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Nikita Tryamkin: The Canucks’ Veteran Prospect

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Affectionately known as the BFG, should the Canucks be taking another look at the Russian defenceman?

NHL: Dallas Stars at Vancouver Canucks

Some refer to him as BFG after the Roald Dahl big friendly giant literary character. Others liken him to the lethal Ivan Drago from the Rocky IV movie. In truth, he is probably somewhere between those two extremes as a hockey player.

He is currently employed by his Yekaterinburg home town KHL club HC Avtomobilist. He is well paid by KHL standards but his exact salary is not public information. He plays in a rink that seats 5,570 fans when full. He checks in on his former NHL club via social media often. He becomes a free agent on May 1st, 2020 after his current contract expires. Jim Benning is said to want him back. Tryamkin gives every indication he wants to come back. Canucks Nation, except for its ganja-smoking minority, want him back. Will he come back? If he comes back where does he fit in?

When his current KHL season concludes he will have played 7 12 professional seasons including 1 and a bit with the Canucks. When he last played in Vancouver in 2017 he was a beacon of hope in an ocean of despair. He couldn’t understand why the coach gave more ice time to marginal NHL defencemen like Luca Sbisa, Ben Hutton and Erik Gudbranson. He came to North America to play a lot not to sit. He honoured his contract and then went home to play and he has played a lot.

Since returning to the KHL he has averaged between 20 to 22 minutes of ice time per game. If he does come back he will want to play 20 plus minutes per game which is top 4 defencemen minutes. But the Sbisas and his ilk have been banished from the Vancouver defence crew hopefully forever. The Canucks’ top 7 NHL defencemen are all solid NHLers. Edler, Myers, Hughes and Benn are under contract for next season. Stecher’s RFA rights belong to the Canucks but he has an arbitration hammer. Will the Canucks let Chris Tanev and/or Oscar Fantenberg walk as UFAs? Will one or more of Brogan Rafferty, Olli Juolevi, Jett Woo, Jack Rathbone et al show they are ready for the NHL? Is Tyson Barrie an off season free agent target for Jim Benning?

From watching him closely over the past couple of seasons I think Tryamkin would be a top notch third pairing defenceman like a Jordie Benn with upside to a top 4 defensive sidekick to someone like Quinn Hughes. Unlike Benn his skating is well above average and when he plays physical he is an unstoppable force.

The answer seems to be that there is no room at the inn for BFG but then you dream about a pairing of the Twin Towers Myers and Tryamkin killing penalties with those two extremely long sticks. And then you imagine both of them getting angry at the same time in a playoff series and making the difference between winning and losing and you wonder if the Canucks should make some room for him at the inn.

Tryamkin’s KHL regular season ends on February 25th, 2020. His club is not a lock for a playoff spot. Even if they make the playoffs they appear to be a team that would likely be eliminated in the first round. In theory he would probably be available to join the Canucks for a March playoffs push and hopefully an April playoffs run. This is what happened when he first played for the Canucks for 13 games at the end of the 2015/16 season except back then playoffs were not an option. A new wrinkle since then is a recent KHL rule that says if a KHL club now releases a player to play elsewhere before the contract actually expires, which in Tryamkin’s case is April 30th, 2020, then the KHL club gives up its exclusive KHL rights to that player going forward. What incentive would there be for Avtomobilist to release him pre-expiry?

At the very least Nikita Tryamkin I think is an NHL defenceman if not on the Canucks then on another NHL team. So he is a trade chip but one you want to think carefully about before dealing away since the last thing you want to do is face him in Drago-mode on the team you end up facing some day in a future playoff series.