For some reason, Canucks fans have been exceedingly worried about Chris Tanev this off-season. The number of tweets and e-mails that I’ve received asking about Tanev is mind-boggling, particularly considering he has only played one full season with the Canucks and it happened to be one shortened by a lockout. Tanev is certainly a good young player, but he’s not worth all the fuss and bother that has been raised over the past month.
The concern is particularly overblown when you consider that Tanev doesn’t have arbitration rights and therefore has minimal leverage in contract negotiations. The Canucks will re-sign the cool, calm, and collected defenceman eventually — it’ll just take time to sort out the particulars.
Meanwhile, as Canucks fans eagerly await a new contract for Tanev, Mike Gillis has quietly gone about re-signing a quartet of other restricted free agents to new deals.
Dale Weise had filed for salary arbitration, but got a deal done before his July 31 hearing, avoiding the embarrassment of Gillis and Laurence Gilman showing the arbitrator video evidence of his drinking problem and immediately getting a ruling back stating “LOL, league minimum n00bzors!!!!11″ which is, of course, official legal jargon.
Instead, Weise signed a one-year, one-way deal for $750,000, which is $200,000 over league minimum. It’s a fair deal for the 24-year-old who has been a consistent presence on the Canucks’ fourth line and provides physicality and surprising speed. He’s not a particularly good fighter, but he’s willing to drop the gloves when necessary and, more importantly, can play a generally thankless defensive role with fairly good results.
He had some interesting things to say about new Canucks’ coach John Tortorella, who Weise briefly played for with the Rangers:
He’s not a guy who’s going to sugar-coat things, and he’s a guy to who you can honestly voice your opinion and he’s not going to hold a grudge.
That’s a side of Tortorella that we haven’t heard much about, that he encourages open communication from his players. More often, we hear that his communication is one-way, loud, and offensive.
Weise also seems to think that his one-year contract will give him the chance to prove that he’s more than a fourth-line player. Considering that Alex Burrows, Jannik Hansen, Zack Kassian, and, possibly, Brad Richardson are all ahead of him on the depth chart, that seems unlikely. Then add in that Nicklas Jensen likely gets a look in a top-nine role if a spot opens up due to injury and Weise will probably be plying his trade on the fourth line all season.
Jordan Schroeder re-signed for $600,000 on a one-year deal, a $300,000 paycut after appearing in 31 games for the Canucks last season.The main benefit for Schroeder is that it’s a one-way deal, so he’ll receive his $600,000 per year whether he’s playing for the Canucks or the Utica Comets and makes it a bit more likely that he’ll stick with the big club out of training camp with the Canucks potentially facing a cap crunch.
Schroeder can potentially pencil himself in as the Canucks’ third-line centre next season, but he’ll have to out-battle Brad Richardson, as well as prospects Brendan Gaunce and Bo Horvat, while giving the Canucks no reason to look outside the organization for assistance. I like Schroeder a great deal, but he’ll need to prove that he can be a little more consistent defensively, while occasionally providing some tertiary scoring.
It will be interesting to see how Tortorella handles the undersized Schroeder. You could, perhaps, compare him to the Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello, who is listed at 5’7″. Zuccarello is better offensively than Schroeder, but their size is comparable, and Tortorella gave him a decent number of minutes when he was in the lineup, averaging nearly 16-and-a-half minutes in the regular season and playoffs last year. Given the example of Zuccarello, it seems like Tortorella does not particularly discriminate based on size.
Speaking of size, the Canucks also re-signed the 6’6″ Kellan Lain. Ironically, the sizeable centre’s re-signing has gone under the radar, without even a press release from the Canucks website, but The Canuck Way noticed that his contract had been added to the Canucks’ page on CapGeek.com. Like Schroeder, Lain took a paycut down to $600,000 per year from his initial contract that had a cap hit a little over $1 million. That entry-level deal was just a two-way, one-year deal that paid $70,000 at the AHL level and, since he signed the contract in March after finishing his college season, he only received a fraction of that amount. He did, however, get a $92,500 signing bonus.
This time around, Lain signed a two-year, two-way contract that pays $200,000 in the AHL and $600,000 in the NHL. That makes Lain very easy to fit under the cap if he wins the fourth line centre job out of training camp or is a mid-season call-up. Given his size and defensive responsibility, I’m leaning towards Lain as my choice to centre the fourth line next season, though that opinion may change with a questionable training camp.
Finally, there is Yann Sauve, whose professional career has been all over the place. He suffered a concussion during the Canucks’ 2010 training camp after getting hit by a car — that’s a literal car, not a metaphor for getting run over during a scrimmage. Still, Sauve managed to get into five games with the Canucks that season and didn’t look out of place, though he didn’t particularly stand out either.
The following year, Sauve played the entire season for the Chicago Wolves and was decent, but didn’t do enough to earn a call-up. Then the lockout happened and Sauve ended up spending most of the 2012-13 season in the ECHL with the Kalamazoo Wings, scoring 19 points in 32 games.
That’s one of the benefits of the Canucks owning their own AHL affiliate. With the Chicago Wolves aiming to continue a winning tradition, ice time was at a premium, with non-Canucks prospects like Brad Hunt and Mark Matheson snagging roster spots. This season, however, Sauve will likely get more of a chance to prove himself in Utica after signing a one-year, two-way contract worth $708,750 in the NHL and $65,000 in the AHL.
While Sauve will still be a restricted free agent at the end of next season, it seems likely that this is his last chance with the Canucks after getting passed on the depth chart by Chris Tanev, Frankie Corrado, Peter Andersson, and possibly even Adam Polasek and Henrik Tommernes.
All told, these four re-signings are a nice bit of work by Gillis, particularly when you consider that Schroeder and Lain may start the season as the Canucks’ third and fourth line centres and are signed for just $600,000 each. Weise has been a consistent presence on the fourth line and Sauve costs next to nothing while playing in the AHL and gives the Canucks another year to evaluate him after a tough 2012-13 season.Tags: dale weise, Jordan Schroeder, Kellan Lain, Mike Gillis, Restricted Free Agents, Yann Sauve