The Canucks CAN add Chris Tanev to their roster without losing anyone from it, but it will cost them

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
4 months ago
We are now exactly six weeks away from the 2024 Trade Deadline, which is already shaping up to be the most consequential deadline for the Vancouver Canucks in quite some time. Here at CanucksArmy, we’ve already started to talk about it pretty consistently, and we’re not stopping anytime soon — nor are we the only ones.
Thus far, most of the chatter has centred around the Canucks adding another top-six forward to their roster. No less than POHO Jim Rutherford himself has outright stated that the Canucks are seeking a forward, so it’s not exactly baseless speculation. And there does appear to be room on the Canucks’ scoring lines for an addition or an upgrade.
But several fans have been vocal about their opinion that the Canucks, second-highest scoring team in the NHL that they are, don’t really need any more offensive talent. According to those fans, it’s improving the blueline that should be the focus, despite that blueline’s already much-improved play in 2023/24.
And you know who agrees with those fans?
Captain Quinn Hughes.
Rick Dhaliwal reported on Wednesday that Hughes has made his feelings toward Tanev known to the Canucks’ front office.
“Quinn Hughes has gone to bat for him this year and told management, ‘Tanev is the guy you should target,’” said Dhaliwal, “Tanev loves Vancouver. I know for a fact that if he became a free agent July 1, Vancouver would be very, very, very high on his list of potential places to go.”
Now, acquiring Tanev and acquiring a top-six forward are not mutually exclusive. However, given the Canucks’ general lack of available cap space, any notable acquisition of any kind is going to be tricky, and that’s doubly true if it’s two notable acquisitions.
Any of the forwards that we’ve looked at as potential targets on this site, with a handful of exceptions, would require the Canucks to move a major salary out first before bringing them in — and none of those few exceptions are really needle-movers, anyway.
But Tanev is different.
Tanev is both a good (great?) enough player to move the Canucks’ needle further toward the contention zone, and someone they can add to their roster without needing to remove anything from it.
How? We’ll explain.
First, though, the necessity. We’ve talked pretty openly about the idea of the Canucks adding a top-six forward in a direct or indirect trade for someone like Andrei Kuzmenko, essentially affecting an upgrade.
But whether or not the Canucks really need more scoring forwards, most will agree that they definitely don’t need fewer. Trading a forward for a defender just creates a gap in the lineup, so forget about any prospective Kuzmenko-for-Tanev swap.
The piece exchanged from the roster for Tanev, then, would have to come from the blueline. But who would that be? The Canucks’ defense corps have, both overall and on an individual basis, played excellent in 2023/24. Hughes and Filip Hronek are untouchable. Ian Cole and Carson Soucy are recent UFA signings that have both played terrifically. Nikita Zadorov was targeted and brought in for a reason.
The obvious candidate, if there is one, is Tyler Myers and the final year of his $6 million contract. But while we’re sure that the Canucks could move Myers before or at the 2024 Trade Deadline if they wanted to, we’re not sure they want to at all.
Ditching Myers to bring in Tanev still leaves the Canucks with the same amount of RHD on the roster. There’s little doubt that Tanev is the better RHD of the two, but at the same time the Canucks are gearing up for a potential playoff run. Defensive depth is to be added at a time like this, not subtracted.
So what if Tanev could be added to the mix without a roster subtraction?
Believe it or not, it’s entirely possible. Just costly.
Tanev is in the final year of the UFA contract that brought him away from Vancouver, and while that contract sure stung when it was signed, it’s now sitting there at essentially the maximum cap hit it could be to make this whole zany scheme work.
Tanev’s cap hit is $4.5 million.
With 50% retention, that’s cut down to $2.25 million. Which, while nice, doesn’t make a difference for the Canucks. They don’t have $2.25 million in space, and they can’t reasonably achieve it without a major roster subtraction.
But what about cutting that $2.25 million in half again, reducing it to a cap hit of just $1.125 million. Retention up to 75% is possible, so long as it takes place over two transactions involving a total of three teams.
And $1.125 million just so happens to be nearly exactly the maximum amount that the Canucks can fit onto their books without losing anyone.
Here’s how it would work.
The Canucks currently have about $332,500 in effective cap space, thanks to their use of LTIR relief space. They’ve got 13 forwards on the active roster, eight defenders, two goalies, and then Tucker Poolman, Guillaume Brisebois, and Phil di Giuseppe on LTIR.
To bring in a 75% retained Tanev, all the Canucks would really have to do is send down Mark Friedman, who hasn’t played an NHL game since November. That should, combined with the $332K in existing space, get them close enough to the $1.125 million needed to accommodate Tanev.
Any extra wiggle room required could be achieved by simply swapping Linus Karlsson back down to Abbotsford for someone with a cheaper cap hit (like Arshdeep Bains), something that will happen naturally enough whenever Di Giuseppe and his $775K hit returns to health.
And thus the Canucks could, financially-speaking anyway, add Tanev to their blueline with Friedman being the only piece subtracted.
Where would that leave the Canucks? Deeper, for one, and in possession of a definite “good problem,” for two.
The Canucks could head into the postseason with a fairly locked-in top-four of Hughes, Hronek, Tanev, and Cole. The bottom pairing then becomes a rotation of Soucy, Zadorov, Myers, and perhaps Noah Juulsen here and there.
Is having to scratch one of those high-priced defenders on a nightly basis an ideal situation? Not exactly. But it’s an “issue” that presumes an entirely healthy blueline, which is far from a guarantee. And a little internal competition never really hurt anyone.
Blueline depth is paramount to playoff success. As are options. Imagine if the Canucks had the free and clear choice to scratch Myers whenever his play got a little out of control? Or Soucy for continued injury recovery? Or even Cole for load management?
The point is that Tanev’s presence makes the Canucks blueline better, especially if he can be added to the pre-existing top-seven.
So, what would it cost? That’s where the fun ends.
Tanev in and of himself will be a hot commodity at the deadline. His $4.5 million cap hit is super reasonable for the quality of his play, and he’s only got a ten-team no-trade clause.
Convincing the Flames to retain salary on him, when they could almost certainly trade him without doing so, will incur an extra cost.
The base cost for Tanev can be safely set to at least a first round pick. Then cost of retention, then, probably has to be a fairly high-quality prospect. The Canucks have already spoken openly of their reluctance to trade any of their top-tier prospects that have not yet turned pro, so that leaves Tom Willander, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, and Elias Pettersson II off the table, as they probably should be.
But there are others, like perhaps Vasily Podkolzin or Aatu Raty. For what a retained Tanev represents, those would be pieces worth parting with.
Then, in this specific scenario, it takes three to tango. The Canucks would also have to find a third party willing to take on $1.125 million of Tanev’s cap hit for the remainder of the year, and to give up one of their retention slots for the next few months.
That doesn’t come for free. But it might not cost all that much extra. There are multiple teams with ample cap space, open retention slots, and not many obvious things to use them on. The Columbus Blue Jackets are a particularly good fit, but it could be the Nashville Predators or the Anaheim Ducks or the Chicago Blackhawks, too.
For this, we can’t imagine the cost would be anything more than a third round pick at the absolute most, and it could wind up being even less than that.
But if not, then what do we think of that?
A first, a third, and an aging prospect in exchange for adding Chris Tanev to this roster without having to subtract anyone of note.
Is that worth the Canucks while?
We know what the captain’s answer might be.

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