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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports - Tom Szczerbowski

Should the Canucks Sign Thomas Vanek?

Every summer, TSN 1040 AM hosts a “Presidents Week” where the President of each major sports franchise in Vancouver has an opportunity to join the show for an hour. Yesterday was Canucks President of Hockey Operations Trevor Linden’s turn.

Over the course of the interview, the hosts of the show, Matt Sekeres and Blake Price, asked Linden about just about everything Canucks-related. One thing that stuck out to me was Linden’s admission that the Canucks have discussed adding to their forward corps going into next season, and that the club has already signed two players to professional tryouts.

One player that Linden mentioned by name was unrestricted free agent forward Thomas Vanek. That would make this the second summer that the Canucks have strongly considered signing the 33-year-old sniper. Around this time last year, a News 1130 AM report indicated the Canucks had interest in signing Vanek to a one-year deal before the Detroit Red Wings swooped in to steal the prize.

Playing on a one-year, $2.6-million deal for the Red Wings, Vanek found much of the offence he lost during his time with the Minnesota Wild, scoring 38 points (15 goals and 23 assists) in 48 games before the Florida Panthers picked him up at the trade deadline for a third-round pick. As a Panther, Vanek was far less effective, producing just 10 points in 20 games in their fruitless playoff push.

Suffice to say, the Vanek the Canucks courted this offseason and the one before it in no way resembles the one that Canucks general manager Jim Benning scouted as a member of the Buffalo Sabres all those years back. The familiarity they share probably plays some role, however small, in this connection reoccurring in consecutive summers.

One thing that hasn’t changed with time is the ways (or way, rather) in which Vanek contributes to his team’s cause. Vanek is a one-dimensional player, and he doesn’t appear to be getting any more well-rounded with age. Even in an up-year offensively compared the two prior, Vanek’s GAR (Goals Above Replacement) impact continued to decrease, and his inability to push play or suppress opposition offence played a significant role in contributing his atrophying impact.

If the Canucks are courting Vanek to play in a secondary scoring role with heavy shelter at even strength, that might not be the worst idea on the surface. Vanek’s rate production at even strength still resembles that of a high-end second-line winger, and his raw production matches that of a first line forward.

Furthermore, Vanek, who’s a right shot, could prove a good fit with the Canucks power play on the first unit alongside the Sedin twins. Based on the location of Vanek’s five-on-four shot plot from last season, he tends to occupy the same chunk of ice that Brandon Sutter did for the Canucks on the power play last season. Vanek’s consistently shot above league average, so I’d think it safe to assume he’d provide an immediate upgrade to the Canucks first unit — a unit that couldn’t finish to save their lives last season.

In a prescribed middle-sox role, with linemates who do the heavy lifting when it comes to pushing play, Vanek can succeed in the Canucks lineup in the short-term. That might not be the difference in competing for a playoff spot, but it could serve the Canucks well at the trade deadline if he joins the team on a one-year deal. The Canucks aren’t ripe with rental candidates for the deadline and haven’t an excess of draft picks for next draft. Vanek — or a player like Vanek — would prove a solid contingency to help build that asset base ahead of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

  • apr

    I like it. From all accounts next year is a very solid draft year. If Vanek can pot 40 points, that may be good enough to get a late first pick for him. I also like the idea of Virtanen, Dahlen, Goldobin, Molino, McEwen growing together like Kesler, Burrows, Bieksa. The more depth the better.

  • Killer Marmot

    Last year, when the offense lacked depth, this would have made sense.

    This year, there are a bunch of talented young players and prospects competing for the few forward positions up for grabs. If the Canucks truly want to rebuild, don’t build a log jam of older players that clog up the development pipeline. The Canucks won’t be competing for the cup this year anyway, so let’s see which of these young players belong in the NHL.

  • Isn’t this exactly the role they signed Sam Gagner to play, and doesn’t Gagner have similarly good counting stats and poor shot metrics?

    You can only shelter so many players. I mean, if you can pick up Vanek for $1 million, shelter him so he turns in some decent numbers, and flip him for a pick or prospect at the deadline, go for it, but the Canucks already have a surplus of middle six wingers, including a couple of guys with good shots who get crushed at even strength.

