Everyone now finally agrees that the Vancouver Canucks are rebuilding. While many fans were wise enough to recognize the moves that Jim Benning was making to strengthen the team’s youth core, others refused to believe that the team was moving in a new direction until Trevor Linden actually used the word “rebuild.” Now that he has, and everyone’s on board, it is time to start looking at possible moves to bolster the process.
Most Canuck fans and pundits have identified Chris Tanev as the number one candidate to be traded this offseason. Hardly anyone wants to see Tanev go, but his age of 27 and cheap contract makes him far more attractive to a competitive squad than it does to a retooling team. Tanev might just hold the greatest trade value of anyone in the Canucks organization, and he certainly does once one removes the “untouchables” like Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser from the equation.
If Tanev does end up traded this offseason, there are three time periods in which the trade will occur. It will either happen before the Expansion Draft, between that and the Entry Draft, or during the Free Agency period. This article is going to look at the first two time periods, and how the unique circumstances of this particular offseason might affect the market value of Tanev. The Free Agency period can be ignored for the time being, as Tanev’s No-Trade Clause will have kicked in by then, which drastically changes the situation. The two factors that must be looked at closely are Expansion protection slots and a need for right-handed defensemen.
Who Needs A Right-Handed Defenseman?
Chris Tanev plays his best hockey on the right side, which is good news for the Canucks. Traditionally, skilled right-side defensemen are one of the rarest commodities in the NHL, which ensures that there are always a multitude of teams searching for one.
This offseason should be no different in that regard, except for the presence of the Expansion Draft, which will be discussed below. In the meantime, a quick look at NHL depth charts will show us which NHL teams most desperately need a d-man of Tanev’s calibre on their right side.
Arizona- Arizona might just have the weakest right-side defense in the league, with Conor Murphy the only player of note. Tanev would mesh well with any of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligosi, or Jakob Chychrun.
Boston- Boston has two great young RHD in Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy, but having someone like Tanev around to eat up minutes while they develop wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. He would also help their chances of contending while the current core is still around.
Buffalo- Buffalo has a young stud in Rasmus Ristolainen on the right-side, but he needs more help. Ideally, they’d want a LHD to pair with him, but they’d probably settle for another RHD like Tanev who could help take on some tougher minutes, allowing Ristolainen to play in more offensive situations.
Calgary- Calgary fans often tout their strong defensive core, but it’s not all that great on paper. Dougie Hamilton is a strong RHD, but after him it’s pretty sparse. However, the chances of trading Tanev within the division are probably slim, and even slimmer in Alberta.
Colorado- Colorado needs help just about everywhere on their roster, but their right-side defense is actually pretty solid. They have Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson there, but with rumours abound that Barrie will be moved, they might have a gaping hole there very soon. Tanev would become far and away their best defenseman.
Dallas- The Stars’ biggest problems are on defense, but of the two sides they are definitely deeper on the right. They have John Klingberg, Stephen Johns, and Julius Honka on the right versus Dan Hamhuis and Esa Lindell on the left. They would likely prefer a LHD.
Detroit- The once-mighty Detroit defense is now a tire fire. There’s little strength on either side of the ice, and Tanev would instantly become the team’s strongest defenseman. The best player Detroit has on the right side is Mike Green, and he’s not what he used to be.
Edmonton- Edmonton’s defense has come a long way, but they still need some help. They now have Adam Larsson on the right side, but he and Tanev could form a potent one-two punch in that area. Again, however, it’s very unlikely that Tanev is traded to Alberta.
Los Angeles- The Canucks probably aren’t looking to trade Tanev within the division, but if they do, LA looks like an okay option. They are stacked on the left with Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin, and Brayden McNabb, but it’s pretty much just Drew Doughty on the right. That being said, Doughty plays about half of each game, so the need for Tanev is questionable.
New Jersey- The Devils have competency on the right side, with Damon Severson and Ben Lovejoy, but neither of those guys are top-pairing material. Tanev would be, and he’d allow for some of the high-flying offensive players to focus more on the other end of the ice.
New York Rangers- The Rangers have a decent defense, but their right side needs a lot of work. Unfortunately, the team has a lot of salary tied up on the backend, and contracts like Dan Girardi and Marc Staal will be very difficult to move. The Rangers would love Tanev, but it’s questionable that they could pull off a trade for him.
