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The Calgary Flames made a risky bet on Chris Tanev

October 10, 2020, 10:27 AM ET [66 Comments]
Todd Cordell
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Day 1 of NHL free agency is in the books and, to nobody’s surprise, the Calgary Flames were busy.

They made headline news during the afternoon, plucking starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom from the rival Vancouver Canucks.

The term there admittedly makes me uncomfortable but Markstrom is very good right now and should be for a few more years (at which point, the hope is Dustin Wolf will be ready to carry some of the load). The signing can be justified.

I’m not so sure I’d say that of the move GM Brad Treliving pulled off late last night, giving defenseman Chris Tanev a four-year deal worth $4.5 million per season.

Tanev was long an underrated and unheralded blueliner for the Canucks. He was rock solid defensively and left it all on the ice each and every night.

While the latter still holds true – which is partly why there was such a market for him – the former does not. At least not to the same extent.

There are a lot of red flags in his once very strong defensive numbers.

For example, Vancouver was expected to give up fewer goals with Tanev on the ice than without in each of his first nine seasons. That wasn’t the case last season – for the first time.

The Canucks gave up fewer shots with Tanev on the ice in all 10 seasons. The problem is, that number has really dwindled.

From 2014-17 they allowed anywhere from 5-7 shot attempts fewer (per 60) with Tanev. The last two seasons they gave up 0.64 and 0.61 attempts fewer per 60. Put another way, they weren’t really better defensively with Tanev on the ice. In fact, you could argue they were worse.

They gave up chances, high-danger chances, and goals at a higher rate last season when Tanev was on the ice. That’s concerning for a defensive specialist, especially considering Vancouver’s team-defense was a tire fire. Out-performing the rest isn’t a high bar.

Tanev is not somebody who is going to pile up points or rush the puck up ice. His value comes almost entirely from his defensive game, which is very clearly deteriorating.

That’s not surprising given he plays an extremely taxing brand of hockey.

Now, on the wrong side of 30, I’m not sure there’s any reason to believe the downward trend won’t continue.

I think Tanev is unlikely to play up to his contract value in 2020-21 and, in a couple of years, this deal has potential to look really ugly.

Even factoring in their needs on the backend, this is not a good gamble for the Flames.

numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com

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