It figures to be a happy new year for Chris Tanev. Quite likely a prosperous one, too.

As the Vancouver Canucks defenceman quietly but efficiently establishes himself as one of the NHL’s top young blue-liners, the clock is ticking on the one-year contract Tanev signed with the team this past summer.

Tanev signed that deal for $1.5 million. You can bet the next one is going to be worth a whole lot more than that.

Coach John Tortorella was asked the other day about who his most consistent defenceman has been this season and he did not even hesitate.

“Chris Tanev,” Tortorella said emphatically.

Tortorella has been smitten with Tanev since before he even got the Canuck job. And he has been singing the praises of the soon to be 24-year-old all season.

“I think I told you guys that during the process of my interviews with the team, when I watched the games he was the one that stood out the most to me on the tape of the eight games that I watched,” Tortorella said. “I know the story, I know where he has come from. The thing that I am excited about is that he is getting better. The ice time he gets, he wants more. He is in great shape and is still learning about his body, he is still a young man.

““You don’t notice him and in that position when you don’t notice him he’s probably playing really well. I just think he has picked up our concept that we brought here really quickly. That position, defence, is about positioning. There’s more thinking in playing defence than as a forward. It is the toughest position to play and I just think he is ahead of the curve as far as understanding where he needs to be on the ice when the play comes to him. He is not chasing the play.”

You can almost hear the groans coming from the offices of general manager Mike Gillis and assistant GM Laurence Gilman, who negotiates player contracts for the Canucks, every time Tortorella heaps praise on Tanev. It’s a good thing the salary cap is going up next season because the Canucks are likely going to need a big chunk of that space to sign Tanev.

As a player on a one-year contract, the Canucks can not attempt to extend Tanev’s contract until Jan. 1. They will almost certainly try to do that early in the new year. If a deal can not be struck, Tanev would have arbitration rights next summer as a restricted free agent.