Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin - USA TODAY Sports

Hiding Gaunce in the Expansion Draft

This past weekend the Canucks signed Jayson Megna to a one-year, one-way contract extension for next season.

I theorized on Twitter, as many others have, that there were expansion draft related reasons behind it. The Canucks need to ensure that they have two players that meet the exposure requirements:

There had been rumblings that Derek Dorsett wasn’t going to meet the requirements as he’s sat with a neck injury for most of the season. But it would’ve required the injury to be considered ‘career-threatening’ to be excluded from the expansion draft. Jason Botchford confirmed with Canucks management that Dorsett is expected to make a return, and will count towards the required exposure thresholds.

Megna meets the requirements, so the Canucks are now meeting these thresholds without any issue. The Canucks could’ve also achieved this by signing pending RFA’s Reid Boucher, Joseph Cramarossa, Michael Chaput or Brenden Gaunce to a new contract.

Now, about that Gaunce who is heading for restricted free agency…

Currently out of the lineup with an injury, he is one of the players analysts often forecast the Vegas Golden Knights as perhaps having interest in drafting. Obviously, every team is going to lose a player through the expansion draft, but it’s important for a team like the Canucks to direct the Golden Knights towards a player they feel is most expendable.

Gaunce has shown well at the AHL level through years of development within the organization. Despite not scoring a goal this year, he’s kept his head above water in a ‘shutdown’ role on the fourth line. Obviously, losing Gaunce isn’t going to be a huge impact to the organization, but still, a player that Canucks management might be loathed to lose.

With Megna signed, he meets the exposure requirements, making Gaunce just another player within the exposed list. Furthermore, there is an important rule for the Golden Knights when it comes to selecting players:

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With Gaunce a pending RFA, without a contract for next season right now, he would fall into the category of a *maximum of 10 players that are without a contract for the 2017-18 season. It’s not a huge difference, but it is something that does play into consideration.

To retain Gaunce’s rights, the Canucks can provide him with a qualifying offer prior to the deadline, then wait to sign him to a new contract after the expansion draft or after July 1. This is fairly standard practice, so the suggestion isn’t outlandish.

By doing so, it forces Las Vegas to use a 10/30 spot instead of the 20/30.

All of this is to say that it makes Gaunce a slightly less desirable choice for Las Vegas for the reasons below:

  • Gaunce hasn’t scored this year
  • Returning from an injury
  • Las Vegas would need to negotiate a new contract, uncertain of cost/expectations
  • Using 10/30 unsigned spot instead of 20/30 signed spot

There is only so much the Canucks can do to help make Gaunce a less desirable selection as they wouldn’t be wise to use a protection spot on him, unless you are part of the #exposesutter movement. But this appears to be the best way possible to direct the Golden Knights away from taking the young centre.

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By deferring signing Gaunce to a contract until the summer, coupled with the reasons mentioned above, the Canucks give themselves the best shot at doing this.

Obviously, losing Gaunce in the expansion draft isn’t the end of the world. He fits the desirable age group the Canucks want to add, has shown well at the NHL and AHL level so far and likely still projects into being a serviceable, cost-controlled depth centre for the foreseeable future.

That’s likely why the Golden Knights management team would be interested in taking Gaunce if the opportunity is available to them.

If the Canucks can direct Vegas away from Gaunce and towards a higher salaried player like Luca Sbisa (or the aforementioned Sutter), then it would provide some beneficial results for Vancouver’s salary structure. I am not suggesting that it will work, but it’s worth a shot.

Expansion draft rules/images taken from here.

  • Expansion draft tricks only go so far. If McPhee were to look at Sbisa, Megna, Dorsett and Gaunce and think about the long-term health of the Knights, Gaunce is the only real option because he is a responsible player with upside, size, youth, cost-control and RFA-status, versatility and leadership. Sbisa, Megna and Dorsett are below-average at best. I’m sure McPhee will realize that Gaunce hasn’t scored because he hasn’t been given scoring opportunities (i.e. fourth line with no PP time). Everyone gets injured and Gaunce hasn’t suffered a serious injury like Dorsett.

    • TC

      Agreed, Gaunce is by far the most desirable of the four players you listed, based on his age. If you look at his development curve, there’s no reason to doubt that he won’t keep improving. He improved every year in junior. He started off slow in the AHL, but by his second year was a leading scorer on the Comets. Now he’s moved up again. It’s taking him time to get his offensive legs under him at the NHL level, but it’s pretty much a guarantee that he will improve his offensive totals with time, especially if he is afforded a bit more opportunity. The other players have nothing to offer to a team that is going to be terrible for the first few years of its existence.

    • Peachy

      Fair comment, but now Vegas has to decide whether or not there are 10 better RFAs not under contract for 2017-2018 that they can grab. In a vacuum Gaunce is selected, and he probably still is, but at the very least it’s marginally less likely.

