The Vancouver Canucks, after extended talks and percolating uncertainty, have signed their young-and-steady defenceman Chris Tanev to a one-year contract for $1.5-million.
The Tanev negotiations dragged through the summer. The 23-year-old was first represented by his father before turning to agent Ross Gurney. There were recently rumours of interest from Russia and Europe – stoked to generate leverage where Tanev had little-to-none as a first-time restricted free agent – and talks intensified in the past day or so before the deal was announced Thursday morning.
The one-year deals is a raise over Tanev’s 3-year, $900,000 per season entry level deal and gives Tanev more weight in contract talks next summer, when he will have arbitration rights, if he delivers a strong 2013-14 campaign for the Canucks.
The Toronto-raised defenceman, who went undrafted and was signed as a free agent out of college, established himself in 2013 as one of the Canucks’s top six defenders and was known as a steady hand in the Canucks end, with an agile poke check and a strong first pass to clear the zone. Offensively, he is a mostly a non-entity, with two goals and seven points in 38 games.
Tanev’s value will rise if he produces additional offence, said Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman in an interview Thursday morning. Talks, he said, went back and forth through the summer, with ideas of longer-term deals at various levels of salary.
“Chris is an evolving player who came virtually from nowhere to earn an every-day spot on our roster,” said Gilman. “This contract rewards him for the level of contribution he has provided so far, which is really as an adept, steady, and stable shutdown defenceman but recognizes there is more he can accomplish.”
Tanev, 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, appeared in the last three games of the 2011 Stanley Cup final just a year after he was signed out of one year of college.
Tanev was smaller than his peers as a teenager, which developed his style of game.
“I couldn't push people off the puck. It’s something I grew up doing. I had to,” said Tanev in an interview with The Globe in early March. The size-disadvantage remains true: the NHL features many opponents bigger than Tanev is - even though he can well handle bigger players in front of the net. “I’m still not as strong as a lot of these guys, so it's something I have to focus on, always having my stick in a good place.”
Vancouver still has roster spots available – designed so that young names such as last year’s first round draft pick Brendan Gaunce or others such as this year’s first-rounder Bo Horvat can make the team. Both of those players would come with a $925,000 salary-cap hit.
Based on numbers from capgeek.com, and adding the Tanev signing, the Canucks have $61.45-million committed under the $64.3-million, leaving $2.85-million of space for additional skaters.