The Canucks will feel the salary cap crunch after extending two of their depth players.
General Manager Jim Benning resigned Derek Dorsett and Luca Sbisa on Wednesday. Although these two players are in their first year with the Canucks, they have been applauded for being solid locker room guys.
Sbisa/Dorsett 2 of the most candid guys in #Canucks room. From media standpoint, these are good deals
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) April 8, 2015
But how much extra cash should a general manager fork out for a player just because they are a solid locker room influence? For Benning, it was enough to sign Dorsett for four more years with an AAV of $2.65, and Sbisa to a three-year deal with an AAV of $3.6 million.
Dorsett has taken on a leadership role with the Canucks, and Benning believes he makes other players around him more successful. He is a role model for younger players in the organization such as Bo Horvat and Ronalds Kenins.
Dorsett is also having a career year. Despite facing injury problems earlier in his career, he has played in all but three of Vancouver’s games this season. He has 25 points in 77 games, which is a career high for Dorsett. He also is fourth in the league with 169 penalty minutes, mainly because he has the second-most fights in the league, trailing only Cody McLeod of the Colorado Avalanche.
Benning is obviously a fan of what Dorsett brings to the table, which is shown with his contract. “His willingness to chip in both offensively and defensively while standing up for his teammates at all times has been instrumental to our success all season,” said Benning in a statement.
While he brings that “meat and potatoes” brand of hockey to the table, it’s the length and term of the contract that have people scratching their heads. It’s hard to argue that Dorsett hasn’t been a valuable member of the Canucks this season, but he is now under contract until he turns 32-years-old. With the brand of hockey he plays, it’s unlikely that he will be putting up 25 points in a season towards the end of his deal. His health will also be a concern throughout the next four years considering his recent injury history.
Derek Dorsett who?
Derek Dorsett Vancouver's fifth highest-paid forward, that's who
— Mike Halford (@HalfordTSN) April 8, 2015
The Canucks also had Kenins emerge in the second half of this season. He would have been a much cheaper option than Dorsett going forward, although he obviously doesn’t bring the leadership qualities that Dorsett has given the Canucks.
Sbisa’s AAV will grow by almost $1.5 million after resigning with the Canucks, which is a bit unnerving considering he hasn’t had a stellar start to his Canucks career. He is still only 25-years-old, and if he lives up to his potential, it likely will be during the next three years of his new contract.
"Sbisa has been good for us, when we had injuries, he really stepped up as was a leader back there. He's a throwback player" – Benning
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) April 8, 2015
When Sbisa has been at his best, he is a physical force on the ice. He has the second most hits on the Canucks behind the aforementioned Dorsett.
The problem is the Canucks haven’t seen Sbisa at his best throughout most of the season. Sure, he had games where he has stepped up, such as the game versus Nashville where he laid out Taylor Beck and fought Shea Weber. Or perhaps the game versus the Winnipeg Jets where he scored the overtime winner.
He has spent the majority of his season on the Canucks third pairing with Kevin Bieksa, and the two have played porous defensive hockey together. They have turned over the puck on numerous occasions and have been the Achilles heel of the Canucks back-end. According to war-on-ice.com, Sbisa is tied with Thomas Hickey of the New York Islanders for the worst five-on-five goal differential among defencemen on playoff-bound teams.
Benning must be a true believer in Sbisa’s potential despite his struggles. In the final year of his contract, Sbisa will be 28-years-old while making $4 million that season. By that point we should know if he’s reached his potential or not.
What This Means
It looks like Benning is going to continue to implement youth into this organization next season after overpaying for these two depth players. It’s either that, or it’s going to take some schrewd negotiating skills to sign the rest of the Canucks impending free agents.
The only two unrestricted free agents that remain on the roster are Shawn Matthias and Brad Richardson. It’s unlikely that they will both return after these signings. Yannick Weber, Linden Vey, and Ronalds Kenins are among the notable restricted free agents.
If Matthias and Richardson do walk, it leaves room for youngsters such as Sven Baertschi and Jake Virtanen to get a long look at training camp next summer. It would be a safe bet to say that Benning likely wants to add more youth to the roster next year, the same way he did this year.
In the meantime Benning retains two players that fit his old school style of hockey. Maybe it’s no coincidence that the two guys he resigned are arguably the two most physical players on the team. However, they are going to have to bring more than physicality to the table for fans to believe that these two players are worth their new contracts.