Filip Hronek is still yet to hit the ice as a Vancouver Canuck, but the evaluation of the player has already begun. That’s because the business of signing the player is not too far away.
And for anyone thinking of comparables, there’s a couple notable names you should strike from the list.
When Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin have spoken about acquiring younger players, they were clearly speaking about very young players of the Vitali Kravtsov and Aatu Räty mould or older, but still burgeoning players like Hronek. The most successful recent acquisitions of this sort have been guys like fellow right shot defenceman John Marino, or the ballyhooed Devon Toews. Hronek and Marino are a few months younger than Toews was, and Hronek still has a year left on his deal, while Toews was an RFA. But as good mid 20s defencemen, the comparison is a decent one.
The thing is, where the plot goes from here, Toews was signing his third NHL contract, but still only got a bump up to $4.1 million for four years from Joe Sakic, and is still on that deal to this very day. All that for a guy that put up 57 points last season, and will likely get to 50 again this season. Marino was near the start of a six-year deal that he had signed with his previous team in the Penguins, by a guy named Jim Rutherford, and was only making $4.4 million until the year 2027.
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Hronek on the other hand, is already making that much. Both he and Toews will be ready to sign extensions this summer and they could ultimately land on the same number, only Hronek will be doing at as a 25-year-old, Toews is now 29.
By giving up a first-round pick, and potentially a lottery pick in 2024, the Canucks paid more for the cost of acquisition, and they’ll pay more for the prime years as well. It’s one thing that the Avs didn’t have to mortgage the future to get Toews, but they also didn’t have to, to keep him. And the Devils swapped an underachieving Ty Smith and a third-round pick for Marino. So not much risked to them either.
Now you can argue this is just the cost of doing business. Or you can say, wait and don’t force something that isn’t there. You try to find the jewel in the college free agents. You try to rely on your scouting to find the next great deal — a true Toews or Marino-like deal — instead of the inflation affected version.
Just in case you didn’t already hate inflation…
The Canucks will likely struggle to come anywhere near the playoff bar next season, the final year of Hronek’s deal. So the next time they are going to be competitive, it’ll likely come with not one, but two Canucks defencemen making north of $7 million per season.