Ever since new management — headed by POHO Jim Rutherford and GM Patrik Allvin — took over the Vancouver Canucks, insider info has grown increasingly difficult to come by. This front office came in with a stated goal of plugging up leaks and seems to have mostly accomplished that, with items like the JT Miller extension and the Riley Stillman trade completely blindsiding fans and media alike.
Very recently, however, things have changed.
Given their start to the season, it’s no surprise that the Canucks have let it be known that several of their players are available via trade. But as soon as one team starts negotiating with another, the possibility of information making it out to the media drastically increases. With multiple players on the block, the leaks no longer have to be coming from inside the house, and can now come from a whole host of non-Canuck sources.
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And they have.
First up in this week’s Rumour Roundup are twin reports out of Ontario about Tyler Myers trade talks.
On Saturday, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported that the Canucks discussed a potential swap of Tyler Myers for Nikita Zaitsev with the Ottawa Senators.
Subsequent and alleged details that have come out since about these talks — if true — give a pretty clear indication of Myers’ market value, or lack thereof.
Zaitsev, like Myers, is a veteran RHD who is decidedly overpaid and may no longer be consistently effective as an NHL defender. Like Myers, Zaitsev is signed for this season and next, albeit at a smaller cap hit of $4.5 million.
As it stands, Zaitsev has been assigned to the AHL while Myers continues to pull down 20+ minutes on a nightly basis for the Canucks, so their contributions to their teams are clearly not equivalent.
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And yet, all indications are that the discussed swap was not just one-for-one, but that the Senators turned down that swap.
Initial reports that Zaitsev enacted his ten-team no-trade clause to prevent a move to Vancouver have since been declared false.
And with the Senators now up to more than $18 million in effective cap space, we can safely assume that the $1.5 million difference in AAV was not a determining factor.
Putting two-and-two together, the real reason for the talks falling through seems to be the $5 million signing bonus still owed to Myers this summer. The cash discrepancy seems to have resulted in the Senators asking for an additional sweetener, a request that the Canucks turned down.
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Which most seem to agree was a good call. For all Myers’ warts, swapping him out for a lesser, even more mistake-prone defender and paying for the privilege would not have been a move that would help the Canucks much, now or in the future.
Still, the fact that negotiations progressed this far is probably not a good sign when it comes to Myers’ overall trade value. One has to assume that, for the most part, the Canucks were comfortable with a Myers-for-Zaitsev exchange, up to the point of the requested sweetener. That move makes the Canucks worse, but saves them cap and cash.
That means that the Canucks — and the teams that they are negotiating with — view Myers as a cap dump.
In other words, any hopes the Canucks might have once had of returning a sizeable draft pick for Myers will have to be set aside, at least for the present moment.
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Which brings us to the second-half of our Myers-to-Ontario roundup, because the Toronto Maple Leafs have also reportedly been doing some tire-kicking — or should that be Tyler-kicking?
With Morgan Rielly on LTIR and Jake Muzzin out even longer with a potentially career-ending injury, the Leafs have ample cap space to accommodate Myers’ full contract for the 2022/23 season, and plenty of reason to seek his services. Assuming Muzzin remains out, the Leafs could even fit in Myers’ $6 million cap hit for 2023/24, too — though whether they’d actually want to use that space for a player of Myers’ calibre is questionable.
Either way, let’s assume for a moment that the Leafs weren’t just kicking tires, and are genuinely interested in acquiring Myers at full sticker price. What could the Canucks expect in return?
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Well, given the Zaitsev rumours, the answer is probably not much.
The Canucks would definitely have to take back salary. Matt Murray fits the bill as a Zaitsev-esque contract, but the solution could also be found in smaller contracts like Justin Holl, Pierre Engvall, or Alex Kerfoot.
Beyond that? The Canucks shouldn’t expect anything, really. If the goal of trading Myers is just to cut a little cap and cash, that’s all that they’re going to get. The salary cap still rules the market, and it’s suppressing any value that Myers’ on-ice play might have garnered — which is already pretty limited.
What if retention enters the picture?
Now we’re getting somewhere. The Maple Leafs, in particular, would have to be significantly more interested in a $3 million Myers for this year and next than they would be in a $6 million Myers.
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But retention is a further complicating factor, and it raises its own issues.
If the Canucks were able to retain on Myers and not take any salary back, that would be one thing. As soon as they trade a 50% Myers to Toronto for, say, Holl, all they’ve really done is effectively created a $5 million cap hit for Holl. Retaining only saves money if no cap comes back, and requiring no cap to come back might scuttle any value gleaned from the retention.
If the Canucks can find someone willing to pay a decent price for a retained Myers and not send much salary back, that would be one thing. But that doesn’t seem incredibly likely at the moment.
Even then, the Canucks would still have to be willing to play retention ball. The Canucks have not retained on a player’s contract since they held back 25% of Michael Del Zotto’s deal back in 2019. Before that, it was Jannik Hansen in 2017, and before that it was Roberto Luongo in 2014. The Canucks have never retained salary totalling more than $1 million.
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So, assuming that they’re suddenly willing to retain multiple millions on Myers might be a bit of a leap.
What does it all mean?
It means that, as it stands right now, the Canucks don’t have much of a path available to trade Myers and actually acquire anything that is going to better the team in the long- or short-term.
What they might be able to do is trade Myers in order to save a miniscule amount of cap and a considerable amount of cash, but that’s really it.
Any trade that might bring back value is going to cost the Canucks that cash and cap.
In other words, how and when Myers is traded is going to say an awful lot about where the organization’s priorities are currently at.
A Myers-for-Zaitsev swap, or anything similar out of Toronto, sends a clear message that cash is the primary consideration.
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