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What might it take for the Vancouver Canucks to re-sign Filip Hronek? Should they?

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
22 days ago
Our series examining the Vancouver Canucks’ free agents continues as we shift from Nikita Zadorov to Filip Hronek. 
Since Elias Pettersson re-signed, all eyes have been on the upcoming Filip Hronek extension. Now, luckily for the Canucks, Hronek is a restricted free agent (RFA), meaning that they can’t really lose him without gaining assets in return. Whether he re-signs, signs an offer sheet with another team, thus receiving a boatload of draft picks in return, or they help him facilitate a trade to a destination he’s willing to extend — Vancouver’s bases are covered. 
Canucks General Manager Patrik Allvin met with Sportsnet’s Dan Riccio and Satiar Shah on Canucks Central just a few hours after this year’s trade deadline to discuss a Hronek extension. 
“We like Filip; he’s been a good fit for us. We want to keep him,” Allvin said when asked if the club would explore his extension now that the March 8th trade deadline had passed. “We have put a contract offer out to him that we feel is fair.”
Allvin didn’t comment on the length of the potential deal, but other sources who cover the team have revealed what the length may have looked like.
But first, let’s see how Hronek has fit in with the Canucks this season.
It’s important to note this was a discussion already had on Canucks Army. However, I felt there were a few things to add to this series, so let’s get into it.

How is Filip Hronek’s fit on the Canucks?

The Canucks acquired Filip Hronek from the Detroit Red Wings at last year’s trade deadline — packaging the first-round pick they acquired in the Bo Horvat trade and a second-round pick to acquire the then 25-year-old right-shot defenceman. Hronek is in the final year of his three-year, $13.2M contract that pays him $4.4M annually.
It’s relatively easy to check how Hronek has fit in with this Canucks team, as he’s spent most of his time with the current Norris trophy favourite, Quinn Hughes. They have played over 1000 minutes of ice time together and rank third in the league in ice time as a duo. 
Here are Hronek’s numbers with all five defensive partners.
*All stats are at 5-on-5.
It’s no surprise that this Hronek-Hughes pairing has been elite this season. They have a +25 rating together and have been on the ice for a whopping 66 goals together — this leads all defensive pairings in the league in total goals for.
Now, something that may be alarming when it comes to his analytics is his expected goals for percentage (xGF%). With any partner other than Hughes, Hronek is on the wrong side of the xGF% — some bad enough to be in the thirties. 
Not just that, his numbers across all analytics, scoring chances for (SCF%) and high-danger scoring chances for (HDCF%) all drop significantly when he’s away from his regular partner. Hronek is considered the Canucks second-best defenceman; one can assume that he would be the one to “carry” the pairing.
To see these numbers be as poor as they are, one might call him a “Quinn Hughes merchant.”
Let’s take a look at Hughes and Hronek’s numbers together as well as their numbers away from each other.
As you can see, Hughes’s numbers are similar to those when he is playing with Hronek. However, when Hronek plays without Hughes, his numbers, again, dramatically drop.
That’s not to diminish Hronek’s career year this season. He has found outstanding chemistry with Hughes, and if they can reach an extension, they will be a lethal pairing for years to come. 
Now, what might this Filip Hronek contract extension look like? 

How much will Hronek cost?

