The Vancouver Canucks have more than $66.5MM in cap hits committed to next season. Their two best players are still unsigned. Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes will both become restricted free agents this summer and will be demanding substantial raises off their entry-level contracts. Today, agent J.P. Barry of CAA Sports spoke with Rick Dhaliwal of the Athletic and CHEK TV, explaining that the two sides are exploring shorter-term deals with Pettersson:
We’re going to look at everything, but I think that anything for Pettersson will be five (years) or under, and we will have to look at with Quinn whether we can do a little more or not.
Barry was clear that the comparables for Pettersson, at least most of them, have taken short-term deals around the league. Mathew Barzal, for instance, agreed to a three-year $21MM deal with the New York Islanders coming off his entry-level contract, while Brayden Point was a three-year $20.25MM deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. That three-year term was mentioned specifically by Barry, as he explained that the Canucks cap situation likely isn’t set up to do long-term deals for both young players.
Even coming off a disappointing season in which he played just 26 games, buying out any of Pettersson’s unrestricted free agent years would dramatically drive the average annual value of a contract up. The Canucks already have plenty of bad money on the books for the 2021-22 season and would obviously have a tough time fitting both players in under the flat $81.5MM cap. Going the bridge route with Pettersson would give them an opportunity to clear some of their troublesome contracts off the roster, while also retaining control of the player as a restricted free agent.
That’s not to say he will come cheap. Since he entered the league in 2018-19, Pettersson has recorded a points/game rate of 0.93, higher than veterans like Nicklas Backstrom, Ryan O’Reilly, and Claude Giroux, while also ahead of younger talents like Kyle Connor, Matthew Tkachuk and Teuvo Teravainen over the same period. It’s not just empty assists either, as his goals/game rate of 0.39 puts him just behind names like Artemi Panarin and Aleksander Barkov, while ahead of the likes of Mark Stone and Nikolaj Ehlers. There’s no doubt that Pettersson can be one of the league’s best offensive talents and even with an injury-shortened season, he’ll be looking to get paid like one.