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Added benefit to the Hronek extension is what it means for Canucks captain Quinn Hughes

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
23 days ago
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Filip Hronek was always going to get a massive raise. That much was never in doubt. The fact the Vancouver Canucks managed to keep the annual average value of the pending restricted free agent’s new eight-year contract to $7.25M is a win for the organization. Especially when early reports had Hronek and his camp eyeing a deal much closer to $8M per season.
Players like Hronek are hard to come by and on top of all the things he does for the hockey club – produce points, log big minutes, play in all situations – the 26-year-old’s biggest benefit might be what he did to boost Quinn Hughes to superstardom. Now, let’s be perfectly clear, the Canucks captain proved well before Hronek’s arrival that he was capable of controlling games and producing gaudy point totals.
But Hronek proved to be a perfect partner for Hughes which is why as much as the Canucks wanted to retain the right-shot blueliner for his own merits, he also provided an environment that allowed Hughes to take his game to another level this past season. And there is significant value in keeping the captain happy and putting him in a position to dominate for years to come.
In 1183 minutes together at 5-on-5 – the third highest total of two NHL defencemen playing together last season – Hughes and Hronek helped the Canucks control 56.4% of all shot attempts and outscore opponents 72-46. In other words, the two of them absolutely carved the opposition and tilted the ice heavily in Vancouver’s favour. And that was with Hronek’s production tapering off significantly over the second half of the season when he was clearly hampered by an arm injury that drastically reduced his individual output.
Hronek burst out of the starting blocks with two goals and 29 points in his first 35 games last season however was limited to three goals and 19 points over his final 46 outings. And in the playoffs he scored once, added one assist and was held to just 13 shots on goal in 13 games.
But, overall, Hronek’s 48 points represented a personal 10 point jump in single-season scoring, his 81 games were a career-high as were his 148 shots on goal and his 23:36 was the second highest average ice time he’d logged in a season. So it’s clear he played a significant role in the Canucks winning 50 games, collecting 109 points and laying claim to the Pacific Division regular season title.
Hronek was second only to Hughes in overall ice time for the Canucks last season and was third on the team in short-handed minutes logged. 
And to have a legitimate top pairing partner for Hughes under contract for the next eight years gives the Canucks one of the best defensive duos in hockey in the primes of their careers. And that has to be exciting for Hughes, the hockey club and a fan base expecting the Canucks to build on the significant step forward they took last season.
The other thing to consider is that the Hronek extension buys up seven years of unrestricted free agency, but still comes in under the existing AAV for Hughes ($7.85M for three more seasons). So the Canucks managed to keep Hronek from surpassing Hughes on the pay scale but also now have their top pairing – and one of the league’s best duos – under contract for a combined $15.1M for the next three seasons. According to Cap Friendly, there are 22 defencemen under contract around the league with contracts that carry cap hits higher than either of the Canucks top two blueliners. In a world where the cap looks like it has grown potential in the foreseeable future, both Hughes and Hronek are on deals that should allow the Canucks to extract significant value.
And it this signing now gives them clarity on what their blueline will look like for years to come. Filip Hronek may not be a perfect player, but he has shown in his first full season in Vancouver that he’s pretty close to the perfect partner for Quinn Hughes.
And that’s why Tuesday’s signing is significant on so many levels. Not only do the Canucks keep Hronek in the fold, but they provide an environment for their most important skater to continue to thrive.
 

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