Last year, as the dust from the trade deadline settled, we noted that, the big winner for the Canucks had to be Tanner Glass, who had spent most of the 2010-11 season playing with a revolving cast of linemates. Before injuries necessitated some line juggling, the acquisitions of Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre were supposed to round out the lineup, complement Glass, and give the Canucks a fourth line that could play. It would have been nice.
So who is this year’s Tanner Glass? We submit to you the following three candidates: Chris Tanev, Laurence Gilman, and Ryan Kesler.
1) CHRIS TANEV
Lost within the trauma, outcry, and accusations that we were puppets of the Gillis regime that followed the Cody Hodgson trade was discussion over what the Canucks didn’t do on trade deadline day, most notably getting a right-handed defenceman for Alex Edler. Among the many, many things of which we were so, so sure was that the Canucks were one rightie rearguard short. We assumed Mike Gillis would make remedying this deficiency a top priority on Monday.
However (in what turned out to be a recurring theme), he surprised us. Sure, the Canucks acquired Marc-Andre Gragnani, but while Gragnani may develop into a piece the team can use on a regular basis later, he looks to be little more than a depth defenceman at this right now. Plus he’s a left-sider. What gives?
Chris Tanev gives. The young blueliner has impressed, and clearly, he’s impressed enough to convince the Canucks’ coaching staff and management that he can play with Alex Edler if the team so needs. From Tom Benjamin:
This is a very clear vote of confidence in Chris Tanev. If one of the top four go down, it is Tanev who will have to step up. Is that an unsettling thought, asking a rookie to take on that responsibility into the playoffs? It should be, but it is not.
Tanev produces almost no offense and he hardly ever hits anyone. (He took his first penalty in his 41st game. For tripping.) But he is mobile, he has an excellent stick and he is an excellent passer. He stays in position and pokes the puck away from attackers. Under pressure he will slip a ten foot pass through the crease to an open Aaron Rome. Or he will snap a 60 footer to a streaking Mason Raymond. Or he will take the hit to knock it off the glass.
Sami Salo will be Edler’s partner going into the playoffs, but when the Fragile Fin’s inevitable injury comes, we now know that the team trusts Tanev to replace him. Tanev hasn’t been with the team much this season, but clearly, he’s grown as a defender. He saw some penalty-kill time Tuesday in Phoenix, he’s seen some time with the Sedins, and Mike Gillis’s non-move guarantees that he will continue to see more deployment in important situations in the spring. Monday was big for him.
2) LAURENCE GILMAN
Benjamin also touched on another overlooked element of Monday’s movement: the cap implications. I keep hearing about how Gillis might have been able to reap a bigger return for Hodgson (and he might have, although this notion that Hodgson could have netted Gillis basically anyone he wanted is laughable), but one aspect people are overlooking is that a bigger-name player comes with a bigger ticket. Kassian is on an entry-level deal for two more years after this one. Benjamin again:
Kassian is on the first year of his ELC at $870,000. Gragnani makes the minimum wage this year, and will be an RFA without a case for a big raise next year. Hodgson makes $1.7 MM. If things unfold the way Hodgson fans expect, he’ll be cheap and productive next year – a top six forward at $1.7 MM. (And note, I don’t think Hodgson has been a particular bargain over his first two years.) Anyway, after that Hodgson will be looking for a big raise. The better he is next year, the more he will cost the year after.
Kassian will still be making $870,000. Hodgson is going to cost at least three times as much as Kassian over the next two years assuming he plays well.
That last line is what sells it for me. At least three times as much. Considering the Canucks have been flush to the cap since the Mike Gillis era started, Laurence Gilman, the team’s wizard capologist, has had to be one step ahead at all times. The Kassian deal is an excellent example of why he usually is: the team now has a developing top-six power winger (and two if you count Nicklas Jensen) in the fold for next to nothing through 2014, the same year the Sedins’ contracts end. Furthermore, David Booth will only have one year remaining on his deal when it comes time to re-up Kassian, making him very moveable if the team needs to make room for the raise.
Talk about a cap windfall. Gilman must be doing cartwheels (or at least spelling “boobs” on his calculator).
3) RYAN KESLER
In Zack Kassian and Sammy Pahlsson, Mike Gillis went out and acquired two pieces that complement Ryan Kesler, which is fairly reasonable considering the Selke winner is one of the pieces the team is built around.
(This is another element of the Cody Hodgson trade that’s been overlooked: Hodgson didn’t really complement Kesler. He didn’t look good on Kesler’s wing, and his defensive deficiencies forced Kesler to take a step back offensively to eat up more defensive minutes.)
The acquisition of Sammy Pahlsson doesn’t just turn the third line into a checking line for [excrement and laughter] — it does so to free up Ryan Kesler as a scorer, even moreso than he was last season. The Canucks now have two lines that can be thrown at other team’s top scorers, meaning Kesler won’t have to spend entire playoff series battling opposition stars to a stalemate.
And if Zack Kassian can continue to develop into the top-six forward he’s projected to be, he’s that big right winger the team has been craving for years. He’ll play either with Kesler, which could be a bona fide force, or he’ll play with the Sedins, reuniting Kesler with bestie Alex Burrows.
It’s tough to argue that Ryan Kesler didn’t come out of the deadline looking like a peach. Is he the big winner?Tags: big winners, Canucks, cap wizardry, gilman, Kesler, PITB is a puppet of the establishment, tanev, trade deadline