Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev has been the subject of many trade rumors recently. This speculation is in part because Tanev is one of the few veteran Canucks players that could fetch a healthy return. It is also fueled by a modified-no-move clause in Tanev’s contract which takes effect July 1st. The story goes that Tanev’s best years will be wasted before the Canucks will be competitive again, so may as well trade him before his NMC kicks in. This will contribute to the tank effort for next season and there’d be a pot of riches coming back too.
I have a few issues with this line of thinking. First and foremost, as a fan, I want to watch a competitive team. The Canucks’ defense without Tanev is sad. There was a lot of talk about the Canucks having found surprising defensive depth this past season. But the players who comprise that depth are just not that great. There are a lot of charismatic #5/#6/#7 defensemen. Not to take away anything from the likes of Ben Hutton, Troy Stecher and Nikita Tryamkin, who may go on to have long hockey careers. But Canucks’ fans tend to over-value likable role players (see: Eddie Lack).
When Tryamkin left for the KHL, everyone became concerned about defensive depth again. A team losing a #6/#7 defender shouldn’t be a concern, or else there wasn’t depth, to begin with. If the Canucks trade Tanev, what would the top four look like? Edler/Gudbranson and Sbisa /Hutton? Those guys would all look better one rung lower on the depth chart. Even if Tanev stays the defense will be suspect next season. As a reward for not having to protect Tanev in the expansion draft, I guess they’d be able to keep Sbisa instead? Yippee. I’m all for having a long-term vision for the Canucks, but check out the Colorado Avalanche for a case study on how a lack of defensive depth works out for developing young forwards.
Tanev’s modified no-trade-clause allows him to submit a list of eight teams to which he’d wouldn’t accept a trade. I question the extent this clause will hinder the Canucks ability to move Tanev for a good return. Players can indeed act strategically when submitting their lists of teams to try to avoid being traded. A player with a high cap hit may only request a trade to teams who are close to the cap. But in Tanev’s case, his cap hit is only $4.45m; even for a team in cap trouble, this amount seems “workable”, in that there could probably be a way to structure the trade to fit the contract under the cap. Another way a player could act strategically would be to only accept trades to teams that already have a wealth of talent at their position. I don’t think this is too much of a concern for Tanev either because he’s a very flexible defenseman that can move up and down the depth chart. So when Tanev submits his list of 8 teams, most of the remaining 22 teams will be interested in his services. That’s a large enough market to get a good return, and I doubt the Canucks would get significantly more if there were 30 teams submitting offers instead.
Tanev will be 30 years old when his contract expires at the conclusion of the 2019/2020 season. That is right around when defensemen hit their prime. You can bet that at his career peak, he will fetch one hell of a return at the 2020 trade deadline as a rental. GMs on contending teams will overpay for players on one-year deals that they can squeak in under the cap. If you take a look at the Alex Burrows trade at this year’s deadline, do you think the Canucks would’ve received a greater return for Burrows had they traded him 3 seasons earlier? If anything, they probably would’ve received less. The same thing might be true with Tanev. A GM who thinks he’s one piece away from a championship contender will see Tanev as a band aid and overpay.
Tanev is not a depreciating asset. If anything, in addition to the benefit of having him on the team for a couple more years, the Canucks would have the option to trade him for a potentially greater return later. And who knows, maybe in a few seasons the Canucks will be in the playoff picture and Tanev will be a key part of the team’s success. The option to trade him will still be there regardless.
I’ll concede that if the Canucks can get a top 10 pick or an equivalent prospect, then, of course, you pull the trigger on the deal. But with all due respect to Chris Tanev, that seems unlikely. Otherwise, the benefits of keeping Tanev on the team for his mentorship and steady play outweigh the benefits of trading for a prospect or pick who might not even make the NHL.