The Canucks say they need to get younger next year, for salary cap reasons, but it appears their top young player is not going to be re-signed cheaply.

With the NHL salary cap dropping by $5.9 million next season, a number of teams — the Canucks among them — will be scrambling to find ways to reduce their salary commitments under the new fiscal constraints.

So getting pending restricted free agent defenceman Chris Tanev, 23, locked up for a modest raise is unlikely.

It’s thought by some in the hockey world that, with this dramatic lowering of the cap, some NHL clubs may be more encouraged to tender offer sheets to unsigned RFAs, with the thinking that cap-crunched clubs will be less able to match.

Tanev, who just finished a three-year contract that paid him a $900,000 salary at the NHL level, would be an attractive target for clubs that decide to buck the trend and go after other teams’ RFAs.

In Tanev’s case, another club could offer him up to $3.36 million in annual salary — and surrender just a second-round pick in compensation.

Denver-based player agent Kurt Overhardt, of KO Sports Inc., says it could be “a perfect storm” for offer sheets with the cap going down so much, but said many NHL clubs will suffer cap issues — and that will affect the number of clubs in position to make RFA offers.

Contract offers — or offer sheets — can be tendered to RFAs by teams other than their own, beginning July 5.

If the player signs the contract offer, his original team has seven days to match it and keep the player (and inherit the contract), or opt for compensation instead. The compensation is awarded in draft picks and is determined by a schedule — its value increasing with the average annual salary of the offer.

Tanev — a classic late-bloomer who was signed as an undrafted free agent out of U.S. college but has progressed to where he is one of the Canucks’ most reliable defencemen — should attract some serious interest from potential offer sheet suitors.

According to the offer sheet compensation grid this summer, an offer over $1,682,194 and up to $3,364,391 — which is right in Tanev’s contract wheelhouse — brings just a second-rounder.

At that price, a young player of Tanev’s profile — an excellent puck mover who thinks the game at a high level — would appeal to a number of NHL clubs looking to upgrade their back end.

The first that comes to mind is the Edmonton Oilers, whose new GM, Craig MacTavish, coached Tanev two seasons ago on the Canucks’ AHL farm club in Chicago and was a big fan. MacTavish said last month, when he took over in Edmonton from Steve Tambellini, that the franchise needs to become more aggressive in its management style, and that the Oilers would see six to eight new faces on its roster next season.

As well, the Oilers have a history of not shying away from tendering offer sheets, having signed (and kept) Dustin Penner from Anaheim and Thomas Vanek (matched by Buffalo) in 2007.

Don’t be surprised if there are others interested.