What is Kevin Bieksa’s Trade Value?


Whenever a team struggles, as the Canucks have for a better part of December, and now into the early days of January, there will always be lingering trade rumours. Sometimes these rumours can seem calculated and sensible, and come from credible sources, such as the Kassian-to-Boston rumours that Elliot Friedman touched on back in a by-gone 30 thoughts piece. (For the record, I’m not in favour of such a trade, but I can at least understand the basic logic behind it.)

Other times trade rumours are triggered like an avalanche–one little rumble from the top, and then every forward on the Canucks over thirty who’s gone two games or more without a goal is being shipped off for third round picks.

Some of these rumours are just ridiculous–like the idea of trading away Alex “I make everyone I play with better, from the first powerplay to the fourth line” Burrows. Burrows might not be contributing 30 goals a year anymore, but he’s the exact kind of hardworking veteran player, who despite his somewhat elevated contract (earned, I think for the many years he was one of the most underpaid players in hockey), is a key core player whose example you want the younger, less expensive prospects who will be coming up through the system in the coming years learning from.

Why exactly is that? No matter where Burrows is put in the lineup, he just goes out and makes that line better than it was before. Even late in his career and with a guaranteed pay-cheque, Alex Burrows plays every game like he’s working his way up, undrafted from the ECHL all over again. Basically, if you’re going to have one guy to show all the younger guys how it’s done, it’s Burrows.

I know what you’re thinking: but it’s not Burrows’ face or name at the top of this post–why are you bringing this all up? I bring it up, because if we’re being honest with ourselves, doesn’t everything I’ve just said about Burrows seem to be in a bit of contrast to another Canuck veteran whose name (conveniently hidden in the title of this post) has been raised in rumours the past couple of days?

Now, I’m aware that media narrative colours a lot of perceptions about the game, and I’m definitely not immune to that. So take this paragraph with a grain of salt. But when people get angry at Kevin Bieksa anytime he’s slow to back-check, or makes a ludicrously ill-timed pass in his own zone, or goes on an extended adventure in the O-zone with no coverage…he really does seem to live up to his nickname ‘Casual Kev’. And, as endearing and relatable Casual Kev would be if he were a cartoon character–just your regular, likeable guy, trying to do his best on an NHL team, but who can only sometimes muster the energy to do his job (hey! It sounds a lot like me, and the frequency of my blog posts lately!)–when he’s a hockey player on the team people cheer for, spend money on, and generally want to, well, win, then it gets a bit frustrating.

Of course, that’s the fun, easy narrative angle. The truth is probably that he is trying. That he’s just aging, probably a bit injured (as Garrison was all last year, and now look how he’s doing. But at least we’ve got Vey in the–oh, he’s a healthy scratch? Sweet.) and that he really misses Dan Hamhuis, whose steadiness irons out his, um, less good tendencies. But, even being calm, cool and level-headed about it, if you looked at Burrows and Bieksa, both who have been staples of the Vancouver locker room for nearly a decade, who would you want around? If your veteran players are supposed to lead by example, which example would you rather see followed–a guy who works hard every shift, who doesn’t always get results, but is always driving play in the right direction? Or a guy who might be trying, but to the eyes of most around, seems to go certain shifts, or entire games, without flashing anything resembling a full effort?

I do realize that trading Burrows or Bieksa isn’t an either/or proposition. The Canucks could easily choose to trade neither and it would probably be pretty sensible. But the rumoured Bieksa trade, as ludicrous as it might be, did get me to thinking: what if the Canucks actually did trade Bieksa?

At first it would make me incredibly sad. I’d probably spend the following day watching these clips on repeat:

After I’d gotten that out of my system, though, I’d probably ask myself: what, in the past year has led me to believe that Bieksa is the same player from those clips? And the answer is not much. This season, according to war-on-ice.com, Bieksa is a sub-50 corsi player, with four points in 36 games, and doesn’t even have a particularly low PDO to suggest that any of this is luck based. Simply put, Bieksa–due to age, injury, or whatever made-up or speculative factors we have to go on surrounding his effort levels–is not performing well enough to continue being a top-4 defenseman in the league. (At least not without a Hamhuis beside him. But then the question is: if Hamhuis can make defense partners that much better, wouldn’t it be easier to invest in a less expensive one? Perhaps, dare I say, even a Corrado?)

The only problem here, is, if Bieksa is not really giving the Canucks full value for his contract, who out on the market would see him as valuable? I can’t see the rumoured Boston, who if anything will be looking to get younger and cheaper, being interested. Even if his cap hit is manageable for a top-4 defenseman, he would still be a pricey depth defender. Maybe teams with weak D depth like Dallas or Edmonton would be curious, but then what would they give up? Vancouver doesn’t really need any bottom-6 forwards, would be unlikely to receive a better or equal defenseman back in the deal, and any prospects going back to Vancouver would both a) reduce Vancouver’s depth for a playoff push this year, and b) reduce Dallas and Edmonton’s future prospects, which seems counterproductive in a year when neither will probably make the playoffs.

Add in the fact that Bieksa would likely decline to waive his no-trade clause, and it makes it increasingly obvious that a Bieksa deal would be a hard one to get done. So why am I writing about it? I guess it’s a) an extended way to help me come to terms with the fact that a guy who is still one of my favourite players at heart, may have overextended his usefulness on ice, and b) it’s the long-winded way to say that, while the Canucks might not be able to trade him, it might be kind of better for them in the long run if they did.