After dipping into free agency for two days, Vancouver GM Jim Benning said his top priority now was signing his restricted free agents.
His most challenging may be Chris Tanev, who didn’t sign until late summer last year. It’s believed Tanev took a short, one-year, $1.5-million deal then, hoping to more than double the annual average value after establishing himself as a legit top-four defenceman, which he did this past season.
Benning confirmed Friday morning the Canucks had signed big forward Zack Kassian, which would clear the way for him to focus on Tanev.
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The Tanev negotiation was expected to be a challenging one, but that was before Benning, who has been breathlessly piling up transactions for a week now. The patient, static Canucks are long, long gone now.
The Canucks had been looking to get Kassian signed for about $1.2- $1.3 million a year.
One of their comparables was Kyle Clifford, who signed a two-year, $2.15-million bridge contract after scoring seven goals and seven assists with the L.A. Kings in the 48-game, lockout-shortened 2012-12 season. That pro-rates into a 12-goal, 12-assist season over an 82-game schedule.
Clarke MacArthur signed a one-year, $1.4-million contract as a restricted free agent following a 31-point season but that was back in 2008-09.
Kassian’s side was seeking something north of $2 million per year, after he scored 14 goals and had 15 assists with the Canucks last season.
He broke out offensively in the second half of the season, leading the team in points after the Olympic break with 12 points in his final 17 games.
He did that on a third line, playing a defensive role with Brad Richardson as his centre.
It’s time for him to get a shot in the top six. Will it happen?
“He’s an important guy for us, because he’s a size, strength guy who has good hands,” Benning said. "We expect him to take that next step. He’s in real good shape already.”
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