The only fans to react when the Vancouver Canucks signed unrestricted free agent centre Michael Chaput to a one-year, two-way contract last season were those of the Utica Comets. He was to centre their first line, after all.
Here we are a full season later, and your average Comets fan couldn’t pick Chaput out in a line. Last we saw him in Vancouver, Chaput was playing trigger man on the Sedin twins’ right flank. The best-laid plans, and so on.
Mostly, though, Chaput was the Canucks’ fourth line centre last season. And he looked up to the task on most nights, too.
Playing with Brendan Gaunce on his left flank and Jack Skille on his right, Chaput was able to carve out a full-time NHL role for the first time since being drafted six seasons ago. Though Chaput’s line wasn’t the most potent offensively, they controlled roughly 55% of score-adjusted shot attempts together and were almost never scored on themselves.
In the faceoff circle, Chaput won nearly 53% of the draws he took — second to only Brandon Sutter among qualifying Canucks’ centres.
About the best thing one can usually say about a fourth-line centre is, generally, that the time they played was a wash. We can usually live with a fourth line that doesn’t score, so long as they don’t give up a tonne. In that sense, Chaput’s season was a smashing success.
Chaput had a negligible if slightly negative impact on his linemates ability to control five-on-five shot attempts and unblocked shot attempts. Without being able to sort by date on the remaining websites that track underlying shot-based metrics, I’ll never know for certain, but I think his impact was bordering on positive almost right up until his dreadful stint with the Sedins to finish the season — a role Chaput was horribly ill-suited to fill.
On a Canucks’ penalty kill that was porous all season, Chaput had some utility — though I should add that only Bo Horvat had a more negative impact on the team’s ability to suppress unblocked shot attempts down a man. I guess the Chaput’s utility in this role is that he can play the penalty kill, rather than he can play it well. There’s value in that if you’re getting it from a walk-on player on a two-way contract.
Whether Chaput is a Canuck or not next season, I think we’ve seen the last of him as a first liner — even in spot duty. The fact of the matter is that Chaput just doesn’t have much in the way of offensive upside. It was a banner year for Chaput offensively, and he has four goals and assists alike to show for it.
As the Canucks climb to their 50-contract limit, it becomes increasingly unlikely that they’ll bring Chaput back for next season. They’ve already re-signed Jayson Megna (why?), and last we heard they planned to re-sign Joseph Cramarossa (why?). Vancouver’s fast running out of room for fringe fourth liners.
It’s a shame Chaput’s time with the Canucks appears more likely than not to be at an end. A player like Chaput won’t make or break the Canucks next season, but there’s a part for him to play in helping keep the score close and games competitive in limited ice-time.