As the Vancouver Canucks look to fill out their roster for the 2022-23 season, one question that should be asked is whether or not bringing back Tyler Motte is a good idea. The hard-working winger is coming off a Conference Finals appearance with the New York Rangers and is a free agent this offseason. Here are some pros and cons to re-signing him.
Pro: Familiarity With the Organization
One question that is also asked when bringing in new players is how will they adapt to a team’s lineup. Luckily with Motte, that question does not have to be answered. He has spent the majority of his career with the Canucks playing 196 games since the 2017-18 season. Whether it was Travis Green or Bruce Boudreau, he was a player Vancouver relied upon, whether it be at even strength or on the penalty kill.
With Juho Lammikko and Matthew Highmore both expected to be back, bringing in Motte would allow the Canucks to reunite one of their most consistent lines from the 2021-22 season. No line played more together than these three clocking in just under 260 minutes together. In that time, they outscored the opposition 14-4 while outshooting their opponents 122-111.
In comparison, Lammikko and Highmore really struggled without Motte. The duo played 110 minutes together and were outscored 6-1 at even strength. They were outshot, out-chanced and saw their on-ice shooting percentage go from 11.48 percent to 2.44 percent. It is safe to say they missed the hard-working winger.
Con: Cap Hit
The Canucks are looking to dump as much cap space as possible this season, which could make a Motte signing problematic. Last season, he had a cap hit of $1.225 million, which was a fair deal for both sides considering what he brought to the table. Now, after a long playoff run and potential interest from other teams, the Canucks may have to pay over double his cap hit as his contract projection comes to just under $3 million per season.
With Micheal Ferland expected to be on long-term injured reserve next season, the Canucks have a projected $13 million available this offseason. They also still need to sign Brock Boeser, Lammikko, Highmore, Jack Rathbone and make decisions on players like Brad Hunt, Alex Chiasson, Brad Richardson and Brandon Sutter. Cap space is tight, so there may not even be room in the budget to bring back Motte even if the Canucks want to.
Plain and simple, the Canucks are not in a position to pay a fourth-line player anything above $1.5 million per season. Yes, he does provide value to the team producing a wins above replacement of 0.7 while playing with Vancouver last season, but the Canucks do not have the cap flexibility to bring him in at $3 million per season. If Motte wants to take a hometown discount here, that would be great, but if the contract is anything above $1.5 million, it could be problematic down the line for Vancouver.
Pro: Canucks Need Players Like Motte
One thing the Canucks desperately need to add next season is speed. To play Boudreau’s style of hockey, they need fast wingers that can get in on the forecheck and pressure. That is one of the many reasons Motte was so trusted and was played consistently while he was in Vancouver.
Off the ice, Motte is a great ambassador for the team, which led him to become a fan favourite. From opening up about his mental health struggles to his support of women’s hockey, he is the type of person teams should want to represent their brand. While character does not appear on the scoresheet, it is something that should be considered when bringing someone to a team.
On the ice, Motte is exactly what teams want in a fourth-liner. He isn’t afraid to get in on the forecheck, can throw hits, block shots and create takeaways. While his offensive game doesn’t blow the doors off anyone, producing 15-20 points, it is still good production from a fourth-liner. It was clear from watching the fourth line after he left that the Canucks missed all the intangibles he brought, which could entice a reunion this offseason.
Con: Limits Prospect Development
Fans and the organization want to see young players within the organization get a chance in the NHL. Not only will prospects fight hard to keep their spot in the lineup, but their cap hits are also relatively low, which helps the Canucks in the long run. Vancouver has brought in some intriguing prospects from Sweden this offseason already, so having a spot for them on the roster could pay dividends for the organization.
Then, there is William Lockwood, who has shown he is ready to make the jump to the NHL. If Motte returns, it could block him from becoming an everyday NHLer next season. Unless the Canucks move players like Nils Höglander, Connor Garland or Tanner Pearson and don’t retain NHL players in those deals, there may not be enough roster spots to go around. While having Motte does provide value, he does take up a valuable lineup spot that could go to a deserving young player.
Tough Decision for Vancouver
There are numerous factors when deciding if the Canucks should bring back Motte. From financial consideration, prospect development, to even if he wants to return to Vancouver, all of these factors will play a role in deciding if he returns. One thing is clear, though, he is a fan favourite and would be welcomed back if the two sides come to an agreement in free agency.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.