Canucks' contracts will cause trouble down the line

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Many of you will remember former-Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman, called the team’s capologist by many.

Though he didn’t love the term, he deserved it for the magic he performed finding ways to fit so many skilled players under the team’s salary cap structure.

Gilman appeared on TSN 1290 Winnipeg Tuesday talking about how teams negotiate contracts with players.

While it should be noted Gilman made no specific reference to any particular player, some of what he said applies directly to the Canucks and should worry fans – especially regarding the benchmarks Jim Benning has set with several large contracts he’s signed with players.

Gilman explained most negotiations start with a player’s agent looking at benchmark contracts for similar players around the league – right now, defencemen will look at Brent Seabrook’s 8-year $6.875M AAV and Mark Giordano’s 6-year $6.75M AAV, while forwards will look at Ryan Kesler’s 6-year $6.875M AAV, he said.

From there, the team will counter, telling the player what will work for them given their own cap planning situation.

The hangup there – and here’s the important part for the Canucks – is players and agents look at other contracts a team or GM has signed.

“You have to have credibility when you’re representing a team in negotiations,” said Gilman.

“You have to understand it’s one thing for you to cast aspersions at other people’s deals. It’s another thing to cast aspersions at your own. Teams get hung by contracts that are really their own.

“What often happens is the agent will come back to you and he’ll point out a contract that you have on your roster, say forward X, who hasn’t scored as many goals as the client in question, or doesn’t have as many points, or isn’t the same type of leader, and the agent will say if you payed this players X number of dollars for his level of performance, my guy has outperformed him, so there’s no doubt my guy is getting more than player X.”

If you haven’t yet figured out where this is going, we’re talking about Vancouver’s benchmark contracts – Brandon Sutter’s 4-year $4.375M AAV starting next year, Luca Sbisa’s 3-year $3.6M AAV, and Ryan Miller’s 3-year $6M AAV.

At $6M per year, some of the goalies with salaries near Miller’s are Jonathan Quick, Semyon Varlamov, Cory Scheider, and Braden Holtby. Miller’s .910 save percentage doesn’t come close to any of theirs. Sbisa has provided a physical presence, but he boasts the team’s lowest corsi-relative numbers, at -7.2 percent (from hockey-reference.com). And while Sutter’s currently injured, his corsi-relative numbers were negative (-1.5 percent) through his 16 games played.

The problem with these contracts – aside from not getting value for allocated cap spending – is they set the bar for future Canucks signings.

There won’t be many defencemen who would say they played worse than Sbisa and deserve less than he gets. Similarly, the base rate for a fourth liner up for renewal will be Derek Dorsett’s $2.65M/year contract.

It should be noted that Benning also signed free agent Radim Vrbata for 2-years at $5M AAV, and extended Chris Tanev for 5-years at $4.45M AAV – both decent value for the services they’re providing.

With Vancouver going through a rebuild, the team will be adding many pieces over the next few years. The jury is out on whether they have a plan to fit the salary puzzle together.

Note: This article has been modified from the original to include Vrbata’s and Tanev’s contracts.

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Omar A has worked for 24 hours, the Canadian Press and TSN. He graduated from the Journalism program at the University of King's College
@omarcanuck

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