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:
Tanev got a $600,000 raise, which is almost exactly how big a pay cut Alberts is taking. #Canucks
— Brad Ziemer (@BradZiemer) August 22, 2013
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.
Tags: Chris Tanev