Photo Credit: Eric Hartline of USA Today Sports
For the Vancouver Canucks, no need was greater than that of their offence which combined for a 29th worst 2.27 goals-per-game last season. Signing Loui Eriksson to a six-year, $36-million contract is a step in the right direction. Perhaps not enough to buttress their attack to among the league’s best, but enough to make them competitive in the interim.
Eriksson, 30, can contribute anywhere from 20-30 goals in any given season. Of this much, there is no doubt. Beyond that, Eriksson’s consistently driven the run of play with a two-way game that is the envy of many a forward. The Canucks are getting their money’s worth. At least for the first few seasons.
Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. Though, to the Canucks credit, they’re in a better position than most to make that gamble. Eriksson’s played with the Sedin’s. Hell, he’s played for Willie Desjardins in Dallas and even been acquired by Jim Benning before in Boston. They know what they’re getting themselves into, but for those of us that don’t, I’ll unpack what the Canucks have hitched their wagon to.
We’ve already covered the basics about Eriksson’s contract, but it’s by no means a ‘basic’ deal. Like many a contract signed yesterday, Eriksson’s is heavily bonus laden and comes with no-movement and no-trade protection. Though you could maybe stomach a buyout in the final year of Eriksson’s deal, it’s virtually impossible to justify in years one through six.
$28 mil of Eriksson’s $36 mil total is paid in signing bonus. No move first 2 yrs, no trade next 2 and ltd no trade in final two yrs.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 1, 2016
Eriksson salary pays $1 mil in first 5 years and $3 mil in final year. SB goes $7mil,$7mil,$6mil,$4mil,$3mil and $1 mil. Guaranteed.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 1, 2016
I’m no expert at interpreting the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but based on my interpretation of the ruling, the Canucks would only be able to save just north of $500,000 against the cap for each year of Eriksson’s buyout, up to year five, if they were to buy Eriksson’s contract out in any year prior to year six. In the event that they buy out the final year of Eriksson’s contract, they’ll save $2-million for that season and take on an additional cap charge of $1-million the next.
Though there’s no way the Canucks can justify buying him out until year six — and remember, this is just a worst-case scenario — it’s important to note that the low salary associated with Eriksson’s deal will make it very appealing to internally budget franchises looking to reach the salary floor. Eriksson’s salary in years five and six are a palatable $4-million. And depending on the date of any hypothetical trade, that number can be cut significantly by the Canucks’ timing the deal so that they’re the ones paying Eriksson’s bonus.
Eriksson’s contract is unique and carries with it a set of logistical hurdles that could prove nightmarish in the event of a worst-case scenario — a possibility that’s worth considering given his concussion history, which includes two such occasions over a relatively short time in Boston.
I wouldn’t be so bold as to suggest that Eriksson’s agent took the Canucks to the cleaners, though. My original sources indicated that the Canucks might be looking at a deal that paid Eriksson closer to $6.7-million annually. If making these concessions — be they in the form of bonuses or no-move and no-trade protection — are the cost associated with shaving dollars off the annual average value then they could prove prudent when the Canucks are in their competitive window again.
Eriksson is probably the most consistently underrated forward of the last decade. Though he doesn’t have any one elite skill, the sum of his parts makes for a very enticing package. Since 2010, Eriksson’s tied with five skaters as the 88th most prolific point producer at even-strength. One such skater is Alex Ovechkin. It’s a much more impressive accolade than it appears at first glance.
And while Eriksson’s even strength offence is certainly nothing to baulk at, his ability to consistently tilt the ice towards the opposition’s net is his single greatest skill. Since the dawn of the Behind the Net Era in 2007-08, Eriksson’s amassed just two seasons in the red by standard possession metrics on relatively weak Dallas Stars’ sides.
Which brings us to why Eriksson will fit so incredibly well alongside the Sedins. It’s not just a matter of Eriksson being able to feed off their creativity and reap the rewards offensively. It all starts in the Canucks zone, where Eriksson will look to bring an added element of defensive impact the Canucks top line has lacked without Alexandre Burrows these last few seasons.
The Twins remain elite offensive forwards, but their ability to suppress the opposition’s offence has been in steep decline for three seasons. Not only by raw underlying metrics, but relative ones as well. That their relative Corsi against per sixty has been on a steep incline for three seasons in which the Canucks weren’t particularly stout defensively is a distressing reflection of their ageing and one Benning was wise to address.
Eriksson is suffering no such ills at this stage in his career. In fact, one could reasonably argue that he’s in the midst of his prime as a two-way player. His relative defensive impact might suggest he’s on par with the Sedins, but that’s likely not the case. Eriksson’s primary centre in Boston was Carl Soderberg. This means that much of his relative defensive value is being accounted for relative to players that are skating alongside Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. In Vancouver, where there’s nowhere near that calibre of player beyond the top line, Eriksson’s relative numbers should be considerably better.
Bringing Eriksson into the fold on a contract that will pay him $6-million into his age 37 season isn’t likely to appease rebuild-frenzied Canucks fans. These types of moves are usually reserved for contending clubs, looking to add that one final piece to get them over the top. For the Canucks though, getting over the top means making the playoffs next season and, ideally, every one after that. In that context, the Eriksson signing was a savvy decision.
It’s fair to wonder, though, just how well their prized acquisition will age. The hope is Eriksson will age like a fine wine. Much of what we’ve learned though suggests they’re far more likely to have a year’s worth of vinegar occupying a $6-million chunk of their cap. The Canucks are better, sure. It’s just a question of how much longer Eriksson makes them better.