Considering the viability of the Canucks signing Chandler Stephenson

With the Vancouver Canucks theoretically needing more speed in the lineup, pending unrestricted free agent Chandler Stephenson could represent a solution.
Vancouver Canucks v Vegas Golden Knights
Vancouver Canucks v Vegas Golden Knights / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

The Vancouver Canucks are coming off one of their best regular seasons in quite a while; in fact, they finished with the third-most points in team history. However, general manager Patrik Allvin isn't satisfied.

With a philosophy which must be music to the ears of Canucks fans, Allvin is determined to build a roster capable of being a consistent contender over the long-term. He says that this includes adding more speed to the lineup.

With this in mind, The Athletic's Thomas Drance and Harman Dayal wrote an article (subscription required), featuring nine pending unrestricted free agents who could add speed to the Canucks. Among those named, we were particularly intrigued by Chandler Stephenson.

Excelling under the bright lights of Las Vegas

Stephenson was traditionally viewed as a reliable and versatile forward during his time with the Washington Capitals. However, after he arrived in Vegas courtesy of a trade during the 2019-20 season, he took his game to another level.

Already the consummate teammate, the 30-year-old subsequently became one of the most productive players in the Golden Knights lineup. The pinnacle came in the 2022-23 campaign, when he helped the team win a Stanley Cup in just their sixth season of existence.

Stephenson was excellent throughout, as he finished the regular season with personal highs of 81 games played, 49 assists and 65 overall points. He would go on to add another 20 points in 22 playoff appearances, including six in five Stanley Cup Final games.

Just to reiterate though, aside from his improved points production, the 2023 NHL All-Star continued to thrive in all other areas of his game. Whether it's playing as a winger or centre, contributing on special teams, whatever, he helps his team.

Stephenson could be just right for the Canucks

With all this said, why wouldn't the Cancucks contemplate making a move for Stephenson? Especially with so many uncertainties surrounding their own group of nine unrestricted and two restricted pending free agents.

With some of the figures being bandied around, the chances of the Canucks bringing back the likes of Nikita Zadorov and Elias Lindholm don't appear very promising. As per Cap Friendly, even allowing for a projected cap space of $24,078,333 for next season -- among the highest of all NHL teams -- the organisation just doesn't have enough money to please everyone.

As such, someone like Stephenson would represent a quality forward replacement. At the same time, just because the Canucks should make a move for him, it won't make it a straightforward process.

Stephenson figures to be in high demand, of course assuming the Golden Knights don't agree a new deal with him some time between now and July 1. This leads to the question of how much he will be asking for/receive on the open market?

The financial ramifications

In this respect, it should be noted the 2012 third round draft pick is about to complete a four-year deal, which had an annual salary value of $2.75 million. Of course at this price, he would be almost considered a steal for the Canucks.

However, as you'd expect, Stephenson is in line for a significant pay bump. As per AFP Analytics, they have him projected to sign a five-year deal worth $28.16 million, which works out at $5.632 million per season (more than double compared to this season).

On top of this, The Athletic also pointed out some potential red flags when it comes to the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native. In particular, that he is potentially on the decline after a dip in his regular season productivity, followed by an extremely underwhelming playoff series versus the Dallas Stars.

In fairness though, Stephenson's 51 overall regular season points still accounted for the third-most of his time in the NHL, with his 16 goals tied for the second-most of his career. If anything his -9 rating -- the second worst of his career -- is more of a concern, alluding to The Athletic also pointing out a decline in his defensive play.

However, if this results in demand being lower for Stephenson, then this can only help the Canucks, at least in theory. Worst case scenario, his potential $5.632 million annual value his still lower than Lindholm's projected yearly salary of just under $6.79 million.

Next. Canucks fans issue social media pleas begging Zadorov to stay. Canucks fans issue social media pleas begging Zadorov to stay. dark

Really, the main concern for the Canucks would be giving Stephenson a deal for five seasons, giving his age and possible (certainly likely as the years pass) decline. Overall though, we do believe the Canucks should seriously consider taking a gamble on him.

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