Tampa Bay- Tampa Bay has a definite need on the right side, although the already have a Tanev-type there in Anton Stralman. Tanev would still be a welcome addition, but Stralman’s presence and the Lightning’s salary cap woes likely means that the money would be better spent elsewhere.
Toronto- Toronto appears to be the prime destination for Tanev. They have plenty of assets to spend, and a glaring need at RHD for a partner for Morgan Rielly. Even better, Rielly and Tanev have shown chemistry at the World Hockey Championships. Tanev would take a ton of pressure off of Rielly and Nikita Zaitsev, and would make the Leafs an instant contender.
Vegas- People keep forgetting about Vegas as a potential trade destination for Tanev. They have literally no organizational depth at this point, but that also means they have little in the way of assets to trade. A player like Tanev would provide an invaluable steadying presence for the new franchise, but they’d likely need to give up their first for him.
Expansion Draft Protection Slots:
In many ways, the Expansion Draft has greatly lessened the normally lucrative market for defenseman, even for highly-coveted right-handers like Tanev. The reason for this is that teams are only allowed to protect three defensemen from the Expansion Draft, unless they want to sacrifice multiple forward protection slots to protect more D-men. That means that most teams are currently unable to trade for a defenseman without having to sacrifice a different d-man to Vegas.
While this limited market may make it seem prudent to wait until after the Expansion Draft to trade Tanev, there are a few reasons why that might not be the case. The first is the short timeframe between the Expansion and Entry Drafts, with only four days between the events. That might not be enough time to get a deal done. As well, teams that do have protection slots available might be willing to pony up now in order to beat the rest of the market on acquiring Tanev, along with avoiding “wasting” a slot on a player Vegas would never consider taking. The following teams fit into both the above category of needing a RHD, and the category of having protection slots to spare.
Arizona- Arizona is in excellent shape going into the Expansion Draft. They have barely any forwards worthy of protection, and so they could easily trade for Tanev and still protect Ekman-Larsson, Goligoski, and Murphy.
Boston- Acquiring Tanev would force the Bruins to expose Kevan and Colin Miller, but that’s probably an acceptable loss to acquire a player of Tanev’s calibre.
Buffalo- Buffalo would have to get creative to fit Tanev in before Expansion, but it could be done. They’d likely protect four D and four forwards, leaving Tyler Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons available.
Detroit- Detroit has some young defensemen it probably doesn’t want to expose, like Xavier Ouellet and Nick Jensen, but they could probably deal with it if it meant acquiring Tanev.
New Jersey- New Jersey has few forwards worth protecting, and they may go the 4 F, 4 D route even without Tanev. This would have them protecting Lovejoy, Severson, Andy Greene, and Jon Merrill, but they could easily expose Merrill if Tanev was brought in.
Tampa Bay- Tampa Bay will be using all of their expansion slots at forward, but on defense it’s another matter. Stralman and Victor Hedman will undoubtedly be protected, and there are a few candidates to take the third spot. None of those candidates, however, are anywhere near as valuable as Tanev.
Toronto- Right now, Connor Carrick will be the third defenseman protected by Toronto. Not to disparage Carrick, but we’re pretty sure Toronto would be perfectly fine letting him go if it meant they got Tanev to pair with Rielly. It’s not even that likely that Carrick would be selected by Vegas.
Vegas- Vegas is the one team that doesn’t have to worry about losing anyone in the Expansion Draft, so they could definitely swing a trade for Tanev before it happens. Unfortunately, that means that the only assets they’d have available would be draft picks, and it’s unlikely they’d give up the first pick in franchise history for Tanev. It’s also questionable whether Benning would accept something like a 2018 First Rounder in the deal, although that could be a really high pick.
Conclusion: I think that Chris Tanev should be on the table at this point, and that Jim Benning should be setting his price with various teams already. If one of the teams that has an open protection slot wants him before the Expansion Draft, they should know that they need to step up their offers, because the market will quickly open up once Vegas has picked their team. With at least seven teams in this category, there’s more than enough interest for a bidding war to develop.
Benning should also be negotiating with some of those teams that would only want Tanev after Expansion is complete, so that he can make a trade happen in that narrow window if necessary. Trading Tanev is going to be a tricky procedure, but if done right it could yield an impressive and important return for the Canucks. I think that the Toronto Maple Leafs are the most logical destination, but there should be enough of a trade market for the Canucks to really squeeze some legitimate value out of the Leafs in return.