Canucks sign up for one more year of cheap Chris Tanev

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.

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12 comments

  1. Eric b
    July 5, 2014

    Typo of Tanev on last sentence. But, this season has turned around quite well and I believe Tanev will be getting paid here next season quite well.

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  2. Fruzenius
    July 5, 2014

    Great signing by the management team. Tanev at $2 million I think is better for everyone, even if we take an overall higher hit starting next year, it gives him the chance with the new coach to show that he can prove he’s a top 4 d-man. I like Tanev, he’s not fancy, but he’s got the swagger to play a solid game

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  3. philb
    July 5, 2014

    Happy with the signing and all, but its been 2 days and still no articles on Santorelli signing with the Leafs? Come on people I’m dying for some good bloggy outrage.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      July 5, 2014

      It’s tough to generate some high-quality bloggy outrage when I don’t actually feel outraged. I liked Santorelli, but I’m pretty okay with him signing elsewhere.

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    • Brent
      July 5, 2014

      I’m outraged, completely outraged! He was a bright spot in an otherwise bleak season. The Leafs got a great player and he only cost 1.5 mill. One of Gillis’s good pick ups. Maybe that is why he wasn’t kept?

      So how much is Vey going to cost? And will we find out at Midnight on Sunday?

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      • Wetcoaster
        July 6, 2014

        Depends on whether or not he turns into a pumpkin at midnight.

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  4. akidd
    July 6, 2014

    i guess one of the big benefits of changing management is things like ntc’s and one-year trial contracts, those are with the other guys.

    anyway, nice to see tanev all locked up safe a legally sound. it’s not just fancy stats, he passes the eye test too. he’s really in the blind spot though as far as value and financial reward. he’ll be in danger of winning the ‘burrows’ award’ for best value in the league if he’s not careful.

    and yes, give edler the tanev cure. it’s sure-fire. edler is really integral to next season. my favourite daydream this summer will be edler regaining his form and zipping the puck around with tanev, vrbata and the sedins, like it was the good ol’ days, but partly re-cast.

    and it would be great to see tanev get a chance to qb the 2nd pp. he might not have the blistering shot but he moves the puck well. definitely worth an experiment.

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  5. JDM
    July 6, 2014

    My question is…. okay, good deal for this season. So what? What are they doing with that million bucks of cap they saved on Tanev? Because it sure seems like the team is set. Having some room to take on a guy once the season starts is all well and good, but there’s a nice big Kesler shaped hole at 2C and only Nick Bonino to fill it… and we all know how that’ll play out. For reference, the 2C’s on last year’s west playoff teams are now Kesler, Richards, O’Reilly, Spezza, Carter, Granlund, Couture (or Pavelski), and Backes.

    So it’s tough to get excited about a bargain here. I just don’t see much benefit if they don’t use it for anything.

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  6. T-Canuck
    July 6, 2014

    Although getting Tanev for such a low amount of money seems great I think it just exposes the obvious. The idea of Tanev being a top four pair is an indication the team really has a problem with defence. This really puts the pressure on the goaltending. I would have rather over paid for an elite defenceman than overpaid for a goalie that will be faced with enormous pressure due to the lack defence. I would dare to say that even Buffalo had better defence infront of Miller when he was there and his gaa was north of 2.5 so I would think that if Tanev is getting a raise after this contract that might be wishful thinking. He may find himself in the minus catigory as many of Miller’s previous teamates. Even Florida has more defencesive depth which I am sure will make Luongo feel pretty good about keeping his career stats looking awesome even as he approachs the end, its no wonder why he wanted out of here.

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    • PD
      July 6, 2014

      Tanev is really good at defense, so where are you coming from?

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  7. Peter
    July 6, 2014

    Linden & Benning are doing a great Job,putting together a competitive team.Last year was a off year for for majority,& cofident they will bounce back especially the Sedins & Buerows.The re-signing of Kassian & Tanev are fair to both the players & Canucks.If they do well,they will be rewarded at next contract. ” Undertaker” Gallagher is @ it again in 3rd para,Vancouver Province,sunday_”if his (Vey’s) agent is bright enough to gigure out the strnght ofhis client’s position,he’s likely to drive a harder bargain than Kassian’s rep”.What is he implying about the 2 agents.Vey is unprovened @ Nhl level after only playing limited games

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  8. Big Jim Backer
    July 6, 2014

    Once again, another responsible signing by GMJB. Coach Willie D’s defensive zone system should help Tanev keep his hands to himself; and he will sign a well deserved and lucrative multi-year contract when the cap goes up next year.

    Any one heard whether or not Doug Lidster will be an assistant coach? Edler could certainly use the help.

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