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Instead of signing UFAs like Carson Soucy, the Canucks should be trying to find the next Carson Soucy

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Photo credit:© Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
9 months ago
By now, you’ve probably heard tell that the Vancouver Canucks like pending UFA Carson Soucy of the Seattle Kraken, and that they’re probably going to make him a compelling offer if he hits the open market on July 1.
In fact, according to Rick Dhaliwal, the Canucks don’t just like Soucy, but — like a middle-schooler with a crush — they “really like” him.
It’s the kind of talk we’ve heard before in Canuckland, and it’s typically the kind of talk that precedes the Canucks making a signing that a good portion of the fanbase “really dislikes” from the get-go.
If only there was another way.
Now, contrary to that last statement and the headline attached to this article, this is by no means an anti-Carson Soucy piece. Soucy is a fine defender with a moderate amount of upside, and he may even be available at a somewhat reasonable price (for a UFA defender) during what promises to be a suppressed Free Agent Frenzy.
There’s still every chance that, should the Canucks sign him, Soucy works out perfectly well for them.
So, no, we’re not deeming a Soucy signing a failure before it even happens. That’s not our intention or our style. But this potential transaction does give us an opportunity to make a point about roster-building in general that we think is an important one, and that won’t really work without a concrete example to base it upon. And Soucy is that example.
Think of it this way: Soucy is, right now, almost certainly at the single-most expensive moment in his career. He is 28, smack-dab in the middle of his prime. He’s coming off two strong seasons in Seattle during which he set new standards for ice-time and defensive results, with a solid playoff run thrown in for good measure.
He’s hitting the open UFA market for the first time, something that almost always results in an inflated salary, and he’s doing it as part of a free agent class that is dreadfully low on quality defenders.
All of which adds up to Soucy being in the exact right spot to pick up the most lucrative contract of his career.
Which, again, is not to say that said contract will be a bad contract. Just that, in general, it’s better to acquire players when they’re not at their most expensive, ya know? Ideally, it’s best to acquire them when they’re at their least expensive, and then have them build up that value while playing for your team.
And Carson Soucy is definitely a player the Canucks could have acquired for much cheaper much earlier in his career.
At the risk of being accused of tooting our own horns (don’t you dare), we’re going to pull out a few receipts now.
In an article titled Seven secret weapons to watch for on the Minnesota Wild, published on this very website by this very author back in July of 2020 (that has since been lost to the annals of the internet in our site changeover), we described then-rookie Soucy as “a prototypical well-rounded defender…solid in all areas of the game, though he’s never had much of an offensive bent.
Instead, Soucy has made his reputation as a player who will do whatever it takes to protect his goaltender from pucks and opposing skaters alike. He’ll block shots, clear the crease, and wash faces — and it should be no surprise that, as a rule, fewer shots seem to find their way into the back of the net when Soucy’s on the ice.
…The exact sort of defenceman whose value tends to skyrocket in the postseason.”
Then, following the Canucks’ first round defeat of Soucy and the Wild, we highlighted him as a potentially sneaky low-risk, high-reward signing in Ten under-the-radar UFAs for the Canucks to consider this offseason.
The first thing we wrote was “The last thing the Canucks — who will go into next season with all of Hughes, Alex Edler, Jordie Benn, Olli Juolevi, and Jack Rathbone fighting for spots — need is another left-handed defender. So why is Soucy on the list?”
Which is, you’ll note, objectively hilarious, and a nice counter to our self-tooting.
But then we wrote “Soucy spent the majority of 2019/20 on his off-side, frequently pairing with Jonas Brodin, and Minnesota fans will attest he’s better there than on the left. An all-around talent with plenty of jam and some untapped scoring potential, the 26-year-old Soucy is quite young for a UFA. Through a quirk in the CBA, he’s just coming out of his rookie season, so signing him to a deal with a decent amount of term should get you the best years of his career.”
Which more-or-less proved true. Of course, that time around, Soucy didn’t quite make it to market, signing a three-year deal at a $2.75 million to stay in Minnesota just days before the delayed October 9, 2020 opening of the Free Agent Frenzy.
So, no, the Canucks couldn’t have just up and signed Soucy at an earlier date. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have got their hands on him all the same, and for relatively cheap.
That’s because less than nine months after that article dropped, Soucy was being selected by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 Expansion Draft, and the Wild were losing him for free.
Which means that, in all likelihood, Soucy was highly available for trade in the months leading up to expansion, and that he probably wouldn’t have cost all that much.
Instead, the Canucks stood pat, and wound up protecting Tyler Myers, Nate Schmidt, and Olli Juolevi from the clutches of the Kraken.
We can hear the complaints already. “Hindsight is 20/20!” “Armchair GM!” “Horn-tooter!”
Which is fair. We’re not actually coming out here today to say that we called this one, or that the Canucks should have been taking their cues from CanucksArmy, or that we’re deserving of a pro scouting gig. In fact, much the opposite.
The point we’re trying to make here is that if an amateur blogger can skim through some stats and identify a couple of younger defenders stuck on deep depth charts and potentially on a verge of a breakout, surely a well-funded professional pro scouting department can do the same.
And if they can do the same, why not take that approach to retooling the Vancouver blueline, instead of investing cap space in a defender who is very probably at their peak in both cost and performance?
Again, this is not to say that the Canucks should not sign Soucy, or that they’ll regret it if they do. It’s just to say that, even if they do sign Soucy, they should still remain on the lookout for the proto-Soucys, too, and try their best to pick up one or two in the months to come.
Investing in players before they’ve peaked in value, as opposed to right after, is almost always going to be a tidier bit of business.
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