Frank Seravalli first reported in December that he believes the starting number starts higher than a seven regarding the Hronek extension.
Seravalli has since doubled down on this take in late February, saying, “(I) Still think the number starts with an eight.”
The Canucks are in line to have $30.575M of available cap space and have clearly made Hronek a priority. But at what cost?
I teased earlier that sources covering the team have revealed the extension offered by the Canucks. Irfaan Gaffar believes the extension was an eight-year deal worth $52-54M, somewhere in the ballpark of $6.5-$6.75M annually.
A clear indicator of a player’s value is to look at their individual numbers and compare them to what other defencemen of their stature are making.
Before looking into Hronek’s comparables, one must determine what type of player he is. After acquiring him at last year’s trade deadline, Allvin said this about his new defenceman. 
“We were excited about the opportunity to acquire a 25-year-old top-end right-shot defenceman. With the skill we have up front, it requires the puck to get up the ice, preferably on the tape. Filip is a two-way defenceman who’s established himself as a top-end defenceman in the league.”
After hearing the General Manager speak about Hronek’s two-way play and his thoughts on him as a top-end defenceman, it only makes sense to compare his offensive and defensive abilities to those of his peers who fit a similar description.
I’ve analyzed and compared Hronek’s stats and analytics this season to eight others that fit the same description that Allvin gave to help gauge what his upcoming contract should look like.
*Stats are at 5-on-5, while the players are ranked based on their average annual value.
Let’s first look at his offensive game thus far this season. Hronek has the third most points of the bunch and is tied with Josh Morrissey for the plus/minus rating. There is a slight dip in his production when looking at his point per 60, but considering this group of high-end talent, ranking fourth indicates his impressive season.
Now, let’s not be silly — Hronek won’t demand the money the highest-paid of the bunch is making. These are all the team’s number one defencemen, where Hughes would be a better comparison. However, I thought it was important to highlight how good of a season he’s having by not looking out of place among the league’s best.
I’ve tried to be more realistic by looking at teams number two defencemen and their comparables. Here are seven other defencemen who fit the criteria.
*Stats are at 5-on-5, while the players are ranked based on their average annual value.
This group of players now makes more sense.
Hronek leads this bunch in points with 30, is fourth based on points per 60, and only trails Gustav Forsling in plus-minus rating. Looking into his analytics, he ranks in the middle of the bunch, except for HDCF%, which he’s dead last. 
Any Canucks fan has noticed the lethality of a Filip Hronek slapshot. He ranks in the league’s 95th percentile in shot speed with a top shot speed of 100.37 MPH. Among the group, he ranks second, again trailing Forsling by a minimal margin.
One concern is his individual scoring chances per 60 (iSCF/60). Hronek ranks third last among the group and 75th across all defencemen with a minimum of 200 minutes of ice time. 
This indicates that even though his SCF% ranks high, that is an on-ice stat. This means he gets credited with a scoring chance when he’s on the ice, but individually, he’s creating fewer scoring chances than his points may suggest. *Ah hem, Quinn Hughes merchant*
Taking all of this into account, let’s get into the numbers.
Having your career year in a contract year is lovely, isn’t it? No doubt he’s in line for a raise with this point totals. Hronek has 45 points this season and is on pace for 54 points — this would rank as the 11th-best Canuck defencemen season in franchise history, and, besides Quinn Hughes, the best season since 2010-2011 Christian Ehrhoff.
Players like Devon Toews, Vince Dunn, and Shea Theodore can be considered the closest comparables to Filip Hronek’s game. Both Toews and Dunn were on bridge deals before having similar stellar contract years, while Theodore meets more of Hronek’s analytics.
Before signing their big ticket, Toews and Dunn were making around $4M per season. Dunn had his highest point total of his career, while Toews fell just seven points shy. Analytically, they were both better than this year’s Hronek, so maybe this indicates that the Canucks should not eclipse their annual value. 
Theodore signed his $5.2M contract in 2018-2019, coming off the inaugural year for the Vegas Golden Knights. Theodore led the Golden Knights in points by a defenceman during that playoff run, earning him this lengthy extension. These two offensive defencemen are analytically very comparable. They are both on the positive side of 50% regarding xGF & SCF%. 
Devon Toews is the perfect comparable. Both players play alongside two of the NHL’s greatest defencemen, Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes. While playing second fiddle may be difficult, these two have done well, allowing their partner to thrive offensively.
Given today’s market, an average annual value around the $7M-$7.25M range is around fair value.
With Quinn Hughes as their star defencemen, it’s important the Canucks make sure they keep him as the highest-paid defenceman on the Canucks roster — but this doesn’t sound like what Hronek’s camp wants.
If this is true, after looking into the league’s stats, analytics, and comparables, this is too much money for Filip Hronek.
What do you think Canucks fans? Are you comfortable with the team bringing Hronek back if the contract resembles Devon Toews’s in the $7-$7.25M range?

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