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Photo Credit: TVA Sports

Canucks potential UFA targets: Defensemen

The Canucks are expected to improve their blueline this week through free agency beginning July 1st.

The team didn’t extend qualifying offers to Ben Hutton and Derrick Pouliot and have been linked to top free agent defensemen Tyler Myers and Jake Gardiner.

This article will look at the few big names the Canucks may be interested in, but will also examine a couple cheaper targets who may provide good value.

(Note: Projected contracts are courtesy of EvolvingWild’s Contract Projections Model. Corsi stats are via Natural Stat Trick and for 5-on-5 situations.) 

Tyler Myers

Shoots: Right

Age: 29

Height/ Weight: 6′ 8″, 229 lbs

2018-19 Stats: 80 GP, 9 G, 22 A, 31 points, 49.14 CF%

Previous Contract: Seven years, $5,500,000 Cap Hit

Projected Contract: Seven years, $6,055,556 Cap Hit

If you’ve talked to hockey fans in Vancouver recently you’ll know there’s been an overwhelmingly negative response to speculation the Canucks are targeting Tyler Myers in free agency. Most of the outrage isn’t around the player, but rather around the contract.

Myers is a feasible No.4 or bottom-six blueliner. Unfortunately, he’s going to get paid like he’s top-two. He’s an intimidating presence and a good source of offensive production, but his defensive game isn’t at the ideal level. The Canucks would get some solid years from Myers, but with the direction the team is heading in, they need to be careful before committing long term to a player who is almost 30.

Our friends over at JetsNation wrote a review of Myers’ 2018-19 season. There’s certainly things to like about Myers and what he brings to the table. There’s also reasons to walk away. They ended up giving him a ‘B’ grade for his performance over 80 games last season. You can read the full post here.

Jake Gardiner

Shoots: Left

Age: 28

Height/ Weight: 6′ 2″, 203 lbs

2018-19 Stats: 62 GP, 3 G, 27 A, 30 points, 51.53 CF%

Previous Contract: Five years, $4,050,000 Cap Hit

Projected Contract: Seven years, $6,820,761 Cap Hit

With Erik Karlsson re-upping in San Jose, Gardiner is likely the best defenseman that will be available to the Canucks on July 1st. The left-shot defenseman is a potential casualty of Toronto’s impending salary cap squeeze.

Gardiner had his turnovers and mistakes amplified in Toronto, but he’s a solid defenseman with great offensive upside. He’ll probably land more money than Myers in free agency and be the highest paid UFA blueliner. Comparing Myers and Gardiner, a look at advanced stats indicates both players are good at exits and entries, while Gardiner has the clear advantage in entry defense.

Myers has been declining since his rookie season, while Gardiner has taken steps forward and developed into one of the better offensive blueliners in the game. He missed time this year due to back issues, but he recorded a career-high 52 points just one season prior. With Alex Edler re-signed for two more years and Quinn Hughes arriving on the left side, Gardiner may not be an ideal fit for the Canucks at this time. But if it came down to Myers or Gardiner, it’s clear which defenseman is heading in the better direction and has more offensive upside.

Anton Stralman

Shoots: Right

Age: 32

Height/ Weight: 5′ 11″, 190 lbs

2018-19 Stats: 47 GP, 2 G, 15 A, 17 points, 48.07 CF%

Previous Contract: Five years, $4,500,000 Cap Hit

Projected Contract: Three years, $4,475,273 Cap Hit

Anton Stralman is a tier below Jake Gardiner and Tyler Myers, but he’s still a serviceable two-way defenseman. He saw around 22 minutes of ice time in his five-year stint with the Lightning and has averaged around just 25 giveaways a season throughout his NHL career.

If the Canucks are looking to avoid going long term with a top blueliner, Stralman would be worth considering at lower term and less money.

Stralman is mainly a defensive defenseman who can chip in 20-30 points. He had a couple really good years in Tampa Bay but is now on the decline.

While he is 32 years old, Stralman can still be an effective blueliner. He won’t necessarily create as much offense as he once did, but he can be counted on in the defensive zone.

If it’s a shorter deal at the right cost, Stralman could be an effective two-way defenseman and veteran presence on the right side behind Troy Stecher.

Ron Hainsey

Shoots: Left

Age: 38

Height/ Weight: 6′ 3″, 205 lb

2018-19 Stats: 81 GP, 5G, 17 A, 22 points, 49.35 CF%

Previous Contract: Two years, $3,000,000 Cap Hit

Projected Contract: Two years, $3,648,382 Cap Hit

Hainsey will be the oldest option available to the Canucks on defense July 1st. A seasoned NHL veteran with over 1,000 games played, Hainsey would bring leadership and experience to Vancouver’s blueline. The 38-year-old has logged 20-plus minutes a night over the past 10 seasons and consistently averages around 20 points a season. He also consistently manages to stay healthy, with the last time he missed more than 10 games in a season being 2012.

At this point in his career, Hainsey doesn’t offer much outside of reliable defensive play. You have to go back to his time with the Thrashers for the last time he put up more than 25 points in a season. Hainsey is on the decline, but he still has a few quality years left to give.

Toronto wants to bring him back for a reason. While it’s unlikely that happens due to the team’s cap problems, Hainsey put together decent back-to-back years with Toronto. He recorded 23 points in each of his two years with the Leafs and is a plus-42 during that period. His defense partner last season was Morgan Rielly — and they were counted on to shutdown opposing team’s top lines.

