Canucks GM Jim Benning has opened up his chequebook on the first day of NHL free agency, signing three players to multi-year contracts.
Depth forwards Jay Beagle (four years, $3 million per season), Antoine Roussel (four years, $3.25 million), and Tim Schaller (two years, $1.9 million) are on their way to Vancouver. All three forwards add grit and experience killing penalties, though they didn’t come cheap.
Jay Beagle: 4 years, $3 million per season
Beagle, 32, has been the topic of debate among Canucks fans for the last two days. A checking centre fresh off winning a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals, he ticks a lot of boxes. The Calgary native is expected to be a mentor for younger players, plus he’s great at faceoffs, and kills penalties.
“Jay is a detailed player with championship experience, who can handle a big defensive workload,” said Benning. “He’s grown and developed his game with a core group of players and won at every level of pro hockey. We’re excited to add a player with his calibre of character and experience to our team.”
The reason this deal is getting criticized is because of the money, and term, for a player that’s proven to be no better than a fourth-line centre – especially at his age. Beagle, who scored 22 points in 79 games last season, will be 36 years old by the time this contract expires.
Beagle’s underlying numbers are also concerning, given that he had the worst Corsi-For percentage in the NHL among players with 50+ games last season.
Antoine Roussel: 4 years, $3.25 million per season
Roussel, 28, is a physical agitator who isn’t afraid to drop the gloves. The French-born winger is a player the Canucks hope replaces what they lost when Derek Dorsett was forced to retire.
“Antoine is a competitor with a skill set that benefits our team,” said Benning. “He’s a physical player, hard-to-play against with the ability to contribute offensively. We’re pleased to welcome Antoine as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.”
Roussel is coming off his worst season in the league, scoring just five goals and 17 points for the Dallas Stars. His ice time dropped to just 12:26 per night, well below the 15:31 he saw the season prior.
Roussel was incredibly consistent prior to last year, scoring between 12-14 goals, 12-16 assists, and 25-29 points in four straight seasons. No stranger to the penalty box, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound left winger reached triple digits in penalty minutes every season since 2013.
Tim Schaller: 2 years, $1.9 million per season
Schaller, 27, is coming off just his second full season in the NHL with the Boston Bruins. He appeared in all 82 games for Boston, scoring 22 points (12-10-22).
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound centre played 13:17 per game on a good Bruins team, and was one of Boston’s most relied upon penalty-killing forwards. He struggled in the faceoff dot though, winning just 45.8% of the draws he took.
“Tim adds size to our forward group and can play throughout our line-up,” said Benning. “He’s responsible defensively and last year showed he can make regular offensive contributions as well. We’re excited to welcome him to the Vancouver Canucks.”
A late-bloomer, Schaller played four seasons of NCAA hockey after going undrafted into the NHL. After paying his dues in the AHL, last season was a breakout season for him.
What this means for the Canucks
The Canucks addressed some needs, adding two centres and a winger that can all kill penalties.
But they paid dearly for it.
Schaller is a low-risk deal, but the Beagle and Roussel contracts could come back to haunt the team. Dishing out four-year contracts is risky, particularly for Beagle given his age.
Benning didn’t sign any Loui Eriksson type deals, but he’s continuing a trend of spending too much money on bottom-six forwards.