The Vancouver Canucks have signed defenceman Alex Biega to a two-year extension worth $1.5 million in total.
The Vancouver Canucks are keeping Alex “Bulldog” Biega for the next two years, signing him to an extension worth $0.75 million dollars annually according to Renaud Lavoie.
The 27-year-old has played just 32 NHL games in his career after graduating from Harvard University in 2010 and playing 149 games for the Canucks’ AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets.
Biega, the 5-foot-10, right-handed defenceman, has four assists over 25 games this season, one that he started as the captain of the Comets. Most noted for his high compete-level in winning puck battles, Biega has become a daily third-pairing guy for the Canucks, playing beside pending unrestricted free agent Matt Bartkowski.
Biega was set to hit unrestricted free agency himself. But this extension should not come as a surprise. In a way, the circle coming to completion. Here is a part of my article from November 2015 on Biega.
"Jim Benning had drafted Biega himself, while he was the Head of the Scouting Department in Buffalo. Some nine years removed from the draft, the circle is now complete. Benning must have remembered what he saw in Biega during his scouting days when he signed the 27-year-old defenseman to a one-year, two-way deal with 600K on the first day of free agency. Why else would you sign a 27-year-old to an AHL contract?"
What this Extension Means
What does this mean for Yannick Weber, Matt Bartkowski, and even Dan Hamhuis? The Canucks have Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Ben Hutton, Luca Sbisa, and now Biega locked up for next year. Weber, Bartkowski, and Hamhuis are hitting unrestricted free agency this coming offseason.
What we know is that Biega will be playing on a daily basis. During the post-game conference after the Canucks’ 2-1 loss against the L.A. Kings, Willie Desjardins said the following about him:
"“You don’t have to be the biggest guy. It’s how hard you want to play and he won’t be coming out of the lineup – he won’t. Others will come out. And look at Baertschi. He has taken big strides this year and he played hard tonight. Other guys have to see that.”"
With Weber already in the press box and Hamhuis set to join the team sooner rather than later, the writing is on the wall for Bartkowski to take a seat and maybe a ticket out of Vancouver as a rental for a playoff contender.
But is Biega worth it? Certainly the contract is a win for the Canucks — a top-seven defenceman at under a million annually is an uncommon commodity in Vancouver these days. Wink, wink, Yannick. But has Biega earned his right to bump out Bartkowski?
Here is a comparison of the two, the WARRIOR chart, courtesy of OwnThePuck.
Despite the common argument that Biega is not fit to be an NHL regular and that Coach Willie is simply favouring him for his physicality and his doggedness on the puck, this proves that he and Bartkowski have essentially identical statistical impacts.
Biega, in fact, is proving that he can be better. His -0.1 relative Corsi percentage says that his presence on the ice does not equate to a possessional disadvantage for the Canucks. On that note, Bartkowski’s is -1.6 percent. Team-worst is Sbisa, who has a -8.6 relative Corsi percentage.
As for the comparison versus Weber, Biega is doing his share of the offence, getting 63.6 percent of his shot through on net. Weber only gets 42.4 percent of his shots through. What good is Weber when Biega is doing a better job as the team’s leading offensive defenceman?
Folks. Those numbers mean that Biega is 1.5 times more efficient than Weber in getting shots through to the net. In fact, Biega’s 63.6 percent is best on the Canucks’ blueline.
For the physicality of his play, Biega has 58 hits in 25 games this season. His 8.07 hits per 60 is the best on the current Vancouver blueline, even topping Sbisa’s 6.27 hits per 60. Bartkowski sits at 6.10 per 60 and Weber sits at 2.96 per 60.
Though it is a season for the youth, Biega is a 27-year-old. The common misconception is that he is still a late-blooming prospect — sure he is a late bloomer, but not a prospect anymore. At the end of this deal, Biega will be entering his thirties. Although unlikely to figure in the Canucks’ long-term plans, his value as a top-seven NHL defenceman for depth purposes will be valuable down the road for the Canucks.
Best of wishes to the “Bulldog“!
The offence, the physicality, the possession — Biega definitely earned this contract extension. Or did he? Are you happy with it? Who is getting bumped? Let us know with the poll question and in the comments below!
*stats provided by HockeyRefence.com