      And as Biech points out, losing Gaunce isn’t the end of the world, compared with, say, losing Hansen.

    • Kanucked

      How many 4th lines in the league get PP time? My guess is zero. Some players who play on the 4th line might (ie. Sam Gagner), but I think that is rare as well.

      • DJ_44

        While not specific to the names mentioned, fourth liners can get PP time. The usual case is on a talented team, a young, offensively skill but deficient in other areas, forward can be placed on a PP unit. The one that immediately came to mind were Nylander in Toronto (although no longer on the fourth line) and our own Cody Hodgson in Vancouver circa 2010.

  • wojohowitz

    Like the used car salesman said; Sutter is a leader in the room and on the ice. Sbisa will anchor your blue line for years to come. Gaunce could not hit the ocean with the puck if he was standing on the wharf.

    • Sllew

      So Benning gets credit for assembling a team with no depth players that are worth anything?

      That’s why the Canucks won’t lose anyone of much value at the expansion draft. Because they have little of value on their roster.

        • Carl Smith

          He also loses credit for being fined by the NHL for tampering, not knowing how contracts work with Nikita Tryamkin after letting go of Laurence Gilman, etc.

          I can name just as many negatives if not more as there are positive sides to Benning’s moves since he became GM of this franchise. It works both ways.

          The Canucks are still hurting really bad for talent, especially after drafting Jake Virtanen. Placing all the blame for this franchise’s deficits on Gillis is ridiculous.

      • Killer Marmot

        So Benning gets credit for assembling a team with no depth players that are worth anything?

        There was a CanucksArmy article near the start of the season that discussed the many variables behind minimizing the damage. It was clearly not a simple thing, even for the Canucks.

  • Dan B

    I like Gaunce and all, but I think I’d rather protect Boucher over Gaunce. Boucher is only 6 months older, and he scored a lot more in Jr, the AHL, and NHL levels. It’s easier to find a “serviceable, cost-controlled depth centre” than a winger with some goal-scoring talent. Guys like Gaunce come up on waivers a lot more often than guys like Boucher. But whoever they take from us, don’t be surprised if he’s on waivers to start the season anyway.

    • Betty

      Boucher and Gaunce aren’t competing for a protected spot. The only players either could unseat in terms of protection would be Bae, Bo, Sutter or Granlund. (All of whom seem better than either Boucher or Gaunce, right now.)

    • DJ_44

      This brings up an interesting point that I had not considered. Waivers. I assume Vegas has to have a 23-man roster like every other team. Given they not non-waiver eligible players have to be exposed, does that mean at least 7 of the 30 (assuming no trades or injuries) expansion drafted players will be available via waivers prior to season start? The question then becomes is a Sbisa or Gaunce better than the top 7/8 D or 13/14 F that will be taken league wide?

  • sloth

    I can appreciate that they’re trying to make Gaunce a less attractive choice, but I don’t think they’re really hiding him by providing additional, less-attractive, options. Unless the Canucks can convince Vegas to hire Willie D, I don’t think Megna’s availability is gonna change McPhee’s plans.

    Sutter, on the other hand, would be a hard name to pass over to pick Brendan Gaunce…

    In fact, if Vegas would prefer Sutter over Gaunce, could Vancouver offer to expose him in exchange for a draft pick or some other asset, or even the nebulous “future considerations”? I’m not sure how the expansion draft trading rules work, but if possible this would be my ideal situation.

  • DJ_44

    I would honestly think that Sbisa is still the most attractive option for Vegas, but it is a good move by GMJB to place another caveat on selecting Gaunce.

    Exposing a 20 goal scoring Sutter is beyond stupid. If they really want to dump salary and improve over the long term; expose the NTC claused (but not NMC) Edler.

    Two more years at $5M AAV is too tough to take, and all indications are he will not waive his NTC.

    I think Ryan linked an incorrect tweet thread regarding Dorsett (it was about Biega being listed as a forward). In a related question, is there a confirmation process by the league, or and appeal process available to Vegas if they want to challenge a players eligibility (to fill a required condition)?

    • Vegas drafting Sbisa reminds me of trade requests like Dana Murzyn for anything more than a bag of pucks. Sbisa is an overpaid, underperforming depth defenceman. Compare him to other D-men that Vegas can draft: Calvin de Haan, David Savard, Alec Martinez, Mark Pysyk, Paul Martin, Mathew Dumba, Marc Methot, Ben Lovejoy, Nikita Zadorov, Ville Pokka (from this mock draft: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2665339-the-player-every-nhl-team-is-most-likely-to-lose-to-the-expansion-draft). Sbisa is the most convenient draft pick for the Canuck fans and one of the worst choices for Vegas.

