The Vancouver Canucks think Chris Tanev has more to give and the young defenceman doesn’t disagree.
What the Canucks and Tanev could not agree on was a long-term contract. So the two sides compromised, with Tanev signing a one-year deal Thursday that will pay him $1.5 million next season. He made $900,000 last season.
The Canucks also signed veteran defenceman Andrew Alberts, who was an unrestricted free agent, to a one-year deal for $600,000.
The Canucks decided they wanted to see a larger body of work from Tanev before spending big bucks on a 23-year-old who has only 92 games of NHL experience.
“Chris is an evolving player and from our perspective he’s come a long way since we initially signed him,” said Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman. “However, we were not sure what he is going to become. We are happy with what he has been thus far, but we think that there is a lot more for him to give, particularly we think his offensive production could or should increase. There obviously wasn’t a meeting of the minds in terms of signing him through arbitration rights or his RFA years.”
The Canucks are taking a bit of a gamble here. If Tanev does have a big season, he’ll set himself up for a large raise next summer, when he will have arbitration rights. He and his B.C.-based agent, Ross Gurney, had little leverage this summer.
“Ultimately, I think every player is looking for term and security, but when the dollars don’t make sense on the term, then you have to believe in your own abilities and a one-year deal makes sense for Chris,” Gurney said. “Get more games played under his belt, more minutes with a new coach and ultimately be in a position to have a bigger body of work to use in future negotiations. . .a year from now arbitration rights will be part of that.”
Gilman and the Canucks are willing to take that gamble.
“If he does what he and his representative feel that he can do, which is to become a bonafide top-four defenceman and contribute at both ends of the rink, he will have a strong arbitration case and as I like to say that falls into the category of problems you don’t mind having,” Gilman said. “Would we have liked to have done a contract to get more years from him at this point? Probably, if the money was right, but we weren’t able to come to an agreement.”
Tanev, who figures to be Vancouver’s fifth defenceman this season, is just happy to have the contract settled and insisted he had no problem agreeing to a one-year deal.
“No, I am fine,” Tanev said from his Ontario home. “We both agreed on a one-year deal. It is good for both parties right now and I’m just ready to focus on my season and do my best out there.”
Tanev recorded seven points (2-5-7), including an overtime game-winning goal, and added 10 penalty minutes in 38 games with Vancouver last season.
In 92 NHL games with Vancouver, the 6’2”, 185-pound defenceman has collected 10 points (2-8-10) and 12 penalty minutes.
Tanev, who signed with the Canucks in 2010 as a free agent out of college, acknowledged being happy to put the contract talks behind him.
“It’s part of the business,” he said. “Obviously you wouldn’t like to wait this long to sign a deal. The sooner the better so your mind can relax and you can just focus on training. I have been working hard all summer and I am ready to go into camp and continue to work hard.”
The new deal is Tanev’s first one-way contract. His recently expired two-way entry-level deal only paid him $67,500 in the minors.
“Yeah, that’s a big relief,” he said. “You work hard for three years and it’s nice to have a little bit of a guarantee.”
Tanev has proven to be reliable in his own end and is efficient at moving the puck up the ice. The Canucks would like to see him develop his offensive game and Tanev thinks he has more to give offensively.
“Definitely, I feel like I can do that,” Tanev said. “I did it a little bit more last year than the previous two years and hopefully I can continue to progress and put up some decent offensive numbers as well as obviously playing my position and being steady on the back end.”
Tanev got a $600,000 raise, which is almost exactly how big a pay cut Alberts is taking to remain a Canuck. Alberts signed a one-year-deal for $600,000 after making $1.225 million last season.
Alberts will compete with Yannick Weber for the No. 6 spot on defence.
“We basically have two guys to compete for this spot,” Gilman said. “One is Yannick Weber, who is a right-handed power-play specialist and the other guy is a big, physical left-handed defenceman who kills penalties. So it gives our coaching staff options on any given night.”
The 6’5”, 218-pound Alberts had one assist, 32 penalty minutes and 39 hits in 24 games in 2012-13. The 32-year-old has appeared in 449 career games with four different NHL teams.
Gilman said the Canucks now have about $2.3 million in salary cap space to play with.
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