Some of the big names are off the board, but the Vancouver Canucks have dipped their toes into the free agent waters with two smaller, but not insignificant, signings.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Canucks first two moves of signing season will be to bring aboard 32-year-old Jay Beagle and 28-year-old Antoine Roussel, two versatile forwards that will bring a veteran presence to Vancouver’s bottom six. And while adding to solidify the bottom half of the roster was most certainly a need for the Canucks, the combined price tag, which is reported to be upwards of $6 million to add both players, is a bit jarring.
Let’s begin with the Beagle signing, which will reportedly be a four-year, $12-million deal that sees the center net himself a big-time raise on the heels of a role in the Washington Capitals’ Stanley Cup victory. The defensive-minded pivot, who has garnered some Selke Trophy consideration in the past, will effectively be coming into Vancouver as a matchup center on the third or fourth line. There’s really not much else that can be expected of Beagle, either, because while he’s definitely carved out a niche, he hasn’t shown himself to be much more than a bottom-six contributor.
Statistically, his numbers are far from terrible — he has 38 goals and 89 points in 279 games over the past four seasons — but he has just one 30-point season under his belt and his average ice time speaks to that of a pure role player. Since 2014-15, Beagle has averaged little more than 13 minutes per game and was below that rate during the post-season. His primary use, however, was a clutch faceoff performer. He has won more than 57 percent of his 3,000-plus faceoffs over the past four campaigns. Only Jordan Staal, Antoine Vermette and Patrice Bergeron have been better across as many draws over that same span.
Beagle’s $3-million AAV is reportedly set to be surpassed by Roussel, however, as reports are he’ll be paid $3.25 million per year on his new four-year pact.
That may seem awfully pricy given Roussel’s primary role since breaking into the NHL has been that of a pest, evidenced by the fact he’s averaged upwards of 150 penalty minutes per season over the past five campaigns and that he’s usually found stirring the pot whenever he hits the ice. But there is a bit more potential upside in terms of scoring when it comes to Roussel, as he has an average of nearly 28 points per season across the past five campaigns. Not only that, but Roussel, before last season’s down year that saw him score just five goals and 17 points in 73 games, flirted with 15 goals and 30 points in the four years prior to the 2017-18 season.
The combined $6 million-plus cap hit for two players who will almost certainly skate either alongside each other or round out the bottom six is somewhat concerning, however. It’s not that Vancouver doesn’t have the cap space — they most certainly do — but the $6 million could be money that goes a lot further in a few years’ time if the Canucks can take some steps forward towards competing for a post-season spot. Likewise, both contracts could become difficult to move in the long run if one or both is deemed replaceable by cheaper, younger, more effective options down the line.
But the reality is the Canucks clearly had an eye on these two players and were willing to pay top dollar for their services. How they manage that top dollar down the line is to be seen, but for the time being, Vancouver appears to have bolstered their bottom six with the exact players they were after.