  • Doodly Doot

    Hard to believe Vanek is actually Canuck material. What’s the intention for actually doing this deal? More importantly, what is TL’s motivation for expressing it on air? They want and need the young guys to step up and fight their way onto the roster. Mentioning the interest in Vanek seems as much a ploy to continue to build energy and pressure for an electrifyingly competitive camp as a demonstration to ‘improve the team’. It’s a fact that the team lacks a true ‘new’ core group. Having Vanek on the team would be a colossal waste of valuable minutes desperately needed for this ‘new’ core to grow. It’s all much ado about something else.

  • Kudos to Trevor Linden for lasting the whole two hours. He gives a good interview.

    The message I got is hold the course, be patient, develop the kids, and remain competitive. Call it rebuild or retool, it’s all the same. We now have a respectable prospect pool and management will build on that. Good.

  • Lawd Stanley

    Too many wingers and still no top line center to replace Henrik in the organisation that every team, let alone cup contender needs (Crosby, Toews, Kopitar, Getzlaf, McDavid, Matthews etc) to attain success. Why is this?

      • Lawd Stanley

        Why are you bringing up Backstrom and Giroux who are established number one centers, have you not seen that Elias is playing as a winger for both his club and country?

        Sure this makes sense seeing as his glaring lack of size isn’t going to cut it in the heavy Pacific Division but this is my point, too many wingers on the Canucks and no succession plan at center for Henrik. It’s BS.

      • I think your dismissal of Pettersson is unjustified. I brought up Backstrom because that was the most commonly quoted comparison and Giroux because he has a similar small build. Both are #1 centres, it seems very feasible that Pettersson can reach those levels.

        Discounting an 18 year old kid because he doesn’t compare to elite NHL players in their prime is short sighted and ignores a lot of success stories. The often-quoted Karlsson comparison, you don’t think he can hold his weight in the Pacific Division? What about Clayton Keller? Do you predict that he’s a bust because he’s small? And that doesn’t exclude the fact that Pettersson can still grow and hit the gym. Linden Vey put on about 12 lbs of muscle over one off-season, significant muscle growth and weight gain is not unattainable.

        You fail to recognize that there are depth charts in Sweden and getting Pettersson in at centre may not happen all of the time because he’s so young and small. It’s not surprising to see him be listed on wing. And if you look at his Allsvenskan (where he did play centre with Timra), he’s all over the ice, covering the centre ice quite a bit. You ignored all of the scouts saying he can play centre and wing.

        Finally, to say that a small centre can’t cut it ignores the most obvious exception to your argument, Henrik Sedin himself. 6’2″, 188 lbs, according to your theory, he should never have been able to be the NHL iron man for some time, play over 1,200 games and earn over 1,000 points.

    • Killer Marmot

      Likely because premium first-line centres are, well, at a premium. Most teams do not have even one centre with over 60 points last year. And the Canucks have not had good luck with the draft lottery, and that’s hurt.

      But Horvat is young, and presumably will continue to develop. Petterson stands a decent chance of becoming a top centre, Gaudette an outside chance.

      • Lawd Stanley

        Exactly. We have known for years that Henrik needs a replacement and have had two number five picks and a sixth to secure a first line center into the organisation. We have chosen a 4th liner, a D-man and a winger. This is cr@p drafting and i am tiredof the excuses.Get us a fu-king number one center already through the draft, trade or offer sheet!

        • If you looked at who was available at #5 or #6 from 2014-2016, a centre was not the best player available.

          – In 2014, Nylander was available but was projected to be a winger at the NHL level. Larkin was the next best centre and he was ranked #15-30. There were few good centres in the first round, none in the Top 10 after Reinhart, Draisaitl, and Bennett.

          – In 2015, Canucks drafted Boeser at #23 – are you regretting that choice? Next best players were Konecny, Merkley, Aho…ironically, the players that you hate because, in your own words, their “glaring lack of size isn’t going to cut it in the heavy Pacific Division.”

