Carolina’s Ethan Bear has been given permission to talk to other teams, should the Canucks be interested? – Canucksarmy

After a disappointing second-round exit against the New York Rangers, the Carolina Hurricanes face an offseason filled with questions. One of them has already emerged in the form of Ethan Bear. Arriving last season in exchange for Warren Foegele, the former Edmonton Oiler was expected to be a solid option in Carolina’s backend. That didn’t exactly happen, and now, the team has given her permission to speak to others as a pending RFA.

But who exactly is Ethan Bear? Should the Canucks be interested in acquiring his services?

At 5’11 tall and weighing 197 pounds, Bear might not be the biggest defenseman on the market. However, he does have one very important physical attribute: he is a skilled shooter. For a Vancouver team that has been in need of some solidification on the right side, this alone is an intriguing proposition.

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Bear was selected in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Oilers, appearing in 190 games and putting up 47 points in four seasons thus far in his career. The defenseman spent the first three seasons in Edmonton before being traded to Carolina last summer.

Last season was not easy for Bear. He started the year in the top four under Jaccob Slavin, putting up 6 points in 16 games and averaging 18 minutes on the ice. However, Bear tested positive for COVID-19 on November 22, which put him out of commission for a week. He never really looked the same when he came back, he lost his spot in the lineup at the end of the season and was cut during the playoffs.

When Bear fell to third pair, his shot suppression unfortunately went with him. Just take a look at the heat map that compares your 2021-22 season to the previous season.

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That said, most of that ugly red is on the left side of the ice, suggesting that his partner wasn’t exactly keeping his end of the bargain. In fact, some underlying numbers point to Bear as one of the most effective defenders on the Canes’ roster. He earned 56.4% CF, which placed him second on the team among defenders who played more than 50 games, as well as leading in the fewest gifts. Ironic, considering he’s best remembered for a draft that allowed the Jets to even game 4 in the 2021 playoffs.

Something that jumps off the screen when watching Bear’s tape is the way he skates. While he’s no Quinn Hughes, Bear is quick and constantly keeps his feet moving, allowing him to walk down the line and stay with attackers on the defensive end. His tenacity and ability to stay to the outside, force them into the boards and take the puck away is downright impressive. He’s not afraid to play physically, even if he’s not the greatest player on the ice. Combining that with a quick stick and good defensive instincts, Bear can make a positive impact at the back.

He also has untapped offensive potential. Yes, 47 points in 190 NHL contests aren’t the most impressive, but Bear showed that he has a great shot. During his time with the Oilers, he was able to exploit the weak side of the ice with excellent punching or punching whenever the opportunity presented itself. Bear’s head spins constantly, pinching at opportune moments to make life uncomfortable for the defense.

Bear also has the potential to be a fan favorite. He has been a role model for indigenous communities across Canada, overcoming systemic barriers with his proprietary work ethic. UNINTERRUPTED produced an excellent short video about Bear’s struggles, which can be seen here.

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It’s important to take last season in context with his career. Bear showed that he could handle himself in heavy minutes. In his 2019-20 rookie season, Bear played the third-most minutes among Edmonton defenders, averaging 21:58 TOI per game. This came with matchups against the top lanes of opposing teams, playing against the best they had to offer.

The improvement he’s shown year over year is encouraging, even if the offensive totals aren’t exactly there. Advanced analytics show that his CF%, xGF%, GF%, and SCF% are all 50 or higher, meaning that Bear positively controls the game when frozen. It should also be noted that Carolina’s systems result in her players being analytically pampered, but the visual test matches what it shows in Bear’s case.

This begs the question, why would Carolina let Bear talk to other teams if he has proven himself a possible top 4 option? It’s a combination of his qualifying offer and his fit with the Hounds. Bear’s QO is pegged at $2 million, which isn’t much, but the Hurricanes also have 10 players to sign with about $19 million in cap space. That includes the likes of Martin Necas, Max Domi, and Tony DeAngelo, not to mention the improvements they’d like to make to the list.

There has also been a gap in Bear’s assessment of himself and the team. It makes sense, since Carolina considers him healthy starting material, while he has shown that he can fit into the top four on a team. This could also be a result of him fitting into Carolina’s system simply by not being the right type of defender for the team.

So should the Canucks be interested?

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They absolutely should be in the mix. Bear is still young, at 24 years old he still has a lot to develop. He is a skilled defender capable of playing in the top 4 and has shown himself to be a good responsible defender with offensive potential. He is a low buy candidate that could turn out to pay dividends too soon.

Evolving Hockey projects that Bear’s next contract will be around $2.8 million. It’s a good value for what a team will get from it. If the Canucks decide to offer him a sheet at or around that price, he will give himself a second-round pick in compensation. Historically, only 35% of second-round picks have played more than 100 NHL games, so there’s something to be said for giving up a lottery ticket.

Otherwise, a trade could be within the realm of possibility. Consider Carolina’s salary-cap situation and the players they have and want to give up. It will be a juggling act to balance that and the Canes want a piece of winning now, especially after these last few playoffs.

At the end of the day, I think the Canucks should absolutely be interested in getting Ethan Bear. He has shown that he can be a decent option in the top 4 and has room for improvement. A young, cap-friendly right-handed defenseman is a rare commodity in the NHL, and Vancouver could benefit greatly from having cap space to play.

And who knows? Bear could end up being the perfect complement alongside one of the many talented LHDs in the Canucks lineup.

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