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.
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) August 25, 2017
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.
#Canucks have discussed Thomas Vanek and other forwards. May not be done with free-agent signings and have extended two PTOs.
— Matthew Sekeres (@mattsekeres) August 25, 2017
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.
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) June 28, 2016
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.
8 Under-The-Radar Free Agents That Could Be Fits For The Canucks (Part 2) https://t.co/ccD9ULlTUc
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) June 30, 2017
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.