Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Should the Canucks give Ethan Bear a qualifying offer? Pros, cons, and more
By Noah Strang8 months ago
Last season, Ethan Bear was one of the few positive stories for the Canucks. The 25-year-old was acquired in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes and he impressed, solidifying himself as one of the best right-handed defencemen in the organization. He finished the season with 16 points and a +6 across 61 games.
Heading into this offseason, Bear’s contract is set to expire, making him a restricted free agent. This leaves the Canucks with a decision to make. They can qualify Bear, offering him a one-year deal worth $2.2 million per season, the same amount he earned in 2022-23. While that may have been an easy choice at one point, that is no longer the case with the way things have played out.
Bear represented Team Canada at the 2023 IIHF World Championship that was held in Finland and Latvia this past May. While playing in the tournament, Bear suffered a shoulder injury that later required surgery. It’s estimated that it will take about six months before Bear can return to action.
This injury has drastically changed the decision facing the Canucks. All signs now point to the team having a much more difficult time with deciding what to do with this player.
With the deadline to offer Bear a qualifying offer coming up on June 30th, let’s take a look at the different pros and cons to giving him that contract offer.
Pro: Bear is a legitimate NHL-level RHD…an asset that the Canucks lack
By qualifying Ethan Bear, the Canucks are making sure that they hang onto a legitimate NHL-level defenceman. Last season, Bear proved that he belongs at the highest level and that there’s no doubt he’s a bonafide NHLer. He was one of only three Canucks’ defensemen to play at least 20 games and finish with a positive on-ice goal differential at 5-on-5.
Bear also impressed with his ability to break out of his own zone. There were countless instances where Bear fended off forecheckers to make a smooth pass and help the Canucks transition up ice. The clip below is just one example of these little plays that Bear thrived at.
While Bear did have his fair share of mistakes, he was one of the better Canucks defenders last season. With the addition of Filip Hronek, his workload will not be as large and he could step into a bottom-four right-handed role, something he’s more suited for compared to the top-four where he often played last season.
Con: Bear likely won’t be playing until at least December
While Bear’s shoulder surgery was successful, the current timeline places his return somewhere around December. This means that for the first few months of the 2023-24 NHL season, the Canucks will not have Bear available. How he plays upon his return after such a lengthy amount of time off will also be a big question mark.
While Bear had a good season last year, the $2.2 million could be reallocated to an unrestricted free agent. There are plenty of third-pairing defencemen that could likely be signed for around that number on short-term contracts. Players like Carson Soucy (LHD), Ian Cole (LHD), Radko Gudas (RHD), and Justin Holl (RHD) are all players that will likely sign deals with cap hits between $1.75-3.75 million. They all will also be able to play right from the season opener.
Pro: The cost is not exorbitantly large
At just $2.2 million, Bear’s qualifying offer is not incredibly expensive. The Canucks do have some more cap space to play with after the buyout of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and could fit the $2.2 million into the picture. While saying that, with holes to fill at third-line centre and on defence, the Canucks do need to be cautious with every dollar.
Bear would be expected to miss the 10 NHL games and 24 days of the season necessary to qualify for LTIR. This would make the financial pill easier to swallow as Canucks’ management could get a little creative with where they place him and free up some cap space during the season.
With $10.4 million already committed to the right-side next season with the Tyler Myers and Hronek contracts, the Canucks are definitely looking for an economical option behind them. With the qualifying offer set at $2.2 million, Bear brings good value for money, although there are cheaper options from a pure dollar standpoint.
The moves that the Canucks have made recently suggest that the team might look elsewhere instead of qualifying Ethan Bear. Rick Dhaliwal reported that the team offered right-handed defenceman Kyle Burroughs a contract after a long period where talks hadn’t occured.
This means that Bear is likely the odd man out when it comes to playing for the Canucks next season. It’s a reminder of the cutthroat nature of professional sports how quickly a player can fall out of favour due to something outside of their control.
If Bear isn’t qualified, which it seems is most likely at this point in time, he will become an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any NHL team. This includes a potential reunion with the Canucks for a cheaper number than the $2.2 million qualifying offer.
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