According to TSN.ca, the Vancouver Canucks inked star forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin to matching four-year, $28 million extensions on Friday. The deals keep the twins under contract until the summer of 2018, at which point they will be 38 years old.
The immediate reaction to the deals has largely been positive.
The money is not excessive given the talent level of the players involved—the Sedins, as elite offensive talents, would certainly have commanded more on the open market as free agents—and the term means that the team and players are committed to each other for a long—but not too long—period of time.
What the deal also does is cement the Canucks on their current trajectory.
In some ways, it was inevitable. When Vancouver proved unable to trade Roberto Luongo, it had little choice but to ship out Cory Schneider instead. That decision tied Vancouver’s maximum window as a contending team to the length of time that Luongo could be an above-average NHL goalie.
In Hockey Prospectus 2013-14, I used a composite model based on previous high-end goalies to forecast how long that window might last:
Assuming Luongo’s career roughly follows the composite model, the Canucks can expect another four seasons of above average goaltending, and then a year of league-average goaltending, taking them through to the summer of 2018.
The Canucks’ current salary-cap setup certainly fits with that line of thinking, with the vast majority of Vancouver’s core locked up for a period that spans between three and five years. Luongo's contract runs until 2022.
|Vancouver's core players|
|Daniel Sedin||$7.0 million||2018|
|Henrik Sedin||$7.0 million||2018|
|Roberto Luongo||$5.3 million||2022|
|Ryan Kesler||$5.0 million||2016|
|Alexander Edler||$5.0 million||2019|
|Kevin Bieksa||$4.6 million||2016|
|Jason Garrison||$4.6 million||2018|
|Alex Burrows||$4.5 million||2017|
|Dan Hamhuis||$4.5 million||2016|
|Chris Higgins||$2.5 million||2017|
|Jannik Hansen||$2.5 million||2018|
This brings up two obvious questions.
First, are the Canucks good enough to win the Stanley Cup in the window imposed on them by the Luongo contract? Second, what happens when Luongo’s play inevitably declines as he ages?
With regard to the first question, the answer is "Yes." In any given year, one team out of a group of contenders can win it all and the Canucks’ strong core places them firmly in that group. Despite consecutive first-round losses, this team is extremely similar to the one that has amassed two Presidents' Trophies and a Game 7 Stanley Cup Final loss in the last three years.
There is no guarantee that Vancouver will win its first Cup. Even excluding the need to make smart deadline moves and the hope that some of the team’s prize prospects can contribute on value deals, a lot can go right or wrong in any given season.
Poor health, bad bounces or something as simple as an important player getting hot at the right time—or cold at the wrong one—can make all the difference.
Vancouver is in the mix, and there’s not much else to do but see what happens from here on out.
As for the answer to the second question, it seems obvious that Vancouver will be pressing the reset button at some point around the summer of 2018. Luongo’s contract will still be on the books, but it is likely that his play will be slipping. Meanwhile, key players like the Sedins will either be near the ends of their careers or need new expensive contracts—or both.
Some odd things might happen. Maybe Luongo defies his expected aging curve, maybe some of Vancouver’s top prospects emerge as elite NHLers.
However, the likeliest outcome is that 2018 coincides with the start of a rebuilding effort for the Canucks.
In that light, not only are the matching contract extensions signed by the Sedins today sensible, but they are also necessary.
General manager Mike Gillis knows he has a finite amount of time to get a championship out of this group of players, and leaving aside the value of continuity, there was simply no way he was going to find better value on the free-agent market with the combined $14 million per season he spent here.
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