Let’s talk about Troy Stecher and his next potential deal

VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 29: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins #93 of the Edmonton Oilers looks on as Troy Stecher #51 of the Vancouver Canucks skates up ice during their NHL game at Rogers Arena March 29, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n
VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 29: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins #93 of the Edmonton Oilers looks on as Troy Stecher #51 of the Vancouver Canucks skates up ice during their NHL game at Rogers Arena March 29, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n /

Troy Stecher has an arbitration hearing date scheduled, but a deal could be struck before then. Finding a fair value for him isn’t easy, but I will do my best to take an impartial crack at it.

The Vancouver Canucks only have two remaining restricted free agents to take care of this summer. Troy Stecher is set for our focus today as he has an arbitration date, July 29th. Of course, Jim Benning can work out a deal before then.

Whether both sides proceed to the hearing or not, I want to try to pin down a reasonable contract, given what Stecher contributes. To begin, I should disclose any biases I have. First, I tend to have a soft spot for the diminutive defender since he’s from Richmond (as am I). Second, I had a lot of friends who played with him growing up, so it adds to the first point where we really want him to thrive.

With that said, I will try to stay as impartial as possible. We are going to look at what Stecher has done, what people are saying and why precedents are important. In a way, I get to play arbitrator, but not go too far into the weeds. Let’s hop to it.

The background

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During Stecher’s rookie season, injuries forced the Canucks to call him up. Despite having an incredible camp, he was assigned to Utica due to his waiver-ineligibility. Once Willie Desjardins paired him with Alexander Edler, he didn’t look back.

In yet another injury-riddled season for Chris Tanev, Stecher had to serve as the top pairing defenceman for much of the year. His 24 points in 71 games was a promising start and the local kid was living out his childhood dream.

But then Desjardins was relieved of his duties and Travis Green was hired. New coach with a new-ish philosophy for handling the team. Despite being a favourite of the previous coach, Stecher had to start from scratch with the new one. Green kicked him down to the third pairing and turned over all of his power play time from the previous season to Derrick Pouliot.

At first it seemed like Green still thought Stecher was a rookie that had to be watched by a veteran player. By December, it was Stecher doing the babysitting. He had to frequently bail out Ben Hutton when he could get a chance to play and covering for Michael Del Zotto time and time again was a truly under-appreciated effort.

The Canucks may have struggled on the penalty kill, but not Stecher. He was effectively one of our best on the blue line. If you read through some of the analytical breakdowns, Stecher was among the best in the whole league. His season was by no means perfect and unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to contribute a whole lot on offence, but given his deployment, he still had a good year.

Comparables and precedent

So, I don’t have a statistical model or anything like that to find comparable players for Stecher. However, Rick Dhaliwal polled a few agents and got these responses:

Based on these answers, I can tell a few things. Whomever Dhaliwal talked to either doesn’t watch Stecher often or do not know what they are talking about. I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the former (I hope). I won’t even entertain the comparison to Derek Forbort, at 6’4″ and 215 lbs.

Forbort’s also 26 years old, has a high PDO and more defensively skewed zone starts. You may as well compare Stecher to Erik Gudbranson at this point. Please pause as Stecher’s agent is celebrating the news.

Markus Nutivaara is an interesting comparison, but a little out of Stecher’s league. He may provide more value offensively, which I don’t believe is Stecher’s greatest strength. And unlike Stecher, his production did not decrease. It should provide a relative ceiling at $2.7 million per year.

However, current contacts on the Canucks put a wrench in things. For the sake of argument, we are going to focus on Ben Hutton’s deal. It makes the most sense because Stecher does not have the draft status, supposed intangibles or age of his veteran teammates.

Hutton’s deal was two years, which is likely what the Canucks are aiming for. Benning is already regretting this deal, especially since it ties up an extra spot on the left side. I do like Ben Hutton and he can get a raw deal, but nobody can deny how bad his season was. And that precedent can be used to Stecher’s advantage in arbitration.

Final verdict

24-year-old Derrick Pouliot sets the floor for Stecher’s deal. Pouliot failed to produce more than 22-year-old Troy Stecher, despite the favourable zone starts and power play time. Stecher is better than Pouliot in his own end and at even strength as well. Pouliot is far worse than Stecher when considering adjusted goal rates at even strength. The Canucks were bad last season, but Pouliot found a way to let in a higher rate of goals against when he was playing in softer minutes.

If I’m being honest, anything above $1.5 million per season is a little rich. However, the Canucks have recklessly handed out term to their defence. Although, I don’t think Stecher’s agent will be brazen enough to ask for the same deals given to Del Zotto and Gudbranson.

Like I said, precedent is an important key here. We would love to see the deal closer to Pouliot’s contract, but the reality will be similar to Hutton’s. And honestly, I’m being conservative here with my guess after arbitration. Stecher could potentially be awarded more than what we are discussing.

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The kid from Richmond has a compelling case, aided by poor contracts handed out by the club. It would do the Canucks well to strike a deal before the date of the hearing because I don’t think Benning is going to win this one. This really shouldn’t be a problem for younger, bottom-four defencemen. But when you manage your salary structure this poorly, it’s no surprise when something like this can become an issue.