This week, the Straight will analyze what might be done with each of the Vancouver Canucks’ five restricted free agents. In the fourth instalment, we look at Stecher’s fate.
It’s hard to judge the Vancouver Canucks’ defencemen on what they accomplished this year. That’s because the team allowed the most goals in the Western Conference over the course of the regular season.
Simply put, Vancouver’s blueline corps was pretty ghastly for the majority of the year. So even in what was a siginificant drop-off from the season he had a year prior, Troy Stecher was the team’s second best defenceman, behind only veteran Alexander Edler.
Stecher only had one goal and 11 points in 2017-18, but he emerged as something of a willing combatant on a team desperate for them. Even when he had bad games (and there were a few), one could never say that Stecher looked tired or uninspired.
During the second half of the season, after Stecher had recovered from an unfortunate knee injury, coach Travis Green paired the then-23-year-old with Edler, and the two were the only reliable pairing for the Canucks.
Now 24, Stecher has two years of NHL experience under his belt, and over that time he’s been one of very few Canucks’ defenders to post a positive Relative Corsi. He’s one of the team’s best puck movers from the blueline and is likely the only defenceman on the current roster who has an actual future with the team beyond the next few years.
What the player will want:
It’ll be hard for Stecher and his agent to not look at the Canucks’ right-side defencemen and dream up dollar signs. Chris Tanev is the team’s best rearguard, but he’s not exactly an offensive force. Erik Gudbranson is another stay-at-home type, and unlike Tanev he’s not exactly a darling of the analytics community. Alex Biega has found his niche as a sixth or seventh defenceman.
And that’s it. Sometimes Derrick Pouliot plays on the right side, but coach Green likes having defencemen play on the same side that they shoot.
That means that Stecher is the only real source of offence the Canucks have from the right-side of the blueline. Even still, he hardly got any powerplay time this past year compared to two seasons ago, when he led Vancouver defencemen in powerplay time on ice.
Stecher’s representatives will point to that as a major fact in the decline in points he experienced, and they will try to make the case that the Canucks are better with the Richmond native logging some time with the extra man.
Often the team went with four forwards and one defencemen on both powerplay units last season, and with Edler manning the first powerplay line, Stecher would seem to be a candidate to battle for the second spot.
Stecher and his agent will look at the three-year $12 million contract Gudbranson signed in February and make the case that, by every conceivable metric, the 5’10 190 pound Stecher is the better blueliner than the towering Gudbranson.
Of course, Stecher isn’t entering unrestricted free agency and the freedom to choose whichever team he wants. He’s still three years from hitting that mark, so he’ll have to be a bit savvier about what he demands. His agents will reason that something in the $3.5 million range per season for two or three years seems right.
What the team will offer:
General manager Jim Benning and team president Trevor Linden will make the case that Stecher is still somewhat unproven, as he’s only entering his third season. They’ll try and lock him up for one year, knowing he’ll have another two seasons under team control before he’s able to hit the open market.
They’ll offer around $1.8 million a year for one season, but it’s hard to see that sticking—it’ll be tough to argue for giving Stecher less than the team gave Ben Hutton while he was finishing his entry level deal.
Restricted free agents don’t generally have much if any negotiating power, so Stecher’s hands are a bit tied here. But he and his agent also know that he’s one of the only current defencemen on this roster that figures to still be in Vancouver beyond the next three or so years.
We can see Stecher insisting that he be near the top-end of Vancouver defencemen in terms of salary. After all, he’s already there in terms of play.
Expect something around $2.4 million a year for two years, with Stecher cashing in after the deal runs its course. Even though it was an up-and-down season for Stecher, the Canucks are in a tougher spot than usual, given what they’ve already dispersed to lesser rearguards in Hutton and Gudbranson.
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