Canucks 2022-23 Report Cards: Ethan Bear

Welcome to the Vancouver Canucks 2022-23 report card series. In this series, we at The Hockey Writers look back at each Canucks player from the past season, break down how their campaign went, and assign a letter grade reflective of their overall performance. This edition will focus on Ethan Bear.

Canucks Acquire Bear from Hurricanes

On Oct. 28, 2022, the Canucks acquired Bear from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Vancouver’s 2023 fifth-round pick. Along with Bear, the Canucks received forward Lane Pederson.

After signing a one-year, $2.2 million deal with the Hurricanes in the summer of 2022, Bear didn’t suit up to begin the season, which put his name in trade talks. With a shortage of right-handed defensemen, the Canucks swooped in and made the deal, a low-risk, high-reward trade that helped shore up a glaring hole in their lineup.

Related: Canucks 2022-23 Report Cards: Vitali Kravtsov

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With the trade, Carolina could break away from two one-way salaries, free up a contract slot – something very valuable to a contending team – and receive draft capital for a player who was not playing, while Bear was moved to a team where he would play. It was a true “win-win” trade, and Bear performed well in Vancouver.

Bear’s Performance With Canucks

In 61 games with the Canucks, Bear tallied 16 points (3 goals, 13 assists). His offensive stats might not jump out at you, but his main contribution came on the defensive side of the puck. With a 4.7 even-strength defensive goals above replacement, Bear comfortably led all Canucks defensemen, well ahead of Quinn Hughes at 2.9. Bear also had a Corsi-for of 50.48%, good for second among team defensemen and 103rd in the league (minimum 300 TOI). Hughes and Bear were the only defensemen to be above 50% in that category on the roster. Bear also ranked 22nd in the league among defensemen (minimum 300 TOI) in on-ice shot attempts against/60 minutes with 49.75. For one of the worst defensive cores in the NHL, the blame hardly falls on Bear’s shoulders.

Ethan Bear Quinn Hughes Vancouver Canucks
Quinn Hughes and Ethan Bear, Vancouver Canucks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Bear was also versatile. Throughout the season, he switched sides depending on who he was paired with. A multitude of injuries forced the Canucks to rely on below-league-average defensemen like Jack Rathbone, Kyle Burroughs, and Riley Stillman to fill out the blue line on any given night and, despite the lack of talent around him, Bear’s play was consistent. He was a bright spot on the blue line.

Bear’s Future With Canucks

Bear is a restricted free agent this summer. The Canucks and Bear had talked about a contract extension, but it slowed down around All-Star weekend. Over the past month or so, negotiations have picked back up.

On April 15, 2023, he spoke on Sportsnet’s Canuck Central podcast and had this to say about his future in Vancouver: “Vancouver wanted to talk to me about a contract since November, but I thought, let’s put that off for the year and focus on, you know, hockey. Everyone was, like, worried that I didn’t have a contract. Well, everyone can take a deep breath. I’m not going anywhere. This stuff will sort itself out.”

The Canucks would be wise to re-sign him. At just 25 years old, Bear fits management’s timeline. With the addition of Filip Hronek on the right side, keeping him gives the team depth on that side, something they have been missing for years. As for Bear, staying in Vancouver seems like a no-brainer. They are the third team he has played for in just five seasons – puzzling for someone with his skill set – and this should give him a place that he can call home.

Final Grade for Ethan Bear: B+

After being traded for pennies on the dollar, Bear’s performance in 2022-23 far surpassed his trade value. Along with Hughes, Bear picked up the slack on the blue line, making the group look better than they were. He was arguably Vancouver’s best defensive player in 2022-23, which Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford and GM Patrik Allvin should try to keep for the foreseeable future. If he stays, hopefully, we will see the same from him in 2023-24.

Analytics Provided By: Natural Stat Trick, MoneyPuck, Evolving-Hockey

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