

            I would definitely add this guy on a buy low basis.

            Go low won’t do it. The Flyers would match it in an instant. If the Canucks want a shot at making the playoffs, they are going to have to spend some money.

            But I`m not saying Schenn is the only way to go. But someone like him is.

  • JuiceBox

    The Canucks should seriously be looking at taking a run at Troy Brouwer.

    Born in Vancouver, he would provide veteran leadership, he is of excellent character on and off the ice, he is a hard working two-way winger with consistent 20-goal production – everything this management team is looking for in it’s players and he will be way more affordable than Erikson or Lucic.

    He would be a great addition to this team.

    • Neil B

      You forgot something: he’s he is a hard working two-way winger with consistent 20-goal production who can take (and win) draws, saving wear & tear on Hank’s back.

  • JuiceBox

    I would not be terribly upset at this move if Benning missed with top free agent forwards because they all wanted term. Unless its Stamkos or maybe Oksposo, no way you give Lucic, Erickson, or Ladd over 5 years.

    Anyone see the list of players not qualified? Connolly, Colburne, Percy, Bennett, Tinordi Pirri and a lot of good talented players, many of which are former first rounders. Must be nice to be GMs in those markets. Benning lets go a marginal 5th round young d-men and he’s lambasted for asset management – these GMs give up on first round talent and its mimosas for everyone.

  • pheenster

    Vanek will be looking for a “prove you still belong in the league” type of deal, most likely, after being bought out of a long term contract. Those aren’t bad deals for a team in the Canucks’ position to be signing, basically someone to shore up the scoring a little while we wait for younger players to fill those roles (whether we have stocked up on enough young players to realistically build our scoring depth from within is a question for another day). Vanek for a couple of seasons at a lower rate would be far preferable to throwing a long term boat anchor contract at someone like Lucic or Eriksson in my opinion. Of course, if we could get a bona fide superstar like Stamkos, it’d be worth the bigger money it would take, but selling Stamkos on the west coast, to a team clearly not seriously ready to contend, will be very challenging.

  • Hockey Warrior

    Greetings Canuckleheads – how was that draft again? (ahem)

    Now, with the FLAMES absolutely annihilating us in the off season so far under the expert tutelage of Pat Quinn protege and CUP WINNER (with ANAHEIM) BRIAN BURKE (Brian ‘worldy’ Elliot, Tkachuk, Chaisson with plenty more to come and DOUBLE our cap space), the Ca-sucks should be willing, nae DESPERATE, to welcome ANY player who can kickstart an anemic offence that finished WORST in the NHL at MINUS 52 GOAL DIFF, a team that at present will see us back in the Pacific basement alongside AZ next term.

    While LOOCH, McGINN and/or OKPOSO remain MY top targets (Stammer is gone, PK is going nowhere) a player like VANEK with NINE 20 plus goal seasons, elite size and skating ability would be a no-brainer for us elite hockey minds to accept… alas on this blog of SHAME where NO ONE is good enough, brains are few and far between – thankfully though they aren’t relevant to any REAL hockey decisions so YES, THOMAS VANEK you are welcome on MY TEAM any time soon! HELPPPPPPPP

  • JuiceBox

    As long as it’s a one year “prove it” deal for reasonable money (nothing over $3 million, would prefer $2 million or less), I see no downside in signing Vanek to try to add a little bit of scoring to our team. As mentioned, if he’s good but we’re still out of the playoffs, he becomes a trade piece at the deadline that would allow us to add another pick or young player (or both!).

  • Neil B

    Oops. Here’s a readable version.

    I don’t mind Schenn either but you can’t say he’d get similar numbers here. Canucks are rebuilding and the young guys may not have been able to help him out.

    I’d pair him with Sutter to form two-thirds of a sound second line, something the Canucks are desperately in need of if they are to compete next season.

    I would definitely add this guy on a buy low basis.

    Go low won’t do it. The Flyers would match it in an instant. If the Canucks want a shot at making the playoffs, they are going to have to spend some money.

    But I`m not saying Schenn is the only way to go. But someone like him is.

  • Cageyvet

    It will be interesting to see how it plays out, shorter-term deals on some second-tier talent wouldn’t be the worst move.

    Truthfully, the high point of all these comments was seeing Hockey Warrior finally crying out for the help he so desperately needs!