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Should the Vancouver Canucks sign UFA defenceman Carson Soucy?

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Photo credit:© Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Liu
9 months ago
By now, the noise surrounding the Canucks’ interest of Carson Soucy is deafening. The team is said to “really like” the Seattle defender, and as of today, it appears the Kraken will let him explore the market as a free agent.
We here at CanucksArmy have already discussed getting ahead of the trend, finding the Carson Soucy at home instead of going out and signing one. That being said though, it’s tough to imagine this team being able to do so in such short notice and find a defender that can fill in a top 4 role after this offseason. So the money question emerges: Should the Canucks sign Carson Soucy?

What the numbers say

Soucy had a good 2022-23 campaign. Mostly rounding out the bottom four of a playoff-bound Seattle team, the defenceman posted steady numbers that don’t jump off the page but tell the story of a reliable player. His 15 points came mostly alongside the likes of Will Borgen and Justin Schultz while also featuring in 130:55 TOI on the penalty kill, normally on the second unit.
With his time split between the second and third pairings, Soucy’s CF% of 51.70 at 5v5 play ranked him as the 4th best Seattle defenceman in that category amongst players with over 70 games played. His xGF% of 51.36 at 5v5 was the third-best in the Kraken d-corps, while Soucy’s xGA of 43.70 put him first among defenders. It should be noted that Soucy played the 5th-most minutes out of the six of them, so the rate metric is probably more representative of his impact that the accumulated xGA.
Generally speaking, defencemen usually suffer in CF%, so it’s nice to see that Soucy was still able to get a decent Corsi share at 5v5 play. The other category in which defencemen usually see a dip is in HDCF%, but Soucy’s 47.94 HDCF% ranks him 4th in that regard. It’s really not bad, considering that his deployment was approximately in that 4th-5th defender role slot. But for added context, outside of Adam Larsson and Vince Dunn, Soucy’s 58.62% offensive zone starts and 54.84% offensive faceoff starts was the highest of any Kraken defencemen, thus possibly giving his numbers a bit of a lift.
Deployment aside, it should also be noted that Soucy tended not to impact his partners positively if at all. Borgen’s advanced stats look similar to how Soucy’s look when they are playing away from each other, while Schultz sees a massive jump up when playing away from Soucy. This could be attributed to quality of competition, but when you’re spending most of your time as part of the bottom four on your team, the matchups tend to be easier.
There is also potential for some untapped offence from Soucy, or rather some puck luck going his way. His 3.66 shooting percentage was the second-lowest in his entire career, while generating a career-high 19 rebounds off of a total of 82 shots. There’s a decent chance that his shooting percentage could regress back to his career mean, while also picking up some more points if allowed to shoot a little more. It’s not much, but Soucy does offer a little something else besides defensive work.
Ideally, you’d be pairing Soucy with a mobile partner that can break pucks out through skating or passing. Soucy is let down by his transition from offence to defence, but will excel  when given the opportunity to set up in the offensive zone and defend off sets in his own end. As such, playing alongside an Ethan Bear or Filip Hronek should prove condusive to maximizing his strength while minimizing the weaknesses in his game.
It makes Soucy a good fit style-wise with this team, but what about everything else? Seattle relied heavily on their top pairing of Dunn-Larsson, with the pair of them playing just under 400 more minutes than third-place Jamie Oleksiak. As such, it can be inferred that Soucy’s quality of competition wasn’t the greatest, and was generally put into situations where he would eat up the scraps of ice time. To his credit, he did it well and in unspectacular fashion, which is what is needed from your third pairing in the playoffs. But, does that mean that Soucy belongs in a top 4? That’s really dependant on what you want out of your back end, and where your team is at in its competitive cycle.
What should be cautionary is taking a player from a team with sound defensive structure and expecting him to replicate the same results by himself on his new team. Canuck fans saw that with Jason Dickinson, and Soucy has the possibility of doing the same thing as well. Seattle established an identity of strong team defence in their inaugural season, one that continued through the 2022-23 season. The reputation wasn’t without merit – the Kraken finished as the 6th best team in CF% (52.16) and 13th in xGF% (51.84). This meant that they controlled possession more often than not, while also generating more chances than they gave up. Soucy’s numbers perhaps are a beneficiary of this, riding off the team’s efforts instead of being entirely representative of his own impacts.
Back to the golden question though: Should the Canucks sign Soucy? It’s an easy cop out answer to say yes, but at the right price. Realistically, Soucy doesn’t make too much sense for this club to acquire at the projected cap hit that’s been rumoured. $3.5 million might not be horrible, but it’s still a premium for a defenceman that might not thrive in Vancouver, both in a top 4 role and in a team trying to establish their defensive systems. If the cap hit comes in more around $3 million, it becomes a lot more stomachable, but anything over $3.75 million and this team should turn right around from the negotiating table.
It’s a case of a solid defenceman coming off a good season with a good team. How much of Soucy’s success was because of his play or the Kraken’s? Can he continue his defensive excellence in Vancouver, where he’ll be relied upon a lot more in elevated minutes? These questions make a $3.5+ million commitment uncomfortable, especially if there is term for the 29-year-old. But, with little options to immediately upgrade their back end, the Canucks might be forced to make a decision with one of the better defencemen on the market.
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