As the days count down on another lost season, the focus has rightly shifted to the future. Generally speaking, it’s the one hockey topic in town in which the Sedins don’t usually have a hand.
That wasn’t the case last week. In the immediate aftermath of the Canucks 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Friday, all corners of the Smylosphere came out of the woodwork to offer their opinion on what role Henrik and Daniel Sedin should have in Vancouver’s immediate future.
Mostly, people argued that if the Sedins want to play next season, then there shouldn’t be an issue. Find the money, create the space and make it happen. Done, and done.
In the opposite corner, Sportsnet 650’s Aynsley Scott argued that the prudent decision was to rip the band-aid off without a moment’s hesitation to create space, opportunities, etc. with which to build a new core. Why wait, he argued.
Now, this is a testy issue, and the reactions on each side of the argument made as much clear with an authority. There are several key points to consider when deliberating on the Sedins’ futures. Let’s try and tackle them one after the other and gain some clarity in the process.
What’s Left in the Tank and What’ll it Cost?
About this time a month ago, CanucksArmy’s Janik Beichler wrote an article on why re-signing the Sedins was the only logical move available to the Canucks, and the arguments he made therein only seem more prescient now.
Simply put — the Sedins are still capable hockey players with utility as offensive specialists in the middle-six with power play time. If the goal is to win as early as next season, and that’s been the goal time and again, then they add value towards that end.
The Canucks second and third highest scorers? The Sedin twins. Their first and second best shot share players? The Sedin twins. Their unquestioned leaders? The Sedin twins.
Time is undefeated, and it appears poised for another pair of victories in Vancouver, but the Sedins aren’t exactly going gentle into that good night. At 37-years-old, they aren’t quite what they used to be, but the Sedins still have something to offer the Canucks for at least another season.
The problem? That’s going to come at a cost. No, the Sedins aren’t going to sign deals priced millions below market value. They’ve never struck me as the money-first type, but they seem like proud people all the same, and I can’t imagine they want to play closer to the Sam Gagner ($3.15-million annually) end of the spectrum than the Loui Eriksson ($6-million annually) one.
Frankly, I have a hard time seeing the Sedins sign for anything less than $5-million apiece. That’s about the going rate for players that productive, even at this stage in their respective careers.
All the conditions are right for the most active off-season in recent memory for the #Canucks I look at some of the factors driving that and how Vancouver can best navigate them in my latest for @TheAthleticVAN https://t.co/NJU3kOKcUA
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) March 13, 2018
The Canucks project to have roughly $24-million in cap space according to CapFriendly, and that’s before accounting for $2.65-million in long-term injured reserve relief from Derek Dorsett’s contract and expected growth which could push that number to $31-million in and of itself. So, they can comfortably fit the roughly $10-million combined for the Sedins and take care of their restricted free agents.
That doesn’t leave a tonne of room for prospective free agent additions, though one could argue that’s more feature than flaw.
Impact on the Canucks Asset Base
The question of whether the Sedins can play and what it will cost the Canucks seems immaterial in this discussion. The Canucks aren’t going to be in contention next season, so whether they do or don’t have another productive year in them won’t make much of a difference — this team will still finish near the bottom of the standings. Assuming no significant movement ahead of free agency, Vancouver can easily afford them, too.
What’s more pressing in my estimation is the value that the Sedin twins offer the Canucks rebuild by spending another year as a part of it. The Sedins have made clear, repeatedly, that they have no desire to leave Vancouver, which means that if they sign for next season, they’re here for all of next season. They’re immovable assets, period.
This stands in stark contrast to any prospective free agent the Canucks could sign this summer. If the Canucks fully embrace a rebuild, the potential for shifting the resources that were once tied up in the Sedins towards players that can contribute to their asset base is enormous. And there is no shortage of opportunities for such a thing this summer. Just spend a couple minutes on the CapFriendly free agents list and let your imagination run wild.
That matters. The name of the game should be asset hoarding with a reckless abandon at this stage in the Canucks’ rebuild. They have the best group of prospects in the history of the franchise — this much is undeniable. But they have essentially two young core players in their lineup, which puts that prospect pool into perspective when projecting for the next two, three or even four years. Put another way: there is still work to be done, and it’s best conducted at the draft.
What’s the best way to put extra bullets in the draft’s chamber? Signing veterans to one or two-year deals and flipping them at the trade deadline shortly thereafter for draft picks.
If you want to see those type of savvy, asset rapacious moves, then it’s hard to reconcile that with a desire to see the Sedins return to Vancouver. Of course, it’s not black and white, and there are ways to do this with the Sedins in the lineup too. It’s just that the potential for such moves will be limited accordingly.
The Human Element
This website is nothing if not a place where intangible elements factor into our every analysis, and we shan’t be making an exception for the Sedins.
In all seriousness, though we often understate the importance of intangibles when deliberating on a player’s contract and trade value, it’s not like we don’t acknowledge their existence. Where we differ from most is in our willingness to put a big number on a player skill or attribute with a level of importance that by its very nature is impossible to track.
For the Sedins, world-class people by all accounts, I can imagine that the intangible value of their presence in the lineup would be immense. They’re great mentors. Consider for a second Alex Edler still speaks fondly about the impact Mattias Ohlund had on his development; then consider what kind of an impact both Sedin twins can offer to Elias Pettersson in his rookie season. There’s definitely something there.
Then one has to ponder the value that the Sedins offer by sheltering the team’s younger players from media responsibilities night in and night out. Just look at how the Sedins are always at the front line loss after listless loss. It might seem inconsequential from the outside, but I bet you the likes of Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat appreciate the relative shelter from scrutiny that having the Sedins affords them.
There aren’t many young players in Vancouver ready to carry the torch from the Sedins, and their general unwillingness to step into the spotlight as the losses mount doesn’t help matters, however understandable.
So, What to Do?
There isn’t an easy answer to the Sedin question. It’s going to cost a lot to accommodate their return, but it could prove worthwhile in the short and long-term. That said, signing the Sedins means making some uncomfortable decisions elsewhere in the lineup. It also means spending capital on players that can’t return draft picks to your asset base at the trade deadline.
I don’t think the Canucks can do wrong, in a vacuum, with their decision to take the Sedins back or not. They’re in a tough spot. If the Sedins want to return for next season, does Canucks general manager Jim Benning want to be the one to say no to the two greatest people and players in the franchise’s history?
All I can say at this point is I don’t envy any of the decision makers involved in this, whether it’s the Sedins themselves or Canucks management. Here’s to hoping they make the best of a difficult situation.