Anytime Bob McKenzie speaks, you listen.
(If you’re a sports fan, that is. Though I’d love to hear Bobby Margarita’s take on the federal election.)
The collective grandfather of Canadian sports media is also the unquestioned voice when it comes to rumours and gossip around the NHL.
So when he said earlier this week that he’s heard some “low rumblings” about the Vancouver Canucks trading Troy Stecher, the province of B.C. collectively flipped out.
And rightfully so. Though the Richmond native has been relegated to a sixth defenceman role after the Canucks’ revamped their blueline in their offseason, it’s hard not to like a guy like Stecher.
Not only is he one of the most popular Canucks in the community, he’s been one of the few constant bright spots on the team in the last couple years.
Last season, in particular, he seemed to grow into a reliable top-four rearguard, someone who could kill penalties and move the puck effectively. He even talked of improving his shot and overall offensive game in the offseason.
The idea of trading the 25-year-old last season would have been ridiculous.
But here we are. And, admittedly, some of the reported reasons make some sense.
Stecher’s contract is up this summer, and he’ll be a restricted free agent. Chris Tanev, another right-handed defenceman, also will see his contract expire this summer. There might not be room for both players in Vancouver.
The Canucks are right up against the salary cap as it is, and though some relief is coming in the form of expiring contracts, the way goaltender Jacob Markstrom is playing, he’s going to be in line for a big raise. That’s another situation altogether, but one wonders if Stecher might also be lobbying for a pay increase?
He currently makes $2.3 million against the cap. Not much for a player that logged top-four minutes last season. Sure, he’s way down this year (around 13 minutes a night), but he’s been mostly effective in that time.
If you’re another team in the NHL, who would you prefer: Tanev or Stecher? We would say Stecher. He’s younger, doesn’t have a storied injury history and has some offensive potential that remains untapped.
So, in theory, there is a bigger return out there for Stecher. In the summer, the Canucks reportedly tried to shop Tanev to no avail.
Of course, by that logic, the Canucks would just keep Stecher. But if they can’t stand to lose Tanev (and you can just see general manager Jim Benning at the podium, waxing on about the veteran’s value playing with the youngster Hughes), and they think they can replace Stecher (perhaps with the right-handed Brogan Rafferty, who has looked good in limited action), then you can see the reason behind shipping him out.
Objectively, is it a good idea?
No, probably not. It’s hard to see the Canucks winning a trade that moves out Stecher. And it would be doubly tough to see them go with an injury-riddled, aging Tanev over a player like Stecher.
Size will definitely come into play here as well. The Canucks already have Hughes on the blueline and this management team has always made a lot of noise about adding grit and toughness. That, of course, is somewhat outdated thinking in this era where puck-moving defenders are coveted.
Either way, it seems the Canucks have a hard decision coming. Of course, injuries will probably lead to more playing time for Stecher before we know it.
The best course of action, as we see it?
Let Tanev increase his value with Hughes, cross your fingers that he stays healthy and deal him in a couple of months.
The odds of that happening are quite small, of course. The Canucks want to make the playoffs this season and don’t want to be sellers at the deadline at all. But letting Stecher go for pennies on the dollar would be a mistake. And we’re not sure there’s room to keep both in the offseason (under the salary cap or on the ice).
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