Canucks: The case for re-signing defenceman Chris Tanev

VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 1: Christopher Tanev #8 of the Vancouver Canucks skates up ice during their NHL game against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena December 1, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n
VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 1: Christopher Tanev #8 of the Vancouver Canucks skates up ice during their NHL game against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena December 1, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n /
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The Vancouver Canucks won’t be able to retain all of their free agents. Here is the case for prioritizing and keeping blueliner Chris Tanev.

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning is right up against the cap, and unless he can find a way to unload a couple of expensive contracts, he stands to lose one or two impact players in the offseason.

Starting goalie Jacob Markstrom is a pending UFA, deserving of a raise that could pay him $5 million-plus annually. Forwards Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette, who were both enjoying career years before the season pause, need new contracts.

Benning is also facing quite the dilemma on defence. Veteran blueliner Chris Tanev (a pending UFA) and soon-to-be 26-year-old Troy Stecher (a pending RFA) also require new deals. There’s a good possibility that the Canucks will only be able to retain one of them.

Last month, I made the argument that Vancouver should re-sign Stecher, citing that he’s younger and less injury-prone than Tanev. But in this exercise, we’ll look at why the Canucks should prioritize the latter.

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Five years ago, Tanev signed a bargain five-year extension worth $22.5 million (a $4.45 million cap hit. Given his age (he turned 30 in December) and long injury history (he’s only played 70 games in a season once), it’s hard to envision Tanev receiving a term of more than four years.

But Tanev is deserving of a modest raise, perhaps something as high as $5 million per season. The Canucks can afford to bump up his salary a bit. The main obstacle here would be term.

Tanev is by far Vancouver’s best defensive and most responsible blueliner. Even if he misses double-digit games each season, Tanev is still making a serious impact on the ice. He’s chewing up around 20 minutes a night, and Tanev has blocked 100-plus shots in five different seasons (159 in 2019-20 prior to the season suspension).

After Tanev, Alexander Edler is arguably Vancouver’s most reliable defensive rearguard. But he’s almost 34 and also injury-prone. If Edler begins to slow down, the Canucks should consider moving Tanev up to the top pairing.

Tanev unfortunately hasn’t been able to experience any postseason action in five years. But his toughness and overall hockey IQ are what you need in the playoffs when the games get tighter and more physical.

This isn’t to say that the Canucks should let Stecher walk no matter what. But if they have to choose between the two defencemen, they have good reason to prioritize Tanev — who’s been a linchpin on the blue line for almost a full decade now.

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As long as Tanev and his agent have a reasonable asking price, Vancouver has to find a way to keep him. Now, hopefully it doesn’t get to the point where they have to choose between him and Stecher. But at the end of the day, it’s strictly a business, and the Canucks have to prepared for anything.