Two days after the Canucks management team showed that they don’t ascribe to a traditional 9-to-5 workday by re-signing Zack Kassian in the evening, they proved they don’t take weekends off either, re-signing Chris Tanev to a one-year deal on Saturday. According to Elliotte Friedman, the contract is for a mere $2 million, well below what I was anticipating.
It’s a superb deal for the Canucks for this coming season, as Tanev will likely skate with one of Alex Edler or Dan Hamhuis on the first or second pairing. That also explains why Tanev and his agent were willing to take a cheaper contract on a one-year deal, as Tanev will endeavour to prove that he’s worth far more to the Canucks long-term and make more money in the end.
It was tough to know how much Tanev would earn with this contract, as it’s hard to find comparable players for him. He’s the rare defensive defenceman who doesn’t throw hits, meaning he has neither impressive offensive totals nor a highlight reel of crushing bodychecks.
In fact, by the normal counting stats, Tanev is altogether unimpressive. He may have averaged over 20 minutes per game, but he was still 5th among Canucks defencemen in that statistic. He scored 17 points, again 5th among Canucks defencemen. He was 6th in shots, 7th in hits, and 6th in takeaways. Those are the kinds of statistics that suggest he is a third-pairing defenceman.
He is, however, a darling of the local fancy stats community.
For the first time in his career, Tanev faced legitimately tough competition last season. In fact, by every measure of rating the opposition a player faces — ice time, plus/minus, Corsi, and relative Corsi — Tanev led all Canucks defencemen. Tanev was one of the few players who thrived under John Tortorella, taking on a shutdown role, regularly facing the best players the opposition had to offer.
Most impressively, Tanev tilted the ice in the right direction when facing that competition. Despite starting the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone, Tanev maintained positive possession statistics, with the Canucks taking 51.2% of the shot attempts when he was on the ice. In fact, Tanev started more often in the defensive zone than any other Canucks defenceman last season, yet maintained a positive Corsi.
Unfortunately, those types of statistics haven’t made enough inroads into the tradition-loving hockey world to be used much in contract negotiations. If Tanev and the Canucks had gone to arbitration, the team could have repeatedly put the hammer down on his lack of points and hits, leaving Tanev with the still esoteric Corsi and Quality of Competition.
That’s not to say that Tanev’s traditional statistics are all bad. He was second on the Canucks in plus/minus at +12 and tied for the team lead in blocked shots with Alex Edler with 136.
Oddly enough, those are two of the most derided traditional statistics by the fancy stat community. Plus/minus is dependent on both a player’s teammates and on luck, both good and bad, while a high total of blocked shots is usually a bad sign, as it indicates the puck is in the wrong end when that player is on the ice.
Tanev comes by his blocked shots honestly, however. Since he’s a positive possession player, he doesn’t pick up blocked shots because the puck is always in his end of the ice. He is also one of the Canucks’ top penalty killers, averaging 3 minutes per game on the penalty kill last season, second behind Dan Hamhuis among Canucks defencemen.
He has an opportunity this coming season, however, to make his counting statistics impressive enough for his next contract — likely to be a longer term deal that will take him well into unrestricted free agency — to be far more lucrative.
The key is Jason Garrison being traded out of town. Though the Canucks added Luca Sbisa in the Ryan Kesler trade, he is a left-shooting defenceman, meaning he won’t be competition for Tanev on the right side. That means Tanev will almost certainly be a a top-four defenceman for the Canucks all of next season.
If Tanev is paired with Edler and plays largely with the Sedins at even-strength, then Tanev could pick up plenty of points by proxy if the three Swedes have a bounceback season.
Garrison’s absence also means there’s an opening on the blue line on the power play. If Tanev can earn some minutes on the second pairing, it will not only be an opportunity to get more points, but also rack up more total minutes per game.
Since I was expecting Tanev to re-sign for something north of $3 million, a one-year deal for $2 million seems like a ridiculous steal for the Canucks. Given the opportunity this season, however, it makes absolute sense for Tanev to take less short-term.Tags: Chris Tanev