Pending UFA Chris Tanev feels at home with Canucks, hopes to stay

A coaching change helped turn Minnesota’s season around. Will it be enough to take down the young talent of the Vancouver Canucks?

VANCOUVER – The only kids Chris Tanev has are the ones on his hockey team, so the Vancouver Canucks defenceman has felt a little like an empty-nester during the National Hockey League shutdown.

Elias Pettersson went home to Sweden, Quinn Hughes to Michigan and Brock Boeser to Minnesota. These are the young Canucks who call Tanev “Dad,” the ones who are often over at his place in Yaletown where their older teammate feeds them. At least Tanev and his fiancée, Kendra, still have their pug dog Riley to parent.

“I miss being around all the guys, but we all stay in touch with all the social media stuff,” Tanev said in an interview with Sportsnet. “We do a good job of staying in touch with each other. We just try to keep everyone updated on the situation and if anyone has heard anything new. But it’s also just to see how everyone is doing, making sure everyone is OK and their families are OK.

“Obviously it’s tough not seeing everyone every day like you’re used to.”

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Tanev and fellow defencemen Alex Edler and Troy Stecher, as well as injured forward Josh Leivo, are the only Canucks who have stayed in Vancouver throughout the coronavirus shutdown. Tanev has been skating with Stecher, hiking with Edler.

But the 30-year-old from Toronto misses having the kids around. He has been practising in the kitchen in anticipation that they’ll be hungry when they return — unless the Canucks are assigned to an American hub city for the NHL re-start in July and hold their training camp there to avoid Canada’s 14-day quarantine requirement.

“I’ve done this new spaghetti squash dish with sausage and kale that has turned out quite nice,” Tanev said. “It’s healthy and fills you up quite nicely. It’s got a little kick if you like some spice.

“But Petey has been taking up cooking and it looks like he might be better than me. He’s putting some good dishes together. I’m going to go over to his house (to eat).”

Noting that there hasn’t been a global pandemic like this one in 100 years, Tanev said he’s not surprised the NHL is taking extraordinary measures to try to finish the season and award a Stanley Cup in 2020.

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One of those measures is to isolate teams, planning a 24-team tournament in just two cities while requiring players to separate themselves from their families for, potentially, up to three months.

That is a sacrifice for players, even if their 50-per-cent share of NHL revenues compels them financially to play.

But given this once-in-a-century pandemic, and perspectives sharpened by the fracturing of America after last week’s appalling killing of George Floyd by white police officers in Minnesota, the sacrifice-meter has been dramatically reset.

“It’s something I think we owe to the fans,” Tanev said of finishing the season. “Some people might have a different opinion, but as far as what I think, I think we should play. If I had kids, would my opinion change? I’m not sure.

“I think there are sacrifices the players have to make, sacrifices the league has to make. I think just for the sport, playing this summer is a huge thing we need to do.”

Hobbled by injuries the last three years when Tanev missed an average of 32 games, the defenceman played all 69 games for the Canucks this season before suffering a mild MCL sprain in his knee against the New York Islanders on March 10 in what turned out to be Vancouver’s final game of the regular season.

“I think I would have missed 10 days or 14 days,” Tanev said. “It would have been an accomplishment to play 75 or 76 games over a full season. It’s something I’ve worked hard for, and I’ve been hoping for the last number of years. I’m glad that it happened this year and I’m hopeful it will happen in the future as well.”

Ah, yes, the future. You can not talk about Tanev without talking about that.

The career Canuck becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season and until a pandemic came along and cast everything in doubt, including next year’s salary cap, the second-pair defenceman had been a second-tier priority for the Canucks to re-sign, right after starting goalie Jacob Markstrom and newly-acquired top-line winger Tyler Toffoli.

“You have to deal with what gets thrown your way,” Tanev said. “As I’ve said, this is something that hasn’t happened in 100 years. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and…the guys who are unrestricted free agents this year, it’s going to be a tough market.

“I definitely could see a lot of guys signing a one-year deal and then hoping the league gets financially better next summer.”

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Tanev could be one of those guys.

“There are guys who really help other players along, and I would say Chris Tanev is one of those guys,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said. “I’d like to try to figure out a way to bring Chris back because I think he’s a good leader and our younger players look up to him. He was an excellent mentor to Quinn Hughes. On the ice, they played really well together. I think they help each other.”

“I’ve been here now for 10 years and I’ve loved every minute of it,” Tanev said. “There’s definitely a trust between me and management and the ownership group, which has been awesome to me. Whether it’s one year or many years (on the next contract), I’d love to play my whole career here. Who knows what’s going to happen? But I love it here, I want to stay here, I think the team is going in the right direction and if we come back to play this year, I think we’re going to have a real good shot at competing and going far. I’d like to be part of that in the future.”

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