What we’re going through right now is the calm before the Canucks’ offseason storm. They’re far enough past their season’s expiry that their housekeeping’s finished and everyone is left waiting for the drafts, expansion and entry alike.
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) May 11, 2017
So when Elliotte Friedman mentions the Canucks in passing as someone who, in his estimation, should perhaps consider checking in on Jordan Eberle’s availability, we listen. It’s the closest thing we’ve had to a Canucks’ rumour in what feels like weeks.
I should add, though, that this isn’t a rumour, and Friedman’s language makes that abundantly clear. As the indispensable Chris Nichols of FanRagSports.com details, Friedman only suggests to the hosts of 630 CHED that if he were Vancouver, he would take a look at [an Eberle move]. Friedman even adds that the Canucks probably aren’t interested later in the interview.
Friedman’s reasoning, from the Canucks perspective, is that “they’re really having trouble scoring goals”, and he’s right. Vancouver produced the third-fewest goals this season (sixth-fewest at even strength), and there isn’t a quick fix within the Canucks’ system.
Since joining the NHL for the 2010-11 season, Eberle has scored at a nearly 27 goals per 82 games pace. In this, a down year for Eberle, he potted 20 goals and 31 assists for a 51 point. Those 51 points would trail only Bo Horvat among Canucks’ skaters.
All the same, Eberle faced scrutiny all season for his dipping offensive production and seemingly indifferent attitude. To make matters worse, Eberle did himself no favours with a paltry two assists to show for the Oilers “unforgettable” playoff run. At one point, even, Edmonton Oilers super fan David Staples wrote about the possibility that Oilers head coach Todd McLellan was “furious” with the 26-year-old winger.
— Province Sports (@provincesports) May 2, 2017
As is often the case when a traditionally strong offensive player’s production suddenly drops, Eberle suffered a significantly lower personal shooting percentage this season than his career average. This season, Eberle converted on 9.6% of his shots, whereas his career average is 13.4%.
Since he entered the league, Eberle’s been something of a one-trick pony. His one trick is perhaps the most valuable in the NHL though: he scores goals. When the production dries up as it did this season, though, there’s nothing for a player with Eberle’s skill set to fall back on. Dipping production and a cap hit of $6-million attached to it annually makes him an easy target as a result, rightly or wrongly.
Jordan Eberle is 26 and scored 20 goals in a down year. I'd bet he gets dealt, and at a discount, but doubt EDM is forced to give him away.
— Jonathan Willis (@JonathanWillis) May 11, 2017
That’s going to make Eberle cheaper than he likely should be, as Oilers Nation’s Jonathan Willis points out. That works in the Canucks’, or any other team’s, interest if they want to add the scoring winger.
For the Canucks, though, I don’t think it’s as simple as adding players who can score because, well, they can score.
Eberle turns 27-years-old in time for Monday. That’s doesn’t mean he’s over the hill, but given the average forward peaks between 24 and 26 years of age, it’s worth asking how much longer until he reaches that point.
The Canucks are, in a best case scenario, two to three years away from getting a sniff of the post-season. Eberle is two years away from unrestricted free agency on a deal that costs $6-million against the cap in each season.
Assuming Eberle bounces back, and that’s a reasonable assumption, how many wins does that add in the Canucks’ immediate future? Is it enough to get them to the post-season? And will the inevitable price hike be worth it when he’s crossing into the twilight of his career?
The problem, as I see it, is that acquiring Eberle from the Oilers means putting a band-aid over the Canucks’ goal scoring problems in the short-term so that they’ve the privilege to overpay for his declining seasons when the rest of this team’s core reaches a point where competing is a legitimate possibility.
For most rebuilding franchises, the rule of thumb should be to avoid making significant investments in players past 24-years-old. Eberle is an exceptional goal scorer when he’s on his game. I don’t think he’s an exception to that rule, though.