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WWYDW: Mikael Backlund?

Just before the trade deadline, the Calgary Flames and pending unrestricted free agent centre Mikael Backlund agreed to a six-year contract extension valued at $5.35 million a season.

Now, why does that matter if you’re a Canucks fan? Because if Backlund didn’t sign that extension, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes he would’ve been a player that the Canucks would’ve tried to sign this summer.

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Here’s Friedman’s thought on the matter, from last week’s 31 Thoughts article on Sportsnet:

10. I think Vancouver was disappointed Mikael Backlund re-signed with the Flames. He was going to be a Canuck target.

That’s something. I’ll say this much — I’m a big believer in Backlund’s game, and think that he’s an absolute steal at $5.35 annually even if the term is a bit rich. For a team with dreams of contention, that’s a great contract to have on the books.

What about the Canucks though? Is there a fit? I can’t say for certain. I lean towards avoiding players like Backlund in free agency and going after cheaper veterans on one-year deals that can be flipped for picks at the deadline. I don’t hate the idea either though.

Last week I askedFor your thoughts on the Canucks activity at the trade deadline

Forever 1915:

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By transforming two offseason free agent signings into prospects, he got something for nothing. Ironically, that’s what the “fanbase” wanted because of his inaction with Vrbata and Hamhuis. Yet it’s not good enough because he should have got “draft picks”. If the Snakes on a Plane box office failure has taught us anything, the online community is vocal but don’t know jack squat.


As a one-off it’s not a complete disaster of a deadline. The loss of a potential 3rd round pick for Vanek is not going to make or break the Canucks future. The problem is that its been four years of this regime unable or unwilling to be bold in this ‘rebuild’. It seems like a breaking point for so many fans because it’s the same story over and over. The Rangers went extreme but, as many people have said, they did more proactive moves in the span of a week than Benning and co have done in 4 years. This myth that Canuck fans couldn’t handle a rebuild is such BS.

Here’s a good question for people to answer: What’s the boldest/most proactive move this regime has ever made to move this team forward? I’d say the Hansen trade maybe…but they were losing him to the expansion draft anyways. It’s really hard to think of any.


I wasnt expecting much for our trashcan garbage players.
Was hoping that maybe Granlund would have been added to Vanek trade, bit woth season ending injury, that hope went out the window.
Buffalo ran into the same problem as we did trying to move garbage players like Gorges and pouliot.
Nobody wants or is willing to give up a pick for these types of players. It appears they are willing to give up reclamation projects/small speedy guys is the going currency for these types of player trades.

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I am Ted:

They gave up very little and got a bit more in return. The Canucks didn’t surprise me. I thought Vanek might’ve gotten them a 3rd but clearly that wasn’t on the table. Most of the insiders say this was a buyer’s trade deadline. So, I am not too upset over the minimal type moves made by the Canucks.

Benning et al seem to be afraid of making bold and significant moves. As a result, they get fringe prospects in return. It’s the calling card of this front office. They had the opportunity to get 1st overall the year of the Matthews draft (I believe they finished 6 points ahead of the Leaves after Canucks swept California). Imagine if they dealt Hamhuis at that deadline and maybe shut down some injured players – we may have had Matthews or Laine. Anyway, maybe this draft day they’ll deal Tanev or Edler.

Does anyone know how strong this draft is expected to be? If it’s a weak one then deal Edler and/or Tanev for picks the following year (when we host the draft).

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My thoughts:
1. I wish I drank because I could really use a drink right now.
2. This team is going to be terrible for the next decade.
3. I’m hitching my bandwagon to the Leafs. That’s how you rebuild a team that’s lost in the wilderness.

Killer Marmot:

Trading Holm for Leipsic was fine. The Canucks had 12 (!) left-shooting defensemen under contract, and somebody had to go. May as well trade someone moderately good so you get a player with the true potential in return, and I think Benning did a good job of that.

Vanek for Motte and Jokinen is more controversial, but for all we know that was the best offer on the table. I would have preferred a 2nd or 3rd round draft pick for 2018, but Motte was a highly rated prospect for Chicago just 18 months ago, and he’s certainly better than a late-round pick. I’m keen to see what he looks like on the ice.


My issue with the trade deadline, is not so much what they did; rather what they didn’t.

Since players peak around 24, then in my opinion, the majority of the team will be past their peak when Boeser and Bo peaks, and we don’t have enough players in the system coming up, unless we have a 100% hit rate (300% for defencemen) to support them.

The lack of will to move out current key pieces for futures leaves me genuinely concerned that we will waste Boeser and Bo and have to do a second (first?) rebuild.

From that perspective I believe management failed to have a passing grade deadline.

  • Sandpaper

    I have to agree with JD on the 1 uear sign and flip, if we are to sign any free agents.
    This team is still a couple years away from being in playoff contention, let’s not get another albatross contract like Erickson.

