Contract structure makes Myers an intriguing trade option
Is there a trade market for Vancouver Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers?
That’s not a question I figured to be exploring in September with the season approaching, but owing to a contractual wrinkle, there is a possibility Myers could be on the move.
The 33-year-old veteran blueliner, who is on pace to cross the 1,000-game threshold this year, will see his contract expire at the end of the 2023-24 season. That deal – a five-year, $30-million pact inked back in 2019-20 – is heavily paid by way of signing bonuses. With his $5-million signing bonus for the approaching season now paid, the remaining money owed on Myers’ contract is just $1 million. (Note: Myers does also have a 10-team no trade list.)
With such little real money owed, and with Vancouver in need of cap space, Myers becomes an intriguing trade option – both for teams that may be searching for artificial help to reach the cap floor and for teams that think Myers has some game left in the tank.
The second scenario is the more pertinent one. With such little cap growth around the league in the post-COVID era, teams have had less difficulty reaching the cap floor, so the appetite for contracts where cap hits may dwarf real salary is muted.
But there’s always an appetite for NHL-ready defencemen, and the allure of Myers’ size and skating ability has followed him throughout his career. What hasn’t always followed, unfortunately, is the production.
In fairness to Myers, he’s rarely played in easy situations. The bluelines in Buffalo, Winnipeg, and, most recently, Vancouver have sorely lacked in complementary talent, and nearly all of Myers’ playoff experience is wrapped in just a three-year stretch (2017-20).
To be frank, you had better believe that Myers has been uniquely and disproportionately impeded by the talent he’s played with over the years if you are going to trade for him – especially if you are a contender looking to plug a hole on your blueline at a fraction of the cost.
Because Myers hasn’t been the player we saw from his rookie and sophomore seasons in a long time.
Those two years, he produced like a bona fide first-pairing talent, and at a uniquely young age to boot. He’s been a replacement-level player by and large since then, and in some seasons has actively hurt his team when he’s in the lineup:
The issue with Myers is that the physical attributes are much more appealing than the real production – especially off the puck. Myers’ teams historically generate meaningful offence when he’s on the ice, but they bleed goals season after season, and some of that has to do with Myers frequently playing out of position and turning the puck over against pressure.
Also of note: Myers is a penalty magnet, having put his team on the penalty kill 57 times over the past two seasons.
Perhaps a more defensively dense team can insulate Myers and free up some of the offensive goodness he’s capable of providing. Myers’ teams have been historically average scoring with him on the ice, which is about what you’d expect from a second- or third-pair tweener. But increasingly, Myers plays most of his shifts in the defensive third, and the goals-against numbers have piled up:
Save for brief stretches early in his career and in that playoff-contention window (2017-20), Myers’ five-man unit has been outplayed, and most of it stems from defensive weakness.
While it’s fair to point out that Myers has played on many teams that have been defensively porous, both with and without him, it’s also worth acknowledging Myers has played in front of some quality goaltenders – in Winnipeg with Connor Hellebuyck, and in Vancouver with Thatcher Demko and Jacob Markstrom. Take away that trio, and Myers’ numbers may be even worse.
Myers may be an attractive trade target post-signing bonus payout from a pure salary cap perspective, but interested buyers who are thinking of playing him in meaningful minutes should strongly consider how they plan on deploying him, and if he can be insulated the way he probably needs to at this point of his career.
And if he plays out the final year in Vancouver? The Canucks organization faces that same question, a question they have struggled to answer for four straight seasons.
Data via Natural Stat Trick, NHL.com, Evolving Hockey, Hockey Reference