Tanev-er Gonna Give You Up

More and more, Chris Tanev’s name is popping up in trade talks around the league. I’ve been harping on the fact that he should be a target for the Rangers since the deadline, and think he’d be a better fit than Kevin Shattenkirk – or at least a better value.

But as is always the case with trade targets, especially one as valuable to the Canucks as Tanev is, the cost determines the value of the trade. As Vancouver GM Jim Benning has said, the cost is going to be high, but really, who knows how much of that is just posturing? After all, Benning would be doing his team a disservice by not setting the bar high. What’s starkly clear is that Tanev is a bonafide top-four right-handed defenseman capable of eating up big minutes in this league, and that has plenty of value, especially to a team like the Rangers.

As Elliotte Friedman mentioned, “Chris Tanev is not ‘not working.’ [he] is a difference-maker and there is a lot of interest in him. I think Vancouver has made it very clear that wherever he’s going—if he goes—it’s going to be expensive.”

But what does expensive mean? While Tanev has been rumored to be part of a deal with Dallas that would net Vancouver the third-overall pick in the Entry Draft, there’s also a long-standing discussion of what it would cost for Toronto to get him, as Scott Cullen pointed out.

Trading Tanev means Vancouver is committed to a rebuild—as they should be—and in that sense, the Rangers aren’t great trade partners. In short, there isn’t much, if any, young, high-upside talent in New York’s system to offer in return. Instead, most certainly, GM Jeff Gorton would have to send a roster player and a couple of picks to Vancouver to acquire the 27-year-old defender.

In a column for Sportsnet, Luke Fox raised the idea that the Rangers would be a “smart” destination for Tanev, suggesting that Oscar Lindberg and Antti Raanta could be targeted:

The Rangers are light on draft picks to offer, but they could look to trade RFA centre Oscar Lindberg, 25, or goaltender Antti Raanta. Or both. Could Lindberg grow into a top-six centre in Vancouver by the time Henrik Sedin moves on? Could Raanta ($1-million cap hit) be a cheap alternative to bringing back Ryan Miller and provide a competitive foil for Jacob Markstrom?

If Benning agrees that Lindberg can be a top-six guy (a role he took on for Sweden in the World Championships last month), or Raanta is a certified top goalie that Vancouver can hitch its hopes to, then a Tanev trade is easy, but both seem unlikely. Most likely, either of the two would have to be included in a deal as part of a larger package.

Evaluating the cost for Tanev is tricky because he has a very strong but limited skillset. He’s one of the league’s top shot suppressors but doesn’t have a great offensive resume*. Because of that, his value will certainly change from team to team and, most likely, the realistic cost for Tanev comes somewhere between the returns for Brendan Smith and Dougie Hamilton.

*It’s worth mentioning that, though Tanev doesn’t have a great offensive track record, he’s a good skater and strong with the first pass. That bodes really well for being productive in Alain Vigneault’s system. We saw glimpses of Brendan Smith, a comparable player, as an offensive presence despite limited minutes and adapting to a new system this past Spring.

As we know, the Rangers’ brass chose to give up second and third-round draft picks to acquire Smith from Detroit at the trade deadline. While that would be a price that New York would certainly be happy paying to Vancouver for Tanev, it’s probably wishful thinking as Tanev is an elite-level defensive player.

At the top end of Tanev’s value is the return Boston got for Hamilton—a first-round pick (15th overall) and two second-round picks (45th and 52nd). This is the “top end” because while it might be what Benning asks for, Hamilton was only 22 at the time and had a higher upside than Tanev.

Unfortunately, the most recent template for acquiring a top-flight defenseman is player-for-player, forward-for-defenseman. The most noteworthy examples of this are, the Seth Jones/Ryan Johansen and Taylor Hall/Philip Larsen trades that will undoubtedly influence the Canucks’ asking price. In that vein, J.T. Miller or Kevin Hayes probably come close to providing the right value for Tanev, but this type of trade doesn’t make the Rangers much better. Regardless of who the Blueshirts add to their blueline, a consistent, deep attack is their bread and butter.

That said, the Rangers do have a history of trading young players for difference-makers on the blueline. Anthony Duclair went to Arizona for Keith Yandle, after all. So while conventional wisdom might say that Pavel Buchnevich and Jimmy Vesey are untouchable, swapping one of those guys for as strong a player as Tanev isn’t too far-fetched, though that would stand in opposition to building the young, fast team that Gorton and Alain Vigneault have been pushing towards.

The Rangers are disadvantaged to a team like Toronto because of a lack of depth in their prospect pool, so they’ll have to compensate with picks if there’s a bidding war. It’s possible that Vancouver would covet someone like Ryan Gropp or a younger goalie like Adam Huska or Igor Shestyorkin, but it’s hard to imagine them having much sway over young players from an organization like Toronto.

Taking Pavel Buchnevich and Jimmy Vesey out of the equation, the smart value for the Rangers is a package of Lindberg and, say, second- and fourth-round picks. That should be close to the market for Tanev, especially since he’s had a bit of the injury bug the last couple seasons. The picks might go up if the Rangers see Tanev as a partner for Ryan MacDonagh (as they should), but that should be the ballpark.

Note: This article does not mention the fact that the Rangers have a first-round pick for the first time since 2012 for fear of triggering.

Executing a Tanev trade and re-signing Smith could conceivably give the Rangers a top four of McDonagh/Tanev and Skjei/Smith and leave one of Girardi and Staal to pair with a young guy (Bereglazov, Pionk, or Graves) on the bottom pair.

That’s an excellent mix of skating, physicality, puck moving, and age and won’t require many in-game score-dependent adjustments, and should make the addition of Tanev worth the asking price.

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