        • Cageyvet

          Except his production for the 3 years prior was not much different, 48 in 68 last year, 41 in 74 and 52 in 80, but he was still on the shelf for months as a free agent who cost other GM’s nothing but a contract. To ignore this and claim it’s a poor sell job is not recognizing reality. He may be worth more than we got, but not in the opinion of the only people who mattered, the ones you have to cut the deal with, real GM’s, not the armchair variety.

        • RobG

          Good players, players that other teams are willing to give up assets for, don’t need to be “sold” their on ice performance does the selling for them. GM’s will fall all over themselves to get good players at the TDL. JB’s lack of return on the expiring contract says more about the quality of player being traded than it does about JB’s ability to sell it. You can’t put lipstick on a pig and call it a unicorn.

    • Nuck16

      Yes, but if we’re going to do this let’s overpay for players that other teams will actually want at the deadline, then eat half there salary in the trade if necessary.

  • Killer Marmot

    I would avoid signing any big-name forward UFAs right now, with the possible exception of one-year contracts with the Sedins.

    The Canucks have a bunch of excellent forward prospects on the verge of making it. Let’s see how that pans out over the next two years. Signing major contracts would only limit the Canucks’ options and block prospect development.

    Defense. That’s where the deals need to be made, particularly if a highly ranked D can not be drafted in June.

    • truthseeker

      I agree.

      For me it’s not like Backlund wouldn’t be a decent signing and even at 6 years which takes him to 34 he’d probably be as productive with only a minimal drop off then you can let him go. There are too many here who take their “players decline after they turn 18 ” charts (sarcasm people, cause some idiot’s going to take that seriously)

      But like you, it just doesn’t seem like a good fit for the way the team is trending.

  • I like Backlund a lot, but I don’t see how he fits with the Canucks. Assuming the Sedins come back for another season and at least one of Petterson and Gaudette make the jump, where does he slot in the lineup? Why is an ostensibly-rebuilding team looking at signing a 28-year-old UFA centre to a long-term contract?

    The only way signing Backlund makes sense is if the team has a trade partner for Sutter AND they’re not planning to re-sign Henrik, but even then, it’s not a move that a team that’s currently bottoming-out should do.

  • myshkin

    it would be interesting if you could come up with a stat/analytic showing what percent of long term free agent contracts give the team signing them buyer’s remorse in each year of the contract. i would imagine that it would be very high in the last 2 years of the contract. or maybe even by the 2nd year.

  • apr

    I can understand where rumours come from given Weisbod connection, and Baertschi and Granlund. Perhaps if Henrik retired. I just think that its gotten overblown – and Nucks were just doing due diligence on all centres available. I would have been disappointed if they did not put the work in and did due diligence. Really, nothing to see here.

  • KCasey

    So in lue of this theory of needing every player, or at least most of our players peaking at the same time, dare I ask the question of precedent. Perhaps even one team in the history of the NHL that has had 75-100% of its roster in the 24-28 age gap. If there was actually a team with this criteria, how well did they fair against the tried and true method of building a roster out of players that just simply produce and mesh together. And by no means am I saying that this method cant work, just curious if its actually ever been done. Also a curious point to note, the only teams that can presumably construct a competitive roster of this make up would be rebuilding teams who have several years of top picks and/or an insane quantity of picks, which would imply that they have never made the playoffs and therefore non of these now peaking players have that experience under there belt. Whats more is theres no guarantee you make the playoffs even with a high producing roster (see Chicago and quite possibly Calgary). This means at peak year 24 they may miss the playoffs (most likely not but possible) or make the playoffs and face what would probably be an early exit. Peak year 25 they have more experience and can almost guantee a playoff birth. Make it an extra round or two and get dropped. You now only have a few last years of ‘peak’ to seal the deal and go all the way before not just some but your entire roster is in decline. This places you in a postion to start back at scratch and reset and try and replicate another ‘peaking’ roster. Essentially from what I can gather, it seems like your spending 6-8 years of building to open a 2-3 year window of actually being a true contender and than the whole cookie crumbles in the blink of an eye. Obviously I may be missing some things with my assertion but seems like the probable outcome of this idea.

    • Cageyvet

      Has anyone ever noticed that the only place you routinely hear that NHL players peak at age 24 is on this site? I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in any other article, anywhere, but the message that is continually delivered here seems to have gained momentum and permeated this market, at least.

      With that in mind, since I see a lot of value in players who are older (there must be some reason they get contracts, it’s not all about having “earned it already”), I thought I’d do my own, undoubtedly flawed, analytic look at this.

      For sentimental reasons, I took some of the Canucks highest producers, Linden, Bure, Naslund, Bertuzzi, and both Sedins. I added in every other player who has won the Art Ross since the year 2000, except McDavid because he’s just too damn young for this concept to be valid.

      I ended up with 18 players, and decided on points-per-game as the most fair method of looking at their best seasons. Don’t poke holes in my analysis, they are gaping I’m sure, but for a layman’s view of analytics I thought I’d just use some common sense, assuming I have a reasonable amount.

