Early this morning, the Canucks traded a second round pick and defenceman prospect Kevin Connauton for Derek Roy, a pending unrestricted free agent. While this was certainly reasonable value for a scoring centre like Roy, the pending UFA part made some people a little nervous. There’s the possibility that he walks away from the Canucks in the off-season and is little more than a rental.
Of course, some rentals turn out better than others. Perhaps in an effort to qualm these concerns, the Canucks announced that they have re-signed Chris Higgins, another former rental, to a 4-year extension.
Higgins was acquired at the 2011 trade deadline for Evan Oberg and a third round pick and initially didn’t make much of an impact. Apart from a 3-point game against the woeful Blue Jackets, Higgins had just 2 assists in 13 games with the Canucks after the trade. In the playoffs, however, he developed a reputation for clutch goals, tallying 3 game-winners, and played an important role in their run to the Stanley Cup Finals. He was rewarded with a 2-year contract worth $1.9 million per year.
It was the following season that Higgins really hit his stride with the Canucks, playing largely on the second line with Ryan Kesler and putting up 43 points in 71 games. His 18 goals were fourth on the team, while his abs were undoubtedly first.
Most of that success, however, came alongside Kesler and David Booth, two players who are exceptional at driving puck possession. This season, with Kesler and Booth out of the lineup, Higgins has struggled from a puck possession standpoint, frequently getting buried while playing a more defensive role on the third line. The upside is that he’s continued scoring goals, with 9 so far through 35 games, a 21-goal pace over an 82 game season, although 2 of those goals were into an empty net.
Higgins’ 4-year extension comes with a $2.5 million cap hit, a reasonable amount for a versatile third-line winger who can step into the top-six at a moment’s notice. He likely would have received more on the open market, but clearly he still likes what he sees in Vancouver.
Unfortunately, this likely means that the Canucks won’t be able to re-sign Mason Raymond, particularly if they want to re-sign Roy rather than have him be a short-term rental. With this extension being signed a day before the trade deadline, that might open up the possibility of moving Raymond, though I’m sceptical the Canucks will trade him away, since they clearly still intend to make some noise in the playoffs.
Raymond has revitalized his career after last season’s struggles, but it’s worth noting that he only has 4 more points than Higgins and the same number of goals. If this is Raymond in a good year and Higgins in a bad year, then keeping Higgins over Raymond makes a lot of sense.Tags: Chris Higgins