When Chris Tanev passed on hiring an agent to negotiate his second contract, instead opting to make it a family affair and bring his dad into the room, it seemed as though it was only a matter of time before the Canucks announced an extension.
Sure, we may have underestimated the headache hockey dads can be, as evidenced by the whole Cody Hodgdon fiasco, not to mention Tony Gallagher’s recent profile of Gilbert Brule, whom the Canucks passed over a few years back, we learned, largely due to the meddlesome influence of his dad. But even still — with the casual approach Tanev and Mr. Tanev were taking to negotiations, it seemed unlikely that said negotiations would drag unsettlingly on into the summer.
But in Mid-June, crap got real. Tanev handed the talks over to a real agent, Vancouver-based Ross Gurney. His father said this was to “hopefully bring this to a quick conclusion”. That was almost a month ago. The hoped-for “quick conclusion” is now beginning to resemble the ending of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, the only feature-length conclusion in movie history. What’s the holdup?
The whole thing became even more concerning on July 5th, when negotiations exceeded the free agency period. Now Tanev, like an egg in boiling water, is in danger of being poached.
But Tanev’s poaching would be far less delicious, and not just because there will be no hollandaise sauce.
And yet the Canucks are showing no urgency whatsoever. It’s a tactic, albeit a risky one. Tanev has no arbitration rights, so his only leverage, at this point, is that he could be offer-sheeted by another team, and thus it would behoove the Canucks to agree to terms on the quick. Of course, if the Canucks are in a hurry, they won’t get the deal they want.
Signing an RFA is not unlike the art of wooing. You’ve gotta play it cool, hotshot. Don’t seem too eager. Don’t text her, bro.
As a result, there’s very little going on.
“We have dialogue from time to time but it’s been very, very slow moving,” Gurney told Elliott Pap earlier in the week. “Restricted free agents without arbitration rights are in a classification all their own. There doesn’t seem to be any urgency right now but, eventually, we’ll make progress.”
Here’s the other issue holding this thing up, and it’s the reason the Canucks are quite comfortable to let Tanev dangle out there in no man’s land: no one really has any idea who or what Tanev is. Who are his comparables?
Pap listed Jake Muzzin, Brendan Smith, and Nick Leddy, all of whom recently signed bridge contracts (the deal players often sign between their entry-level one and their usually larger third contract) with cap hits of $2.7M, $1.2625M, and $1M, respectively. No doubt the Canucks are hoping Tanev falls somewhere around the latter two, and they’ve already likely pointed out that both Smith and Leddy have more career points in fewer games.
This is a problem for Tanev: he hasn’t produced much offensively. He has two career NHL goals. Two. Sure, he looks like he might be on the precipice of top-four defenceman status, but he hasn’t played much in the top-four and when he has, it’s been against soft competition. If his development stalls in the slightest and he maxes out at a 4/5 guy, how much are you really willing to pay for that?
Keep in mind that the Canucks will match almost any offer below $3 million, so your contract for Tanev, a guy with two NHL goals, only a handful of games in a meaningful role, and higher-scoring comparables with cap hits of just over a million, is going to have to be substantial.
There aren’t a lot of GMs that are going to take that risk, and the Canucks know it.
And so we wait.