The Calgary Flames have begun a trend of bringing in players from their enemy to the west after signing two former Vancouver Canucks on Friday. Defenceman Christopher Tanev agreed to a four-year contract, earning $4.5 million per season, and the deal came just several hours after the Flames also added Tanev’s teammate, goalie Jacob Markstrom. Tanev spoke with Flames TV’s Ryan Dittrick, and Dittrick asked Tanev if he had a chance to speak with Markstrom.
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“Yeah, we’ve chatted three or four times, and we’re obviously both excited to continue playing together. We’ve done so the past five or six years, and he’s a great goalie and he’s a hell of a person, so he’s going to be a great player for Calgary and us going forward, so I’m super excited to be able to play with him,” said Tanev.
With the defensive departures of T.J. Brodie to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Travis Hamonic to free agency, Flames general manager Brad Treliving had to make a move. Tanev was a great piece to the puzzle, but something tells me Treliving isn’t done shopping for a defenseman just yet. Getting rid of one right handed defenseman and replacing him with another still leaves room for more right-handed shots. He has $5,710,834 million left in cap space, so if he is able to bring in another defenseman on a low-cost, low-term deal, this team should be more confident about its defense pairings.
Drafted the same year as Markstrom, Hamonic went 53rd overall in the second round of the 2008 NHL Draft, and the buzz surrounding the young Manitoba product prior to his first taste of the NHL was immense. Hamonic has been a pretty steady work horse on the blue line for both the New York Islanders and Flames, always fearless when it comes to blocking shots, and at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, he certainly earned his nickname “Hammer.”
During the 2019-20 season, Hamonic averaged 21:12 of ice time per game, the second most on the Flames behind Mark Giordano at 23:53, so his departure means Tanev will likely play a high number of minutes. Hamonic is also a right-handed defenseman, which is always something on Calgary’s wish list for their blue line. His departure will certainly be felt, but with Tanev in to fill his spot, the Flames’ future remains positive.
Tanev comes to Calgary at the age of 30, the same age as Hamonic now, so age wise, this signing looks like an even trade. Calgary’s biggest need on the point is a right-handed shot, and they’ll get that from Tanev, as he played alongside rookie defenseman sensation Quinn Hughes last season, where the pair combined for 73 points. Hughes tallied 53 points in 68 games, which was a huge surprise as he was competing in his first full season.
Tanev’s leadership and experience is what Hughes gives credit to for a lot of his successes early in his career. (From ‘Tanev certain Canucks’ young star Hughes doesn’t need emotional rescue,’ The Province, 08/24/20) Having Tanev bring in that Stanley Cup experience is again going to be vital for some of the Flames’ younger core, and I expect one of the team’s younger defensemen to be partnered with the 10-year veteran.
Taking a look at Tanev’s height and weight, the only difference between him and Hamonic’s, is that Hamonic weighs eight pounds more than Tanev, and they both share the same height. It isn’t a huge difference, but in today’s NHL, I’ll take the lighter option if it means winning the little puck battles by being the first man in. Even when Tanev is the last man in on the puck, he’s coming at you with a crushing hit from his 6-foot-2, 197 pound frame.
What’s To Come?
It’s without question that both Tanev and Hamonic need a change of scenery, but I would have to admit that Hamonic needs it more than Tanev. Hamonic is coming off a season I think he’d like to forget. Going from 19 points and a plus-21 in 2018-19, to 12 points and a minus-3 the season following was not the ideal way to finish out his contract in Calgary. However, Tanev is coming off a tie in terms of points earned in a season, as he added 20 points in 69 games, and was a plus-4. He also provided a big boost to the Canucks’ lineup in the 2020 Playoffs, scoring one goal and adding six assists through 17 games.
This isn’t some “massive upgrade” in terms of replacing Hamonic on the Flames’ defensive core, but I do like what Treliving has done when looking at this acquisition from afar. This is a move that improves the Flames and could be highly beneficial in terms of cost if Tanev can find his game and mentor some of Calgary’s young guns.