      • DJ_44

        Yeah, that list was put together at the end of the season. I am not suggesting Sbisa’s name because I want him to be selected. I am looking at this from Vegas’ prospective. He is a lot better than Canucks fans (well, twitterati) think. Serviceable top 4, definite 5-6. The price is not an issue for Vegas. The names on the list above will not be available (it was compiled preseason).

  • Darkre

    Vegas has 48 hours prior to the expansion draft to negotiate with any exposed RFA’s and UFA’s so the whole point of this article is moot. IF Vegas wants Guance or Boucher they will simply contact their agents and ask how much they want. The only difference is Guance and Boucher can throw a big number at Vegas if they prefer to stay in Vancouver.

    ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun indicates that there’s an additional wrinkle to the expansion draft proceedings:

    Sources told ESPN.com that as part of these fascinating expansion-draft
    rules we keep learning about, the Vegas organization will have a 48-hour
    window ahead of the expansion draft in June to speak with and sign any
    pending unrestricted or restricted free agents whom the 30 teams left
    unprotected for the expansion draft.

    LeBrun noted that if a team loses an RFA or UFA to the Knights prior to the expansion draft, that counts as a player lost in the draft (and so they won’t have anybody else claimed).

    • DJ_44

      So, to be clear, you are asserting that if a teams wants an exposed RFA, Vegas can negotiate and sign the player, and this will not count towards the maximum of 10 unsigned RFA’s? I do not know if this is correct or not. However, it does not make the point of the article moot at all.

      An RFA does not have to accept an offer by Vegas. If it is better than they think they can get from the team, then sure. But if the RFA prefers to stay with their existing team, then they could refuse the offer, although Vegas could still pick them.

      The UFA angle is kinda weird. Why would they want to negotiate with a pending UFA and burn a draft selection rather than just wait for July 1st (and they can speak to them the week prior)?

      • Dan B

        The UFA angle is weird, but it is possible that Vegas takes advantage of it. There have been many teams that have traded low picks for exclusive rights to negotiate with UFAs, and there are a lot of teams that will delay resigning UFAs in order to avoid having to protect them. Vegas might not take advantage of the rights to talk to UFAs, but it’s still in their benefit to have the option.

  • Betty

    I think the author is misreading the expansion rules and using Botchford quoting the Canucks as proof that Dorsett will meet the requirements. I’ll take a heavy money bet we don’t see Dorsett again this season. As for the expansion rules, the NHL can say an injured player can count as exposed but it requires permission. If Dorsett doesn’t come back and play, the Canucks would need to seek league approval. After a neck injury requiring surgey, that seems less likely…

    Anyway, as the article did point out, the Canucks haven’t signed their RFAs, but have signed their expendable UFA. I think the author is right about the 10/30 (and so holding off on signing our RFAs like, Boucher, Cran, Chapooooooo etc makes a lot of sense.)

    Also, minor grammar point, but seeing as you’re writing… “be loathed to lose.” isn’t a thing. Be loathe works. Unless, the Canucks were disliked by other teams for losing Gaunce, but I highly doubt that’s the point of the article.

    • Dan B

      I agree, I don’t think the Dorsett question is so clear-cut. I can’t imagine that it’s enough for the team to just say that they expect him to come back. The NHL rule is missing 60 games with “potential” career ending injuries. I don’t think that there’s any question that Dorsett’s surgery is potentially career-ending. He’s a career 4th liner on the wrong side of 30, and has missed almost an entire season. It’s not like he’s a 1st line player who could lose a step and still be a good 2nd liner. The NHL rule is essentially meaningless if a team can just say “We expect him back” since they have incentive to do so and no downside. So I think the decision would have to rest with the NHL, and I don’t think that they’ve ruled decisively either way on any player. But they might have, and the Canucks might be privy to this. So Megna might stay the only player they’ve signed to meet exposure, or they might know they have to sign someone else.

  • JohnnyCanuck62

    I can only hope that because Brendan Gaunce wasn’t able to score a goal this season that Vegas takes a pass on him, because personally I really liked what I was seeing. The 4th line hasn’t been the same without him. Did any player get more sticks on pucks in lanes to break up plays? Brendan Gaunce is doing everything right except scoring, and his defensive play could really help the PK next year. Potential middle six forward that can still play the middle is where I see him developing and he also has SIZE!
    On this expose Sutter stuff, If you really want to live what the Oiler’s Fans have lived through the last few years than expose him and long live the TANK. But I think we do need some legitimate NHL players on this team and Sutter is definately that.

    • TrueBlueGreen

      I whole heartedly agree. Gaunce is the original prospect from the Gillis era, and I think he’s coming along fine. I see him as a solid 3rd liner as well. Good size, smart, mature, and great on the defensive end. Someone has to help Bo out on PK without Burrows or Hansen. Please please please get rid of Sbisa to Las Vegas, and keep Biega on that 4th line! He’s been one of the best 4th one guys this season.