Could the Bruins’ Trent Frederic be a 3C solution for the Vancouver Canucks?
Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
3 months ago
At this point, we’re just days away from the 2023 offseason.
High on the Vancouver Canucks’ summer shopping list, right up there with new arena seats and replacement shoulders for a couple of their defenders, is a third line center.
Last year, the Canucks rolled into the season with Elias Pettersson, JT Miller, and Bo Horvat down the middle, perhaps one of the strongest 1-2-3 punches at center in the entire NHL.
Now, Horvat is long gone, and someone needs to replace him on the roster. But don’t go thinking that the Canucks are in the market for another Horvat.
Practically- and financially-speaking, the Canucks are going to have to go for a more budget-conscious 3C that more fits the typical mode of a checking line center. And unless Linus Karlsson or Aatu Raty really steps it up, they’re going to have to go outside of the organization to find one.
Enter: Trent Frederic of the Boston Bruins.
Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff raised the prospect this week of the Bruins trading, or perhaps not giving a qualifying offer to Frederic, which would make him a UFA as of July 1 and allow him to hit the open market.
Seravalli doesn’t report the non-qualification as a certainty, but why would the Bruins even be considering not retaining the services of Frederic after a season in which he broke out into 17 goals and 31 points while still being tough as nails? Especially when a qualifying offer will cost them just $1.15 million?
The answer is arbitration. Should the Bruins qualify Frederic, he gains the right to file for salary arbitration. And in those sorts of negotiations, raw stat totals tend to speak loudly. The Bruins are probably worried that Frederic will get an award based on his 17 goals, and they might not see that as production he’s likely to continue consistently.
With the budget already as tight as it can get at Boston, they may feel as though they can’t risk an arbitrator overpaying Frederic late in the summer, and so they may make the choice to avoid the risk altogether and just let Frederic go, either by non-qualification or a trade prior to the qualification deadline. If he goes through the player-elected arbitration process, the Bruins are only able to “walk away” if the award is an AAV over and above the current threshold of about $4.75 million. Any award under that, and they must keep it and adjust their cap quickly and accordingly.
Which is where the Canucks could step in.
But before we get to the hows of Frederic to Vancouver, we need to talk about the whys.
What would Trent Frederic bring to the Canucks?
The first thing associated with the name Frederic is fisticuffs.
Frederic loves to throw ‘em, and is known as a genuine shift-disturber.
For some, that’s plenty of reason to bring him on board right there.
But Frederic does bring significantly more to the table, now 25 and having completed his third full NHL season.
That aforementioned 2022/23 offensive breakout of 31 points in 79 games was not a total anomaly, as Frederic did notch eight goals and 18 points in 60 games the season prior, but that’s more of a bonus feature than ‘the point’ of Frederic’s play.
For one, he’s probably going to have a harder time achieving such totals away from the record-setting Bruins and linemates like Taylor Hall.
For another, Frederic himself tends to focus on other areas of the game.
Frederic can be physical, but he throws surprisingly few hits, preferring to do a lot of his antagonizing behind the play and between the whistles. But what he does use his 6’3”, 215lb frame to do effectively is possess and protect the puck. Once he has it, Frederic is increasingly difficult to knock off the thing.
Frederic has also developed a reputation as a strong defensive player, which is something the Canucks definitely need in a 3C if they don’t want Pettersson handling all their tough matchups. Frederic has consistently posted positive analytics, but they all sharply upticked in 2022/23.
Of note are Frederic’s control of high-danger chances (55.59%) and his expected goals ratio (54.56%).
But you don’t need fancy stats to see that Frederic was on the ice for 50 even-strength goals for last season, and only 23 against. Those are impressive results, any way you slice it.
If we’re able to pour cold water on the “Frederic as a defensive stud” conversation, we should note that any player with Patrice Bergeron as a teammate is not going to be expected to carry all that heavy of a matchup load, and indeed, Frederic’s deployment was a little sheltered in that way in 2022/23.
It’s worth noting, however, that Frederic faced more difficult deployment in 2021/22, occasionally sharing the ice with Bergeron, and posted almost-as-good defensive results.
Clearly, it’s a skill that he possesses, and Frederic did still start almost 60% of his 2022/23 shifts in his own end.
Is he truly a center?
Based on his entire career up to this point, we can safely say that Frederic is perfectly capable of handling a 4C role in this league.
Based on last season, we can safely say that Frederic is perfectly capable of holding down a 3LW role in this league.
But combining those two roles into that of a 3C? That requires a bit of a leap of faith.
Frederic did spend the majority of 2022/23 on Charlie Coyle’s wing, ultimately taking just 76 faceoffs throughout the entire regular season.
This is, in part, down to the Bruins’ unholy depth at the center position. It could also be, in part, because Frederic is not particularly good at faceoffs, rocking a 43.9% career average.
But that’s all beside the point. If Frederic can’t consistently play the center position in the bottom-six, and the 3C role in particular, the Canucks probably don’t want him. They’ve got plenty of wingers on hand.
That said, this isn’t a typical case of winger-conversion, like when folks suggest turning Vasily Podkolzin into a center. At the very least, Frederic has spent the majority of his life playing center, including the bulk of his NHL time up until this season.
There’s definitely reason to believe he could step into a 3C role and thrive in Vancouver…there just isn’t any certainty.
Like we said, a leap of faith would be required.
Should the Canucks trade for Frederic?
If the Bruins decide not to qualify Frederic, they will of course first try to trade him to someone who will, rather than letting him walk for nothing as a UFA.
In this scenario, they won’t be able to ask for much, and they won’t get Frederic’s full trade value. But for all those reasons described above, there will be multiple teams interested in securing his services.
We could absolutely see the bidding getting as high as a third round pick, the price that was just paid for Damon Severson’s signing rights earlier this week.
The Canucks are admittedly quite light on draft picks in specific and future assets in general. But could they afford to spring a mid-round pick for a 3C anyway? Probably…so long as such a trade came with contract negotiations already having happened.
What the Canucks cannot do is put themselves in the same position that the Bruins are trying to avoid. The Canucks might be more comfortable with an arbitration outcome, as they’re not trying to run it back on the greatest regular season team of all-time in 2023/24, but they should be fairly disinterested in getting Frederic at an inflated salary.
The only scenario in which trading for Frederic makes sense is if the Canucks have already talked to his camp and agreed to an extension that they find amenable.
As to what that extension might be, we can only speculate. But we might suggest offering the oft-injured Frederic an abundance of term in order to keep his salary as low as possible, and we think there’s a chance he might go for it.
Should the Canucks wait to see if Frederic will hit UFA?
If the Bruins are possibly going to let Frederic go unqualified anyway, then why trade for him at all?
It’s a fair question.
The obvious answer is that, if there’s a chance an arbitrator will overpay Frederic this summer, there’s an even better chance that an NHL GM will do so on the open market.
As soon as Frederic hits UFA status, the Canucks will be competing with more than a dozen teams to sign him, and that will almost certainly result in a contract that no one but Frederic himself is all that happy with.
More than anything, that’s the sort of contract that the Canucks need to avoid, especially in their bottom-six.
The obviouser answer is that the Bruins will probably look to qualify and then trade Frederic, anyway, and will probably find a suitor.
Trade for Frederic with a contract already agreed to, or hope to put in your best reasonable offer at UFA time and leave it at that.
Any other Frederic-to-Vancouver scenario just doesn’t make sense.
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