The Vancouver Canucks’ search for a defenceman is finally over. Well, for now.
After months of trying, Patrik Allvin and Jim Rutherford were finally able to pry Ethan Bear away from the Carolina Hurricanes. Bear arrives in Vancouver with AHL centre Lane Pederson in exchange for a fifth-round pick.
The trade is a surprisingly strong one for Vancouver, who get Bear at a discounted price thanks to Carolina’s unwillingness to play him, and $400 thousand in salary retention. But make no mistake, Bear is an undervalued, top-four quality defender who showed flashes of his potential as a member of the Edmonton Oilers for three seasons.
Bear has been on the Canucks’ radar since the Benning administration, and for good reason. Bear’s underlying numbers as an Oiler were quite good, providing the type of two-way defence that the Canucks’ blueline has been desperate for.
Bear’s best season came during the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season, when he recorded 21 points in 71 games. But after his offensive numbers took a dip in 2021, the Oilers traded him for added scoring depth in Warren Foegele.
As a member of the Hurricanes, Bear found a bit of an extra gear but struggled to stay in coach Rod Brind’Amour’s lineup consistently due to the team’s already high-scoring blue line. Bear was simply another offensive weapon caught behind Jaccob Slavin, Brady Skjei, and Brett Pesce on the Canes’ depth chart. Once Carolina acquired Brent Burns from the Sharks and former Canuck Jalen Chatfield began to show promise as a defensively-minded third-pairing option, Bear became the odd man out.
In Vancouver, Bear immediately upgrades the Canucks’ right side on both sides of the puck. The natural place for him would likely be on the first pairing with Quinn Hughes, but with Hughes nursing an injury, it’s more likely we’ll see Bear start by lining up next to either Jack Rathbone or an offhand Kyle Burroughs.
Canucks Defence Depth Chart
The Canucks now finally see a scenario where they might be able to get consistent offence from an outlet on their blue line not named Quinn Hughes. But Bear also provides Bruce Boudreau’s bench help in an equally crucial spot; puck possession.
Corsi For Percentage is a stat used to track how much a player’s team controls the puck when that player is on the ice compared to off of it. According to Evolving Hockey
, in Bear’s sole season in Carolina, his CF% clocked in at 57.64%. That would’ve put him first amongst Canucks defenders last year, with Quinn Hughes placing second despite being a full five percent behind (52.05%).
Add in the controllable years left after Bear’s contract expires in the summer and the extra centre depth in Pederson, and Vancouver’s depth chart is suddenly looking a bit less thinning.
That’s not to say this deal is a perfect piece of business considering where the team looks to be heading. Will Bear be the difference maker that turns the Canucks from a 1-5-2 team into a Stanley Cup contender? Of course not. Is it a good idea for a team near the bottom of the standings to be trading away draft picks? Not really.
But is the addition of Bear still a very tidy piece of business that undoubtedly helps shore up the weakest link of the Canucks’ roster? Absolutely.
With Bear on his way from Carolina, it still leaves the Canucks a bit shorthanded for tonight’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Bear will likely make his Canucks debut on November 1st against the Devils.