It was announced yesterday that the Winnipeg Jets and Dustin Byfuglien agreed to a long-term contract extension. Five years at $7.6 Million per for Big Buff. But we are Canucks Army – not Jets Nation – so how does that relate to the team we cover?
Put simply, news of this extension is of the great variety for Canucks fans as it relates to potentially moving pending unrestricted free agent Dan Hamhuis. Suddenly the Canucks arguably have the best rental defenceman on the market.
The image above shows the pending unrestricted free agents on the blue line (c/o General Fanager).
Looking at the list, it’s relatively clear which pieces will or won’t be in play. At the top is Brian Campbell, who likely won’t be moved given his heavy workload on the Atlantic Division leading Florida Panthers – cross him off the list. Keith Yandle was acquired by the New York Rangers last year to put them over the top; it hasn’t worked, but with Ryan McDonagh on the shelf with a concussion, the chances of the Blue Shirts moving Yandle are low.
Byfuglien just got paid. He isn’t going anywhere. Alex Goligoski plays first pairing minutes for the Dallas Stars, who look poised to make the playoffs. Dallas would be looking to acquire a defenceman, not move one. *cough Hamhuis *cough*.
Though the Tampa Bay Lightning’s struggles on and off the ice are well documented, they remain a contending side in the Eastern Conference. Don’t see them cutting ties with Braydon Coburn given the circumstances. Last but not least (thanks to Nikitin), Kyle Quincey. He is in the same boat as Coburn. Detroit Red Wings are in the playoff hunt, so it’s very unlikely that they would move him.
On the peripheries are a few lower profile defenders – Roman Polak comes to mind – but for the most part, we’ve covered the best and most highly coveted defencemen available.
Which brings us to Dan Hamhuis. By default, Hamhuis is the best rental option on the market.
On the one hand, Hamhuis is just returning from a 21-game absence facilitated by a Dan Boyle slapshot to the jaw. Depending who you ask, Hamhuis hasn’t enjoyed the most successful season either. There is, however, definitely a case to be made that Hamhuis is suffering the side effects of playing on an objectively horrible roster.
It’s worth mentioning though that Hamhuis was one of Vancouver’s better players on Saturday against the Calgary Flames. Based on Hamhuis’ play historically, we should also be able to expect him to be a dependable, play driving and chance limiting defender down the stretch. So-so year or otherwise, it doesn’t take away from his plus value on a shrinking rental market for contending teams looking to go over the top.
The Canucks just played 21 games without him, so missing him for the final 21 games after the deadline isn’t much of a difference.
This space has long been used to advocate prudent management skills and liquidate their expiring contracts for futures. Regardless where your underlying long-term vision stands for this franchise, the time is now for the Canucks to be on the extortionist side of the trade deadline. Now that Hamhuis is – in theory – the best available rental defencemen available, the Canucks would be fools not to capitalize on this.
Even if you foresee a future with Hamhuis on the Canucks blue line, it’s not like there isn’t a precedent for that to happen. Look at what the Arizona Coyotes did with Antione Vermette. The Coyotes moved Vermette to a contender, he got his cup then re-signed with the Coyotes on the cheap.
There is the stumbling block of Hamhuis’ NTC.
The thing with Hamhuis, are we sure he’d waive that NTC? Don’t believe he wants to. #canucks got Garrison to do it.
— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) February 8, 2016
Perhaps there’s some appeal to the Canucks pulling something similar to the Coyotes-Vermette with Hamhuis.
He could only be away for 2-3 months, then return to his normal summer home and re-sign with the Canucks on July 1st. Hopefully, signing the contract with a new blingy impediment on the hand of his choice. Hell, whether you love Hamhuis or not – even as I will gladly admit I do – this seems like a best-case scenario for everyone involved.
The Canucks general manager, Jim Benning, has said multiple times recently that Canucks management will wait and see where the Canucks are closer to the deadline and make a decision from there.
Canucks GM Jim Benning remains in non selling mode “for the moment.” Entire Scouting staff huddled up in town next week.
— JAY JANOWER (@DOUBLEJGLOBALBC) February 8, 2016
It’s probably not the route I take in his shoes, but I can understand their reasoning as the Canucks were only a handful of points from a playoff spot and had a fairly easy slate of competition level leading up to the deadline. However after dropping games to Pittsburgh, Nashville, Columbus and Calgary, it has become clear to a growing majority of fans, that making the playoffs is a reach and if they did, it wouldn’t last long.
If the Canucks can find a way to capitalize on the inflated value this short window has afforded them to extract on fleeting assets, they’re likely better for it for years to come. There’s the matter of the futures brought into the fold, along with the incoming cap space, laying the foundation for this team to return to the playoffs as early as next season.
There are only a few roadblocks in the way like an NTC, losing some games and making the decisions. Or maybe it never happens as the Canucks feel that retaining Hamhuis is a better course of action. But it appears that the Canucks are finally in getting into a position to make these moves. The Canucks will be better for it in the long run.