Trade Talk: Targeting Tanev

There have been lots of names kicked around as potential trade targets to bolster the Rangers’ blueline, most notably Kevin Shattenkirk, but a name that hasn’t gotten much attention, though he should (East Coast bias?), is Chris Tanev. The lack of attention as a trade target is fitting considering the fact that he was undrafted, is underrated amongst fans, and plays a simple but reliable game. However, he could be a perfect fit for the Rangers’ top four and the right kind of trade deadline acquisition.

It’s not surprising that Tanev doesn’t get a lot of media attention considering the fact that he’s not a punishing hitter and doesn’t put up big point totals; He’s similar to Dan Girardi in that he has a workmanlike approach that is unnoticeable when it’s at its best. What separates him from Girardi is a strong skating ability and crisp first pass that gives him a higher ceiling. While he’s willing to put his body on the line like G and has blocked more than 165 shots each of the last two years (perhaps that’s what earned him his 20:00+ per night under John Tortorella), that’s not what his game is predicated on.

His elite defensive ability metastasizes in his strong shot suppression and overall possession capabilities and, frankly, the Canucks are much better for it. Until this year, he has been a positive Corsi and Fenwick player in every season of his career.

While the Canucks as a whole are struggling to keep their opponents away from the net, Tanev has been doing a terrific job. With him on the ice, shot rates against from net-front areas are far below league average. Tanev consistently manages to prevent opponents from getting shots off in the slot.

Without Tanev, things get ugly very quickly.

On the topic of his possession impact, Jason Botchford of The Province which covers the Vancouver Canucks added:

This past season, Tanev went from seventh to fifth among defencemen who played 1,000 minutes, in what some would call shot suppression, relative to the rest of his team.

Vancouver opponents averaged 7.52 fewer shot attempts-per-hour when Tanev was on the ice, than when he wasn’t.

As of January 25th, the win-loss numbers without Tanev in the lineup were also very ugly.

His defensive ability makes him comparable to Girardi, but it is complimented by a strong first pass and skating ability that makes him a great fit in Alain Vigneault’s system. While offense isn’t the staple of his game, AV should love plays like this:

The perfect breakout pass and speed to catch up with the play (albeit a slow-developing one) is exactly what AV wants out of his defensemen and appears too rarely from the current defense corps. We saw an even better example of it in his game winner in overtime against Calgary last night.

Of course, AV already coached Tanev as a youngster and trusted him enough to play him for five games during the run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011.

“The kid is so poised,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “So much composure without the puck.”

During the same run, “Vigneault praised the poise of rookie defenceman Chris Tanev, who played his first game in the Stanley Cup final. ‘He can take a hit to make a play, and move the puck real well,’ the coach said.”

Since then, Tanev has showcased his first-pair, tough matchup ability while partnering with Alex Edler.

Puck possession numbers show their value in a very real way. The Tanev/Edler duo has a 48.2 per cent Corsi rating, meaning the Canucks only narrowly get out-shot when they’re on the ice, even though these two players are taking on the nastiest minutes the coach can give them. In much easier minutes, the rest of the Canucks have just a 46.8 per cent rating.

Putting that another way, Tanev and Edler together are able to bridge half of the gap between a poor Vancouver roster and the league average, even while the coach assigns them to check the Ryan Getzlafs and Anze Kopitars of the NHL.

If Tanev can be such an effective player on a poor roster with Alex Edler, then we can make a reasonable assumption that, with a surplus of talent at forward and Ryan McDonagh to his left, he can elevate his game. On a Rangers team that struggles with puck possession, adding a guy who can be so effective in this regard seems prudent.

Of course, regardless of how good of a fit Tanev might be, the cost for any trade target is always prohibitive. Canucks GM Jim Benning has stated that he’s not going to trade Chris Tanev, but for all we know, that’s just posturing. Regardless of whether or not the Canucks decide to be sellers, they do have to expose one of their top-four expansion draft eligible defenders (Tanev, Alex Edler, Erik Gudbranson, and Luca Sbisa). Should Jeff Gorton be able to convince Benning that Tanev should be the odd man out, it could make prying Tanev away easier.

Rumblings about a potential Tanev trade seem to center around the Taylor Hall for Philip Larsson swap in the offseason, but that’s probably a high ask. While it’s impossible to know exactly what Vancouver would look for, one wonders if something along the lines of two second-round picks and a middling prospect (say maybe Ryan Gropp, who has been on an absolute tear in the WHL) could get it done. The Canucks will need picks and young scoring talent for their rebuild, so maybe it’s a match.

Financially, Tanev is signed to a nice contract—$4.45 million per year through the 2019-20 season—that the Rangers could easily absorb, especially if they buyout Dan Girardi. At that number, there’d be no need to shed salary to attain him this season and without a glut of defense prospects in the system, Tanev won’t halt development for anybody. He could play on McDonagh’s right for the next handful of years as a replacement for Girardi to give this team a boost in the short-term along with a longer-term partner for the captain.

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  1. Hutton is not eligible for expansion…and he is not in the canucks top 4.

    Two seconds and a mid prospect? For Tanev? I think it would require a first and a top six forward. …maybe a Vessey.

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