As pointed out by LeafsNation, Hainsey’s stats were inflated to a degree by playing alongside Rielly, who exploded for a career-high 20-goal, 72-point season.

Hainsey, of course, spent the majority of the season as the stay-at-home defender alongside the more offensively-oriented Morgan Rielly. The two played 1066:45 together at even strength and produced a 49.6 Corsi For percentage and a 58.8 Goals For percentage. In the 293:31 even strength minutes the two didn’t play together, Rielly put up superior numbers both in terms of shot attempt and goal differential while Hainsey’s numbers diminished substantially.

You wouldn’t want more than a two-year contract for a player such as Hainsey, but he’s an option to bring leadership and defensive stability to the Canucks’ second or third pairing.

Jordie Benn

Shoots: Left

Age: 31

Height/ Weight: 6′ 2″, 199 lb

2018-19 Stats: 81 GP, 5G, 17 A, 22 points, 53.95 CF%

Previous Contract: Three years, $1,100,000 Cap Hit

Projected Contract: Four years, $3,489,088 Cap Hit

Jordie Benn is coming off of a career-season where he put up 5 goals and 22 points in 81 games. He’ll be looking for a nice little raise after making $1.1 million the previous three years.

Benn has been a steady defensive presence throughout his NHL career. He isn’t viewed as a puck-moving blueliner or an impact player offensively, but he’s a reliable blueliner who could slot in nicely on your third defensive pairing. He had 124 hits, 128 blocked shots and a plus-15 rating last season.

If the Canucks aren’t planning on bringing Ben Hutton back as a UFA in free agency, Benn could be a good choice for taking that third spot on the left defensive side behind Quinn Hughes and Alex Edler. It also doesn’t hurt that he grew up in Victoria, BC.

Conclusion

The Canucks could sign a big-name blueliner in free agency or go for a cheaper option. If they avoid signing Tyler Myers or Jake Gardiner, there’s always a chance they could try and sign prized RHD Tyson Barrie if he makes it to free agency next summer.

There are plenty of options for the Canucks come July 1st, and it’ll be interesting to see what they do to try and improve the team heading into next season.

  • West Coast Hockey Fan

    I like Andrej Sekera, if you can get him for a low $ contract. He was decent in the Worlds and is often injured thereby allowing some of the young players to have opportunities.

    • speering major

      I thought he could have been a target to take back with Jesse P in a trade. Send them Baertschi. Basically swap a forward for a D on 2 year deals. Pay a bit more in salary but get a prospect with upside in Jesse

        • Suki Sidhu

          R U Freaking Crazy U want to trade Demko for Nurse give ur Head a shake or better yet goto the nearest brick wall & bang ur head into it, just maybe u’ll get some sense into it

          • CamBurke

            Oh look, another brutal newbie account (one of many ‘new’ nomarks) – park on a cliff and drive off it child, you bore me.

            Time to clean house here CA, wake the f(c)uk up – the lunatics are taking over the asylum and ruining decent hockey dialogue. HELLO!

  • wojohowitz

    Really? That`s it? That`s all you got? I could name at least a half dozen that would make more sense. Then there`s Ron Hainsey. This must be a Leaf fan trying to do us all a favour – how old is he really; 45? 49? 62?

    You deserve heaps of abuse for this dribble.

  • TheRealPB

    As you say it’s the term rather than the money that’s going to be the issue here. I prefer Gardiner (or even Myers) in their late 20s to each of the others creaking around in their 30s. But 3 years of Stralman takes us to the point where the salary cap SHOULD be important for us in ways it isn’t now (unless JB decides to start resigning Sutter, Eriksson, Beagle and the rest). The fact that the Canucks played hardball with Edler on term means that they MUST have at least some sense of the importance of this no? All I can think is that we’re going to end up with yet another summer of overpaid underperforming vets. Someone please take the FA papers away from Benning.

    • TheRealRusty

      PB. I am currently working on a theory that it isn’t GMJB behind the FA signings… seems like Aquaman fancies himself to be quite the hockey man (if a privileged caller to Friday’s Team1040 midday show is to be believed).

    • Gino's 3rd Cousin

      The only thing you surf is these message boards. I highly doubt you have felt the warmth of the Sunshine or smelled an ocean breeze in many moons you sad little man.

  • Kanuckhotep

    With the exception of maybe Jordie Benn I’d say all these guys are either too old or too expensive. And I’d be disappointed if Benning signed any of these aging, overpriced players. I realize Big Jim has to make improvements on the blue line and it may cost more than it should. Hope and pray Juolevi can bring it this year and make the club. Otherwise more boat anchor contracts?

  • rediiis

    I’d rather work the trade market or wait and work the waiver wire in fall. Nothing good will come from long term contracts with Myers or Gardiner. Keep making phone calls and let someone else pay. Tomorrow will decide whether Benning is doing his job or trying to save it.

  • Burnabybob

    Myers could be a nice signing if it isn’t too long and too much money. Unfortunately, overpaying is kind of the name of the game when it comes to free agents. And I like Tyson Barrie a lot, but he would be another small player on a team that already has Stecher and Hughes. I know the game is moving towards speed and skill, but still…

    • Kneedroptalbot

      Signing UFA’s on July 1st usually backfires and (term/annual salary). are inflated. Signing players older than 29 is a N0. Signing players who are marginal skaters and have trouble keeping up with the play a BIG No.
      Clarkson, Lucic, Neal, are examples of franchise crippling contracts.