The Tyler Myers contract was one of the more dramatic announcements made by the previous Canucks administration. After four years of no playoffs, general manager Jim Benning needed to make a dramatic show in his fifth season with the team. And the fan and media reception was… relief?
Big Guy, Big Deal for Tyler Myers
The in and out that year is a bit ironic for fans today. Jordie Benn came in at the same time as Myers, while Luke Schenn went off to the first of two Stanley Cups in Tampa Bay at less than half the price. Benn’s gone, Schenn’s back, and Myers is still a bone of contention.
Rumours swirled around both Vancouver and Myers. Myers was clearly the best option among defensemen in a strong season for free agent forwards and goaltenders. Vancouver had an issue with both size and speed, and this was indeed a player who checked both boxes. But how much would it cost to get him? His previous season with Winnipeg had him lead the team with nine goals, including a short-handed strike. He scores goals, he’s a very good skater, and he’s six-foot-nine. What’s not to like?
He was an obvious target for the team but also for every other team. Fans watched the free-agent deadline approach with a mix of hope and dread. The year before, after all, Benning signed Antoine Roussel, Tim Schaller, and Jay Beagle for far more – and far longer – than was necessary. Rumours were everywhere about Myers getting a 7x$7 million deal and similar. Anything even close to that was a possible nightmare.
So when the actual Tyler Myers contract was announced, seeing that it was only five years long brought some criticism up short. The $6 million cap hit wasn’t great, but liveable as the cap would go up over the years and – Oh. Right. Well, enough living in the past! What’s he done for them lately?
No Points for Style
Myers has never really lived up to his initial season, winning the Calder Trophy in 2009-10 with Buffalo and scoring 11 goals and 48 points. While his first two seasons were both cut short, he got reasonable numbers in them. His initial Canuck season featured 6 goals in 68 games, and in his second he scored 6 in just 58. This year, as the only Canuck to play all 82 games, he scored once. For a player who has offensive talent, that’s got to be considered a letdown. His 18 total points were just one more than either Brad Hunt or the aforementioned Luke Schenn. That they produced one point less than Myers for approximately a quarter of the cost isn’t a good look.
But there is a reason for his odd decrease in offence. His defence.*
The Odd(-ly Expensive) Couple
Vancouver’s second most durable defenceman was Oliver Ekman-Larsson with 79 games. That durability meant the most popular pairing was Ekman-Larsson and Myers. Which is just as well, as they were assigned the job of stopping their opponents’ top lines. For all the attention Schenn gets – deservedly – for his physical play, Myers can bring some snarl himself. For the occasional penalty trouble his height gets him in, it’s not an unwelcome addition to a team seen as easy to play against.
Still, both he and Ekman-Larsson are playing with a different focus than their usual modus operandi. Has it been effective? And more to the point, does it justify the $6 million Tyler Myers contract? The answer is an extremely frustrating “maybe” – but it has only been one season. The duo had 49.3% expected goals when they were on the ice together. Given who they played against, that’s not particularly bad. Ekman-Larsson also had the bonus of playing on the second power-play unit, so that his boxcars are higher is no surprise.
How coach Bruce Boudreau decides to use the pair in his first full season will speak volumes. Myers has more offence than he showed last year, but if he is assigned to countering Connor McDavid and the like again, he won’t get the chance to show it. That is, of course, if he’s still here come September.
What Defence is Worth
Having a solid defence pair to call on is an expectation on most teams. At issue is when that pairing costs $13 million. As we mentioned when talking about Ekman-Larsson, the offence is there. It just wasn’t called upon because that slot is taken by Quinn Hughes. Myers didn’t produce at a $6 million level, and it’s hard to imagine that he could. He’s a decent second-pair defender if your team needs an extra attacker, and that’s not a role he’s going to get in Vancouver.
For fans considering a trade, he does have some value. But it is severely compromised by his paycheque. Myers’ cap hit is awkward, but nearly as bad is his $11 million paycheque. His contract switches to a 10-team no-trade clause from a full NTC, so possibilities are there. But the benefit of moving him will be minimal. Even if the cap hit is gone and nothing comes back, he still needs replacing. Options on the right side are very limited for the Canucks, especially if Tucker Poolman is incapacitated by his concussions. And frankly, that doesn’t look good.
After Poolman come some perfectly decent third-pair defencemen. Travis Dermott may be more than that, but he hasn’t been yet. And he’s not the first name that comes to mind when you think “defence”. Schenn is, so far, sticking with Hughes. Kyle Burroughs is a great story, but an unlikely middle-pair guy. Brady Keeper should be recovered from his broken leg but is completely unproven at the NHL level.
Unless Patrik Allvin can work a minor miracle and gets a decent return, Myers stays in Vancouver for at least one more season. After 2023-24’s bonus is paid his cash owed is just $1 million and that could have far more suitors. Which, by then, might well be Vancouver itself.
*Cue shocked expression
" Me and BonBon are pretty close, I bet a lot of people aren't aware of this. We must obey, we are so close. Let's not be ignorant. These are professionals." pic.twitter.com/QOOQCcIWWY
— PRiMETIME SNOOP (@PRiMETIMESNOOP_) March 23, 2021