There were those who claimed that Tyler Myers’ five-year, $30 million UFA contract was untradeable the moment he signed it back in July of 2019.
The next couple of years didn’t do much to change that perspective, either.
Myers had a bumpy, up-and-down but overall solid first regular season with the Vancouver Canucks, followed by a polarizing postseason performance. On the one hand, Myers successfully shut down large forwards like Alex Tuch. But the other hand was firmly affixed to Myers’ stick and constantly being swung at opponents, earning him 12 penalties in ten playoff games and the nickname “Tyler Minors.”
Then came a disastrous 2021 season, in which Myers became one of the most porous defenders in the entire league. The gaffes and miscues drew the bulk of the attention, but Myers’ poor decision-making and gap control conspired to give him nearly an even-strength-goal-against-per-game. That didn’t just make Myers (and Jim Benning) look bad, it also had a clear detrimental impact on Myers’ teammates. To wit, more than a third of Quinn Hughes’ goals against in 2021 came during the 17% of his ice-time in which he was partnered with Myers.
Suffice it to say, then, that coming into this season, Myers was considered untradeable. There was even some talk of leaving him exposed in the Seattle Expansion Draft, though everyone was also quite sure that Seattle wouldn’t take him.
But, oh, what can change in a couple of months.
Even under coach Travis Green, Myers experienced a bounceback of sorts early on in the 2021/22 season. He joined the incoming Oliver Ekman-Larsson on an incredibly expensive, but also quite effective, second pairing that was tasked with the bulk of the tough defensive assignments. He was still getting lit up on the penalty kill, but at five-on-five, Myers was playing the best hockey of his Vancouver career.
And then Bruce Boudreau took over, and Myers took things to a whole new level.
Since the start of the Boudreau Era, Myers has been a revelation. He’s pulling down huge minutes against primarily top-six opposition, and he’s thriving. He’s rushing the puck and he’s crushing the opposition physically, and not just Duncan Keith. Myers’ analytic results are strong, but it’s really the raw numbers that speak loudest.
Last year, Myers was on the ice for 40 goals for and 52 goals against at even-strength through 55 regular season games.
This year, through 48 games, Myers has been on the ice for 39 goals for and only 30 against at even-strength. That gives him the third-best even-strength goal differential on the team at +9, trailing only Luke Schenn and Conor Garland.
Especially given the context of his difficult deployment in 2021/22— 17th toughest in the entire NHL — that’s quite the impressive swing.
True, Myers is having one of the worst offensive seasons of his career. But that’s at least partly a team issue on a roster that only has 11 total goals from its blueline.
The general point to be made here is that Myers is having his best season as a Canuck by far, and is playing hockey that — if not living up to his $6 million AAV — is of obvious top-four NHL quality.
In other words, Myers is no longer untradeable. Satiar Shah and others have dropped recent hits of a market for Myers, and it’s not all that hard to see why. Top-four, right-handed defenders are the rarest asset in professional hockey, and that’s what Myers is. Sure, he may still be overpaid, but a team could be looking at him and thinking “Well, I’m going to have to overpay to get a top-four RHD one way or another. I might as well get this one who’s only got two-and-a-half years on his deal left, instead of signing one to a brand-new long-term contract.” Some teams might even be willing to offer up a halfway decent return for him.
But if other teams are thinking that, then what are the Canucks thinking?
At this point, they’ve got to be thinking that they can’t really afford to give Myers up, no matter how good the return might be.
The appeal to moving Myers comes from getting out of the last two years in his contract, and thus removing the risk of him underperforming in those years and becoming a total albatross, a la Loui Eriksson. That’s a reasonable train of thought.
But equally worthy of consideration is the role that Myers plays on the Canucks right now, and the current unfeasibility of easily replacing him.
There’s certainly no RHD help to be found on the rest of the roster right now. Schenn is playing well over and above what anyone could have ever expected from him, but he’s just not a long-term solution, nor someone you want in your top-four for too terribly long.
Travis Hamonic hasn’t been able to hit the ice much, and hasn’t played well when he has. Tucker Poolman has been an unmitigated disaster. Kyle Burroughs is a fabulous fill-in, but that’s it.
The “In The System” portion of the roster looks even worse, somehow. Brady Keeper was an intriguing offseason addition, but he broke his leg in training camp and still hasn’t returned. Madison Bowey is AHL depth at best.
Jett Woo, once-hyped, has taken several developmental steps backward and has even been subject to a healthy scratch in Abbotsford. He’s not a total write-off yet, but he’s also not a prospect that anyone should be counting on.
The Canucks have drafted, but not yet signed, both Viktor Persson and Jonathan Myrenberg. They’re both longshots and a long ways off.
So, a Myers replacement will not come from within.
Maybe the Canucks can look to an upcoming UFA to bolster their right side, as they once looked to Myers.
The 2022 UFA market offers up Kris Letang (too old), John Klingberg (too expensive), Rasmus Ristolainen (not good), and PK Subban (too old/too expensive/not good). Josh Manson and Connor Murphy might be the best top-four RHD fits, but each of them are a downgrade on Myers — and then what are you paying them, and for how long?
The 2023 crew doesn’t look much better, with Matt Dumba, Damon Severson, and Scott Mayfield leading the charge. Any of Artem Zub, Erik Cernak, or MacKenzie Weegar would be amazing, obviously, but the chances of them even making it to UFA status is slim — and if they do, every team in the league will be bidding for them.
As for trade targets? You can forget about them. Top-four RHDs just don’t really move. It cost the Flyers the 14th overall pick and a 2023 second to get Ristolainen this past summer, and he sucks! The odds of the Canucks being able to acquire an upgrade on Myers without crippling the rest of the franchise are next to nil.
Now, maybe the Canucks can wrangle a young, near-NHL-ready RHD in an upcoming trade. We’ve all heard the speculation surrounding JT Miller and Braden Schneider. Either of Brock Boeser or Conor Garland could feasibly return a quality RHD prospect, too.
But that’s still not a very good reason to trade Myers.
Do the Canucks really want a Schneider to show up and immediately have to be “the guy” on a right side consisting of Poolman, Hamonic, and Burroughs? That sounds like a pretty bad idea.
Myers is only one of the Canucks’ two required top-four RHDs. If they’re going to compete in the remaining two-and-a-half seasons on Myers’ contract — and they’ll certainly hope to — they need to add at least one more top-four-quality RHD to the mix.
That’s going to be tough. Maybe they’ll trade for a Schneider, maybe they’ll sign a Cernak, who knows? Hopefully, they figure it out.
But if they trade Myers, they’ll have to acquire two top-four-quality RHDs. And that’s decidedly trickier.
That’s why, right through to 2025, the best option the Canucks are going to have on their right side second pairing is probably going to be Myers. He doesn’t cost anything to acquire, you know exactly what his salary’s going to be, and he’s got established chemistry with another defender in OEL that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Is he still overpaid? Well, sure. But by how much? Unless they’re on an ELC, any equivalent or better player is going to be getting paid somewhere in the same range.
Is Myers overpaid by more or less than the $1.25 million bonus that the Canucks are flirting with handing out to Jaroslav Halak? It’s not a negligible amount, but it’s not exactly backbreaking, either.
Myers’ current combination of performance and salary may not be ideal, but it’s looking a lot more manageable than it had before, and it’s not worth the Canucks going out of their way to trade.
In fact, it’s not worth them trading him at all.