      I highlighted their top 2 seasons to see where this played out. I’m sure the vagaries of league scoring trends affect this, but hey, it was worth a look, in my opinion. I also just added 18 years to their birth year to hit their starting season, forget if they were actually 23/24/25 in that year, you know where I’m headed with this, it’s about the general time frame, not their exact ages.

      The results? Most of the players had their top 2 seasons consecutively, so the peak seemed to be pretty well identified. The top seasons for 14 of these players happened after their nominal age of 24, with only Crosby and Ovechkin nailing it at ages 23 & 24, and Stamkos a couple of years early. 8 of the 18 hit their peak season(s) in the 26-27 range, and some familiar names did it after that – both Sedins, Naslund, Martin St. Louis, Jarome Iginla, and with the exception of his best season at 22 (included before as one of 4 to peak by or before 24), Peter Forsberg who had his 2nd and 3rd best performances at ages 29/30.

      What does this tell me? That when it comes to the players who are difference makers, don’t think their light is going to shine any less brightly after they turn 24. Martin St. Louis, Jagr, Sakic, Naslund and the Sedins were killing it right up to 30 (or even age 37 if you’re St. Louis, but hey, talk about a statistical anomaly). I don’t doubt the average player is entering his decline in the mid-20’s, and I’m not saying we should entertain a long-term contract for a player like Backlund at age 28, but I’m just a little tired of an analytic that is being tossed around like it’s a certainty not being applied with a bit of common sense. Not everybody develops at the same pace, and special players are just that – they break the rules and should be viewed outside of the regular lens.

      • truthseeker

        Since I don’t go to many sites I’ll have to take your word for that but yeah they do preach that a lot here it seems. I think many of the commenters have pointed out some of the fundamental flaws in the charts they use. To which they have not responded. Others like me have commented on how they ignore how minor the drop in performance is until age 30.

        I suspect their response to you will be something like “of course we understand that those charts are ‘only a guideline’ and that many players can have great season when they are older”. But that is not what their writing implies. The consistently imply that decisions should be made on players based on those firm numbers. They say things like “well player X is now 25 so we pretty much know what he’s going to bring”.
        They use very conclusive language in their descriptions which most certainly implies they deeply believe in this player peak of around 25 being a firm “line” of statistical importance.

        So to me it’s either one of two things, they like I just said, firmly believe in that peak as almost a be all end all, or it’s another failure of their writing skills and self analysis to properly explain themselves and give equal weight, or at least address the flaws in those charts in the first place. If they really do believe those charts are “just a guideline” they need to learn to present that in their writing more clearly.

    • Super Pest

      Love your take. That’s my big concern. How many vets? How many picks? How do you get the right blend? Demko? Damn straight, but how much time will he need? Schneider time? Murray time? I’m exhausted thinking about it, but I know one thing: too many vets right now.

  • Canuck70

    A comment on the Vanek trade. I really liked Vanek, he was entertaining. Smart, smart hockey player. I loved his comment at the beginning of the season after he scored on a slapper. When asked by the media he said “Why is that goal so surprising? I can make that shot 7 out of ten times.” What great confidence. He followed up with pretty consistent scoring until traded. I am pretty sure his teammates loved him. Too bad JB traded an entertaining, productive guy who everybody liked for a poor return. Now Vanek is non productive for Columbus. There will be no return for Jokinen at seasons end. Maybe Motte can fetch a draft pick later? Doubtful. The best thing I guess is that losing Vanek helps team tank.

    • truthseeker

      I agree with you. I wasn’t happy with the trade for Motte because for that level I would have rather resigned Vanek for another year. Not a popular opinion here but whatever.

      Having said that, the trade was made, and that’s the value Benning got. So I hope the kid can get it going with the canucks and hopefully be a player who brings something to the team.

  • I am Ted

    Backlund would have made sense if some of the veteran centres did not return (Henrik and/or Sutter). Otherwise, he’s older than the ‘next core’ and I am pretty tired of this remain competitive during rebuild stuff. Really. When you finish near the bottom, it’s not being competitive.

    Yes, I do see the need to good mentors and showing players how to do things the right way but the rebuild should have started when Benning first came aboard. As of right now, it’d be better if he made more significant moves and expedited the rebuild.

  • Puck Viking

    Management sucks. The Vanek trade was a disaster. Canucks wanting sign Backlund shows that are brain dead and only want an average team and want nothing to do with a proper rebuild. 4 years of being one of the worst teams in the entire NHL and we are still waiting for a rebuild. We have given away picks for trash, have not taken on any bad contracts for picks or prospects, havent trade any pending UFAs for picks(vanek should have been waived instead of that trade)..

    They have learnt nothing from the current Buffalo Sabres or the Leafs of 15-5 years ago.

    We continue to wast years of Bo and Brock so that the Sedins can have another sniff at the playoffs. Its gross we have the worst defense in the league and they have gone backwards in trying to fix it.

    This team wont be in the playoffs for 10 years or longer and im assuming longer as by then they will need to do a proper rebuild because all of our players(Bo and Brock, etc) will leave as free agents because this team is trash.