Where Vancouver Canucks free agents fit in @EvolvingWild salary projections
In the last blog, I pondered how Esa Lindell's new contract might affect Ben Hutton's next deal. Here are some more comparables and projections to add to the equation.
In past years, Matt Cane has been known for his model that predicts contracts for NHL free agents. He's now out of the internet realm after having recently been hired as the New Jersey Devils' Director of Analytics.
The brains behind @EvolvingWild are carrying the torch. They released their own projections this week. It's always interesting to skim through charts like this and see where the Canucks' players fit into the mix.
Models like these are never going to be 100 percent accurate, but they do provide an interesting frame of reference for discussion and comparables. We can now compare the model to reality on Esa Lindell: he exceeded his projection with his six-year deal at $5.8 million a season; the model had him on a four-year contract at $5.2 million.
The model also doesn't think Hutton is nearly as similar to Lindell as I do: it projects Hutton's next contract as a two-year deal at just under $2.5 million a season. That'd be a drop from the $2.8 million a year he has made over the last two years. In order for that to happen, the Canucks would have to go the same route they went with Derrick Pouliot last year, declining to give Hutton a qualifying offer and the automatic 10 percent raise that comes with it—and triggering unrestricted free agency. That would leave Hutton free to sign with any team, one year before he'd otherwise reach UFA status, but it would remove his arbitration rights.
The Canucks and Pouliot's agent were on the same page when they used this strategy last season, so I don't think he was ever in any real danger of signing with another team. I'm not sure that Hutton and his reps are in that same mindset right now.
One example of how these models can be a bit wonky: take a look at their projection for Pouliot for next season. They've slotted him in with a three-year deal at a cap hit of over $3.1 million a year. I feel confident in saying that won't happen after the Canucks already announced that they wouldn't qualify him off his $1.1 million cap hit from last season. He won't be back in Vancouver and I'm not even convinced he'll find an NHL job.
As far as Alex Edler goes, the model's projection of three years and $5.8 million seems like it'd be Edler's agent's dream. The only thing missing is that no-move clause that would guarantee that he wouldn't be exposed in the Seattle expansion draft two years from now.
Considering all the positive talk about a contract extension for Edler from back at the trade deadline, it's interesting that the characterization of the talks has now changed significantly. I'd assume Edler's desire for a no-move is probably the sticking point, especially since it would guarantee that he'd take up a coveted defenseman-protection slot in the expansion draft.
I don't think Edler would want to move to another team, even if he could get that no-move guarantee elsewhere. But also, now that clubs around the league have been through the Vegas draft, I think it'd be hard to get that kind of commitment, from any team, for a blueliner who will be 35 at the time of the expansion draft.
Edler's agent may try to test that theory in the discussion period leading up to July 1—most likely to see if he can get leverage to extract the no-move clause from the Canucks.
While we're on the topic of Vancouver's veteran defensemen, Bob McKenzie brought up Chris Tanev in the latest episode of his podcast this week. I don't know what he's heard, but he suggests that Tanev's injury history has reached a point where he might not be able to draw a high-enough asking price for the Canucks to think they'd get enough back to justify moving him. At this point, with one year left before reaching UFA status, 29-year-old Tanev might be worth more to the Canucks sticking around than he'd be worth as an offseason trade chip.
Tanev has a modified no-trade, where he can list eight teams that he can't be traded to. If he can have a good year and stay healthy, his value may end up being higher at the trade deadline, if the Canucks once again fall shot of a playoff spot.
As for the Canucks' forwards, the model projects a seven-year deal at a hair over $7 million for Brock Boeser. That's right in the same range as Patrik Laine, and the seventh-highest deal for an RFA forward. He comes in behind, in order: Mikko Rantanen, Sebastian Aho, Mitch Marner, Brayden Point, Matthew Tkachuk and Laine, and just ahead of Kyle Connor and Timo Meier.
The projections for Vancouver's other RFA forwards:
• Markus Granlund - two years at $2.56 million (made $1.475 million this season)
• Josh Leivo - three years at $2 million (made $925,000 this season)
• Nikolay Goldobin - two years at $1.88 million (AAV $1.08 million this season)
• Tyler Motte - two years at $1.12 million (made $925,000 this season)
Granlund, Leivo and Motte are all eligible for arbitration; Goldobin is not.
To wrap up today—a quick note on the World Championship.
With two and a half days left in the preliminary round, Team USA's 3-1 win over Germany on Sunday eliminated Slovakia from quarterfinal contention. So USA, Canada, Germany and Finland are the four teams from Group A that are guaranteed to advance, with the order of the standings still to be determined.
Canada and Finland each have two games left: Canada plays Denmark on Monday before finishing off against the U.S. on Tuesday, while the Finns play France in the late game on Sunday, then wrap up against Germany on Tuesday.
In Group B, the top four are nearly set with Russia, the Czechs, Sweden and Switzerland. Latvia sits in fifth place, with games remaining against Sweden on Monday and Norway on Tuesday. If they win both, and unbeaten Russia beats Sweden on Tuesday, the Latvians would grab the last spot in the group and knock Sweden out of playoff contention. A win for Sweden over Latvia on Monday would set the bracket, with positioning still to be determined on Tuesday.
The Swedes are 4-0-0-1 so far, with their only loss coming on opening day against the Czechs. William Nylander, who was Worlds MVP when Sweden won gold in 2017, is tearing up the tournament with 4-9-13 in five games so far, which is overshadowing some of his teammates. Elias Pettersson is 1-5-6 in five games and has shown some nice chemistry with Gabriel Landeskog—a finisher who can benefit from Petey's playmaking skill.
The game of Photo Assumption suggests that Pettersson is well appreciated by his teammates.
TSN has posted a wonderful feature on Latvia's fans, which is well worth a read.
They're a highlight of every tournament, and I got an earful of them and their endless drumming when I stayed just outside the Fan Zone in Herning, Denmark for last year's tournament.
But I am hoping to see Pettersson and Loui Eriksson (who's 1-3-4 in five games) when I get to Bratislava in time for the medal round, so you won't catch me cheering for Latvia on Monday...