          – In 2016, same issue with 2014 – next best centres were too much of a stretch at #5 – Keller (too small in your opinion) while Jost, Brown, and McLeod were #10-20 picks.

          • Lawd Stanley

            Appreciate the research but as i said, I am sick of excuses and maybes.

            You are cherry picking info, glossing over stuff (Nylander) and lacking the same imagination as Jim Benning.

            We desperately need a number one center so you make a blockbuster trade to get one (like Ryan Johannsen), or you make a killer deal to move up in the draft (like Burke for the Sedins) or you try an outrageous offer sheet (like Ryan O’Reilly). We did none of this.

            The fact is Nylander ‘was’ available and our scoting staff should’ve known he was good enough to play top line center for us! Dylan Larkin, Robbie Fabbri, Logan Brown, all available and fantastic options to have on our roster regardless of what number they went.

            Last draft Glass, Vilardi, Middlestadt were all true center men available to us who don’t need to put on 40lbs to step up in the Pacific. Time will tell on them.

            Again, where is my number one centerman because it’s not Pettersson, he’s a winger – the Finns know more than you!

          • Cageyvet

            Lawd Stanley is getting ahead of himself, and good rebuttal about the drafting, which should always be best player available with consideration given to positional needs.

            Peterson is the team’s choice to play center, not wing, the angst over this is ridiculous as countless players have played both positions on the way to the NHL and succeeded. He clearly has the skill set and vision, and his frame suggests the whole size thing is a joke, he’ll probably play at 6’1″ and 190+ by the time he’s 23 and entering his prime. Wasn’t it Middlestadt who couldn’t even do 1 pull-up but he’s so much more ready to be a number 1 center? They are kids, and the heavy Pacific Division won’t even look the same when these kids are hitting their stride.

            There’s no quick fix, and complaining from the sidelines about the prospects is the cheapest tactics anyone can use. Today’s early success story can get blown away by the steady progress of another player on a different development curve. 2/3 of the West Coast Express, Naslund and Bertuzzi, were other team’s bust draft picks.

            Only time will tell, but feel free to cast a top talent like Petterson aside before he even laces them up in the NHL. The number of fans who get off on pissing in their own pool never ceases to amaze me.

          • Canucks Realist

            It’s unbelievable how in denial Canucks fans are on this forum. The poster is bang on… a top 4 at centre of
            Nylander or Johansen
            Horvat
            H Sedin
            Sutter
            is damn well good enough to spearhead a playoff team through the middle, and both top liners were available by draft or trade. Good call shame the LinBenning apologists are too ignorant and arrogant to see it!

          • truthseeker

            How would we have traded for Johansen? Did we have a Seth Jones to give up for him?
            What did we have that would have tempted Columbus more than Seth Jones? Come on? Don’t just propose “getting” someone. Tell us HOW we could have?

            And it’s been two seasons since Johansen has even broken 20 goals. 8 million per for a guy who’s scored 14 goals last year. That’s 6 less than Horvat by the way. The year before that he had TWO fewer goals than Horvat.

            This is the guy who’s going to be the savoir of the canucks and your choice for our first line center? Granted he’s still young and has a lot of potential….but how is that your idea of being a Matthews or McDavid? lol…..ridiculous.

            Nylander was 170 pounds when drafted. Talk about hindsight. The canucks needed/wanted size back then because they had none. Many sources had Virtanen ranked as high or higher than Nylander. Some had Nylander higher. Hardly conclusive proof that the canucks messed up the pick UNLESS you use hindsight…which you people seem to do without even realizing it.

            Try a little logic before you post.

          • Bud the Dud

            Let me step in and put truthdreamer in his place… quite simple moron… CHRIS TANEV – you know, ‘the best defender in the league’ *according to you* and seeing as Torts loved him here, they could also throw in a draft pick or two cause y’know he is THAT good, and you know Vancouverite Ryan Johansen is not good enough to be the top line centre on the Stanley Cup finalists yeah. LMFAO Nexxtttttttttt

          • truthseeker

            oooohhhhh…you really think you got me on that one huh? lol…

            Yep Tanev may have gotten that trade done. But he’s probably the ONE guy on the canucks that Johansen wouldn’t be worth. But fine…I’ll give you that one. Let’s say it was a choice between Tanev and Seth Jones…..then Columbus has a choice between a D man in his prime right now and a younger guy with a high ceiling, who while not as good as Tanev defensively is certainly better offensively. So it’s not surprising Columbus would take the younger player considering they weren’t in contention for the cup at that time.

