The free agency interview period opens today in the NHL.
It means that NHL teams can “interview” (but not negotiate with) players that are slated to become free agents on July 1.
At this weekend’s draft, general manager Jim Benning confirmed that he had at least one meeting set up. It’s widely believed the player in question is Winnipeg Jets defenceman Tyler Myers.
Chasing Myers also falls in line with Benning’s previous assertions that he’d like to both make some changes to the team’s defence corps as well as get bigger overall. Myers is, after all, a right-handed defenceman (the team is sorely lacking on the right-side at the moment) and an absolute behemoth at 6’8 and 229 lbs.
It’s important to note that when teams conduct interviews of this sort, it’s usually framed as more of a “pitching” period in which teams extol the virtues of their city and their team in a bid to make those elements stand out among the crowd. They already know what the player can or can’t deliver on the ice and have made the decision to pursue him.
Yes, the team will eventually add platitudes that they loved his personality or “talked to people around the league and heard great things” about what he can add to a dressing room.
But essentially this is a chance for the club to try and pitch the player on playing for them in their city.
So what should we make of the fact that the Canucks are reportedly hoping to have Myers come to Vancouver?
Well, Myers is a somewhat useful defenceman. He was fourth among rearguards in ice time on a good Winnipeg Jets team. He also put up nine goals and 31 points in 80 games. That total was, of course, better than any Canucks blueliner aside from Alex Edler.
But the underlying numbers for Myers aren’t so pretty. He started 56.8 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, a higher mark than any other regular Jets defenceman. And he still posted a negative Relative Corsi. He also got demoted to Winnipeg’s third pairing at times last season.
Myers’s name recognition is high, in part because he won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie with the Buffalo Sabres in 2010. But that was by far his best year. Since his 48 points in that freshman campaign, he hasn’t reached 40 in a season. And his underlying numbers have continually slipped.
At 29 years old, there’s no reason to think his game is going to somehow recover.
In short, by looking at his numbers and slotting him in as a fourth defenceman (but remember, he couldn't hold that spot down in Winnipeg), you’d think the price would be somewhere in the $4.5 million range per season. That would be OK.
But that’s reportedly not even close to what Myers is expected to fetch in free agency.
A contract of this amount and length would be insane for the Canucks to even consider. However, word is they are not only among the frontrunners to sign Myers; they’re the frontrunner.
And while you shouldn’t believe everything you see on social media, it was hard to ignore reports that Benning, Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini and coach Travis Green were seen wining and dining Myers at a downtown Vancouver restaurant.
Anything close to a max contract for Myers will be an absolute anchor for this team in a couple years, and a deal worth over $6 million a season will be one right away.
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