What’s the right contract for the Vancouver Canucks to sign Ethan Bear to?

Photo credit:© Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Noah Strang
1 year ago
The Canucks do not have a lot of major free agency decisions to make this offseason but one that does stand out is Ethan Bear. The 25 year-old defenceman was acquired near the start of this season and played 60 games with the Canucks, scoring three goals and recording 13 assists for a total of 16 points.
Rick Dhaliwal reported that the Canucks and Bear’s camp have resumed contract talks after a long pause. Bear is a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer of $2.2 million, equal to his current total salary. He shares an agent with fellow Canucks RFA Noah Juulsen.
Figuring out the right contract for Ethan Bear is going to be difficult for the Canucks. He’s only played 60 games in Vancouver and has already fizzled out in two other organizations. Still, he’s shown enough this year that you would feel disappointed in watching him walk for nothing.

Ethan Bear’s 2022-23 NHL season

Bear’s strong play was a pleasant surprise this year. After falling out of favour in Carolina, he found a regular role in Vancouver and it worked out great as he was one of the team’s better defencemen all season long. Besides Quinn Hughes, Bear is the only other defenceman with at least 50 games played where the Canucks scored more than they were scored against while he was on the ice at 5-on-5.
While he’s not the biggest body at 5’11”, Bear routinely showed that he could use his skating ability and smarts to cut down on angles and stymie attackers. He is much quicker than many of the Canucks’ other defencemen, a much more valuable skill than pure size when facing off against today’s swift NHL forwards. Just look at how he manages to stick with Devils forward Jack Hughes in the clip below.
Despite already playing for three NHL teams by the time he turned 25, Bear has shown that he does belong in the NHL. With 250 NHL games under his belt, there’s no doubt that he is a legitimate everyday big league defenceman.

What range will Bear’s next contract fall in? 

When you analyze NHL defencemen who have signed a contract from a similar position to the one that Bear is in at the moment, most of the deals look quite similar. The term usually falls between one to three years and the AAV is in the $2.5-$3 million range. Some of the best comparables for Bear’s next contract include Dante Fabbro, Oliver Kylington, and Gustav Forsling, all of which are discussed in this article here. 
The Canucks have a decision to make when it comes to Bear. No matter the term, the AAV is unlikely to change by much, perhaps shifting $500k in the $2.5m to $3m range. However, the organization will need to decide if the soon-to-be 26-year-old defenceman showed enough this year to warrant a multi-year extension or if they want to go with a one-year prove-it deal.
With defenceman like Noah Juulsen and Christian Wolanin showing encouraging signs this year, not to mention NCAA free agents like Aktio Hirose and Cole McWard who have stepped right into the lineup with some moderate success, the Canucks may decide that Bear isn’t worth the ~$2 million surplus. Filip Johansson is another player inside the organization that has shown some pleasing progression.

What is the ideal number in the Bear negotiations? 

The Canucks are in a salary cap crunch and with every additional point that Elias Pettersson scores, his next contract looms larger on the team’s balance sheet. They cannot afford to spend frivolously, even if it’s only an extra million on a smaller contract like Bear’s. The other bloated contracts mean that they need to be sharp in all future negotiations.
Bear is going to get a raise on his current salary of $2.2 million (of which the Canucks are only on the hook for $1.8m). His play this year has warranted a small jump. To me, a two year contract at $2.65 million makes sense for both sides. It provides Bear a raise while keeping the commitment for the Canucks relatively low. It would be the largest contract of the young defenceman’s career thus far and lines up with comparables from around the league, which we examined earlier this week.
Projected contract extension: 2 years x 2.75 million

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