            Well…I guess that just shows Nashville’s lack of center depth then doesn’t it? Ohhhh and he’s a vancouverite…..whoopty doo! You think I care where a guy is from? You think him being from vancouver makes up for him NOT scoring goals? lol….

            14 goals last year. On an awesome team. 14 goals. That’s it. Yeah….he’s really worth Tanev….hahaha…

            Keep working on that logic though…..ONE day maybe you’ll get it. Or maybe not. Who cares….

            Oh and not according to me….it’s according to the shot suppression numbers…but hey…don’t let facts get in your way……you must be a trump supporter huh?

    • truthseeker

      Why is this? It’s pretty obvious isn’t it? Number one C’s don’t just grow on trees.

      Did we have the number one pick to get Crosby?
      Did we have the number one pick to get McDavid?
      Did we have the number one pick to get Matthews?

      I don’t understand people like you who think we should “just get” a number one center. “Just get” a number one D man.

      Where? Propose something tangible. Stop just saying “we need to get a number one C”. Well duh! No kidding we do. It’s not that simple. Teams can’t just “get one”

      Do you think the canucks are NOT trying to get a great center? lol.

    • jaybird43

      Well, the folks you name, three of them were easy #1 picks. Canucks have never had a #1 pick. Toews was picked 3rd, and the Canucks didn’t have a pick until much later. Getzlaf, many teams missed, but the Canucks picked 4 spots later. Kopitar went right after the Canucks pick, defenceman Luc Bourdon, who died a few years after being drafted. So … they generally haven’t been bad enough to get a super high pick. Like #1, for instance. Henrick was a pretty good #3 pick, he did win the scoring title one year. Great #1 centres usually show in Junior (Crosby, McDavid, Matthews (Ok Swiss league, but dominating at 17)), or they go pretty high up. Or they are sleepers like Zetterberg or Datsuk, that a TON of teams pass on. Pettersson looks pretty good, but he’s still just a prospect at this stage.

  • When I heard that Linden was hinting at another UFA signing, I was thinking Brandon Pirri rather than Vanek. Cheaper, younger, better possession numbers (51% Corsi/Fenwick), 57% on faceoffs, and had been averaging 0.47 ppg over the last 4 seasons, excluding last season. One dimensional shooter but if you sign him to a sub-$1M 1 year deal, he can be stashed in Utica and called up as depth.

  • Gregthehockeynut

    My guess is Burmistrov was signed for the suggested secondary scoring / PP role. He is younger and faster and if he can regain the early flashes of success he showed in Winnipeg we can resign or flip him. Vanek plays too soft to be added to an already smallish team. And yes Gagner already is in that role but Eriksson needs to regain his form as well.

  • Foximus

    I’ve been OK with the cost and term of the FA’s they have signed so far. Hopefully a couple of them can be flipped at the deadline for picks. Vanek won’t get us anything. He’s still available for a reason. We need the best draft spot possible if we are ever going to get better. Getting guys to make us marginal as opposed to bad is crazy. Big NO to Vanek.

  • Fred-65

    To many fans deny the obvious. You can sign as many UFA as you like you can speculate about trades and even past draft signings. It means nothing, it’s history and although you should learn from your mistakes it counts for zero in the future. Here’s the question that should be addressed what is the plan for the future.
    (A) Will youth be served or are they considered not quite cooked.
    (B) will an UFA impact on the 2018 draft slot ( ping pong balls aside )

    Of the prospects we have a few have a good chance and some not so much. Few of us actually “know” but simply speculate. But I think it’s fair to say that we have more and better skilled prospects than we have had in the past. I remember all the hype about Cole Cassells by fans and media alike and see how that’s turned out. So they key word is patience.