Canucks finally re-sign Chris Tanev, so everyone can just calm down

Just who is Chris Tanev? Is he a third pairing defenceman who quietly plays good defence but has little else to give? Or is he a top-four defenceman who makes everyone he partners with better? It’s hard to say and it seems like the Canucks’ management is similarly unsure. Today they re-signed Tanev to a one-year, $1.5 million contract that will give them another season to evaluate the level-headed defender.

Laurence Gilman summed up the difficulty in assessing Tanev when he spoke to Brad Ziemer: “Chris is an evolving player and from our perspective he’s come a long way since we initially signed him. However, we were not sure what he is going to become. We think that there is a lot more for him to give. Particularly, we think his offensive production could or should increase.”

In other words, what is Tanev’s ceiling? Just how good is he going to get? Until it becomes more clear what Tanev’s upside is, the Canucks clearly didn’t want to invest in a long-term contract similar to those other RFA defencemen have been receiving this summer. A one-year bridge contract that takes Tanev to the point he has arbitration rights makes sense for both sides, giving the Canucks a little more time to evaluate and gives Tanev a little more leverage when he negotiates his next contract.

So what can we expect from Tanev in the coming season?

The most obvious difficulty in assessing Tanev is that his contributions don’t show up on the scoresheet. He scored the first two goals of his career this past season and has just 10 points in 92 career games. In general, you don’t want to pay a lot of money to defencemen who don’t put up points, as defensive defencemen tend to be a lot cheaper to acquire.

But that is why Tanev is the darling of the fancy stat crowd in the Canucks’ blogosphere: while he doesn’t score a lot of points, his underlying possession stats are very good, indicating that he keeps the puck moving in the right direction. His Corsi percentage this season was 51.9%, indicating that when he was on the ice, the Canucks had more attempted shots than their opponents.

What might be more important for some is that Tanev led all Canucks’ defencemen in shots against per 60 minutes. When Tanev was on the ice, opponents got fewer shots against the Canucks than any other defenceman.

In his two previous seasons, Tanev’s Corsi was incredibly impressive and one of the best on the team. This season, Tanev had the fourth highest Corsi among Canucks’ defencemen, but significantly lower than the past two years. That’s a little troubling, as this was the first season in which he spent some time playing in the top-four.

The two defencemen that Tanev spent the most time playing with were Keith Ballard and Alex Edler, playing a little over 259 minutes with Ballard and 116 and a half minutes with Edler. Despite Tanev’s weaker season overall, it’s certainly worth noting that Tanev did indeed make both Ballad and Edler better when he played with them.

Ballard’s Corsi percentage without Tanev was 47.2% — without Tanev, he struggled — but with Tanev it was 54.7%. The results are similar with Edler, whose Corsi percentage was 51.0% without Tanev and 56.6% with Tanev. There’s reason to believe, then, that Tanev could play in the top-four next season alongside Edler, but it’s still unclear how he’ll handle more minutes.

Meanwhile, the Canucks also re-signed Andrew Alberts today and he took an interesting paycut, as Ziemer pointed out:

I like Tanev a great deal and have liked him since his rookie year, but a one-year deal made the most sense, given that his only full season with the Canucks was shortened by the lockout. It’s still unclear who Tanev is, but Canucks fans can be happy to know that they’ll have at least one more year to get to know him better.




  1. Theycallmejanis
    August 22, 2013

    Tanev’s that guy on the team that doesn’t really have a downside, and while his upside isn’t always visible, the fans seem to know that he’s a good guy to have on the team. It was awesome seeing everybody get behind the idea of seeing Tanev signed this summer, and hopefully he’s on the roster for years to come.
    Also, it might not have been great for the Canucks to give up both Tanev and Connauton in the same year. So way to not screw up that, Mike and Larry.

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  2. akidd
    August 23, 2013

    nice write-up , daniel. sums it up nicely. that contract makes perfect sense for both sides.

    and good news about alberts. i thought he looked pretty solid late last season. and generally has improved steadily throughout his time with the canucks.

    which should be the theme of the day with alberts and tanev signed today, defensive defensemen. is their market value truly reflective of their value to a team? if a dman scores 15 goals, let’s day, roughly that of a third liner, he’s paid a king’s ransom. are those 15 goals that important? usually millions of dollars separates 3 goals and 13 goals for a dman. are those ten goals that valuable? or that much more so than a dman who moves the puck out quickly and efficiently?

    of course it’s important to have some offence from the back end but does every guy have to pot 6-16 to be considered valuable? when i watch the flow of the game guys like tanev who take the bouncing ball and get it bouncing the other way seem really valuable. guys who often get flustered and bobble and lead to prolonged possession in the d-zone but occasionally score a slapshot, power play goal less so.

    who knows? maybe those few extra back end goals ARE worth millions. or maybe a tweak in the pay/performance charts is in order? what would billy beane say?:)

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    • akidd
      August 23, 2013

      for example, how is edler worth almost four tanevs, and ballard almost three tanevs? “fuzzy math,” someone used to say…back in the day…:)

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      • Daniel Wagner
        August 23, 2013

        It’s a fair question. Part of it is supply and demand, of course. Defencemen who can score 40-50 points are a lot more rare than stay-at-home defencemen who don’t score at all. There’s also the minutes that Edler plays to consider: defencemen who eat up 23+ minutes a night are always going to get paid more.

        In fact, it’s those minutes that make it a little too easy to pick on Edler for poor defensive plays and turnovers. Considering how often he’s on the ice and how much he handles the puck, it’s not surprising that he makes more mistakes than someone who plays far fewer minutes and handles the puck less. The league leaders in turnovers are almost always good players who handle the puck a lot as they have more opportunities for giveaways.

        Heck, Dan Hamhuis led the Canucks in giveaways this past season, not Edler.

        But a player like Tanev might still be undervalued. Defensive defencemen who are big and tough and throw a lot of hits can cash in (consider Douglas Murray), but smaller and quieter players like Tanev don’t get noticed as much. In fact, guys like Murray tend to be overvalued and paid too much, which is why it was a pleasant surprise to see Alberts sign for near league minimum.

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  3. Aaron
    August 23, 2013

    I think the best stat for a d man is +/- combined with corsi as playing against a first line should be harder than playing against a fourth and thats not accuratly reflected in +/- and Corsi takes that into account. I for one don’t care if a D man has 13 goeals if he causes 100 turnovers aginst us. I would rather a Dman like Tanev on my team. Just saying.

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  4. PB
    August 23, 2013

    A good value signing, just as Alberts’ is. Tanev looks like a decent defenseman but as all the comments say before, he doesn’t necessarily add a whole lot to the team, he just isn’t a horrifying suck like Barker or a misused gambler like Ballard. I really like him (at a decent price) as a bottom pair but I don’t know if he has the upside of Corrado, Tommernes (who seems to have excelled at the top level of Sweden including way better offense) or down the road McNally. I don’t know why people got as panicked about his re-signing this summer but I guess with Lu being (relatively) silent and not a lot else going on in the dog days it was something to speculate about.

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  5. Taco
    August 23, 2013

    Jokes… more jokes… quick, someone do something funny out there. If it wasn’t for all the nice weather, short skirts and long weekends August would really suck.

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