Ben Kuzma: Beagle bags four-year Canucks deal, believes he has ‘a lot more to give’

 

 
 
 
 
Jay Beagle signed a four-year, $12 million US free-agent deal with the Canucks on Sunday.
 

Jay Beagle signed a four-year, $12 million US free-agent deal with the Canucks on Sunday.

Photograph by: Getty Images, The Province

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Jay Beagle is not a game-breaker. He’s not a fighter. But he’s not a quitter.

The Calgary native is a big-bodied, bottom-six centre who is heavy on the forecheck, good in the face-off circle and tenacious on the penalty kill. He’s that “niche” veteran acquisition the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks were seeking in free agency to help figure out their riddle in the middle after the retirement of Henrik Sedin and to buy Elias Pettersson and Adam Gaudette development time.

Beagle, 32, agreed to a four-year, $12 million US contract Sunday and what the Stanley Cup champion brings is the ability to lead by example, overcome adversity and push harder when it matters most. There were other options because the Canucks did reach out to Tyler Bozak and Riley Nash. Bozak got a three-year, $15 million commitment from St. Louis and Nash took less in a three-year, $8.25 million deal with Columbus.

Beagle pushed hard for four years because he thinks he has something to prove. But because he has a lot of miles on the hockey odometer, isn’t fast and has had trouble staying healthy, there is an obvious risk factor. Beagle doesn’t think so.

“I feel like I have a lot more to give,” he said. “I wasn’t too happy with my point production, but I felt I played my most consistent hockey and I want to continue to build on that. I’ve never felt better and I’m not just saying that and last year was the best my body has felt. You learn what works and I wouldn’t have signed a contract long term if I didn’t feel that — I’m not that type of person.

“I’m not coming in looking to change anything. I want to be a solid player and play third or even second-line minutes — if there are injuries — after the fourth-line role I’ve had with the Capitals my whole career. That’s a huge part of my game. I can be that two-way forward that you can rely on in the D-zone.”

With Bo Horvat, Brandon Sutter, Beagle and Gaudette as starting centres, that isn’t intimidating and if Gaudette isn’t ready for prime time, there are Plan B options with Markus Granlund and Sam Gagner.

However, if Pettterson picks up where the Swedish Hockey League regular season and playoff MVP left off — and moves to centre sooner than later — the Canucks it will fast forward the rebuild but also make it harder to move money and term at the trade deadline.

What works for the Canucks is how hard Beagle works.

In the Stanley Cup final, the 6-foot-3, 215 pound centre set up two goals in the pivotal 3-1 triumph in Game 3 against the Vegas Golden Knights. In the 3-2 Game 2 win, he was out in the last two minutes to help preserve the win.

Beagle had a league leading 60.1 face-off efficiency in the postseason and assumed a bigger role when Nicklas Backstrom was injured. His eight points (2-6) in 23 playoff games and 22 (7-15) in 79 regular-season games aren’t the story, but his intangibles are. He had 21 blocked shots in the postseason and 23 hits.

The Canucks will do back-flips if Beagle can match his 2016-17 output of 30 points (13-17), but being responsible and good defensively is going to work for Canucks coach Travis Green. Beagle’s strong defensive-zone start presence can take some pressure off Sutter and he can also aid the penalty kill and work in shutdown roles.

It worked for former Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who is now guiding the New York Islanders.

“He (Beagle) is a guy that is not scared of work,” he told the Washington Post. “He’s not scared of preparation. He’s not scared of giving his all every day.”

Added Capitals winger T.J. Oshie: “He puts in twice the effort and works twice as hard as everyone else.”

There’s also a good back story because Beagle is the only player to have won ECHL, AHL and NHL championships. But it was far from a straight-line ascent.

Beagle played two seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and then two at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, but wasn’t enamoured with the NCAA game. He got a tryout with the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL, put up 10 points in eight games, and helped the club win the league title.

That piqued the interest of the Hershey Bears and Beagle’s 19 goals and 37 points in 64 AHL games in 2007-08 are his pro career highs to go with two Calder Cup titles.

Beagle made his NHL debut on Feb. 11, 2009 and grinding out 471 regular-season games with an organization that became more famous for blowing Game 7s than winning back-to-back President’s Trophy, speaks to something that resonated with the Canucks.

They know his rise is an easy sell in the room because what young player wouldn’t look up to a guy who has never stopped pursuing his dream?

“The youth intrigues me because that’s what we had in Washington and I tried to be a good role model for them,” added Beagle. “I remember getting smoked in Van (6-2 loss Oct. 26) and it’s a fast team and I liked the way they came at you with a do-or-die mentality.

“I think this team is going to surprise people. I didn’t come here to lose. I’m here to bring a winning mindset and I’m happy for the challenge.”

OVERTIME — The Canucks have also signed centre/left Tim Schaller, 27, to a two-year, one-way, $3.8 million contract. He had 22 points (12-10) in 82 games last season with Boston and the 6-foot-2, 210 forward is expected to give the Canucks more of a physical presence and be harder to play against.

bkuzma@postmedia.com
twitter.com/@benkuzma

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Jay Beagle signed a four-year, $12 million US free-agent deal with the Canucks on Sunday.
 

Jay Beagle signed a four-year, $12 million US free-agent deal with the Canucks on Sunday.

Photograph by: Getty Images, The Province

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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