Canucks fans can finally celebrate after a tense summer of anticipation, as franchise cornerstones Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes agreed to terms on multi-year deals with the team on October 1st. In this article, we will analyze these contracts through our arbitration analyzer, as well as discuss the outlook of the Vancouver Canucks cap situation for the foreseeable future. We apologize for the delay of this article, as being a full time college student and continuing to develop our general manager databases takes its toll. With that being said, the 2021-22 season projection article will be released on time, prior to the puck drop between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night (8/12).
During the 2017 NHL draft, Canucks General Manager Jim Benning shocked the world by selecting the talented Swedish center 5th overall, ahead of Gabriel Vilardi and Casey Mittlestadt, who at the time were ranked higher on Bob McKenzie’s Top 100 prospects list ahead of draft day. Hindsight is 20/20, but there is no question that Benning and his team made the right selection. Since his rookie season, Elias Pettersson has been a consistently exceptional AB player for the Canucks, as he registered a +4.48 score in 2018-19, an outstanding +12.81 score in 2019-20, and a +3.28 score during his shortened 2020-21 season. Pettersson finished with the best individual AB score of any Canuck in each of the last two seasons, as well as 2nd best in 2018-19, trailing only Troy Stetcher’s +5.80. Production wise, Elias Pettersson has been a near point-per-game player in his 165 game career to this point (fifty-five games per year on average), as he has sixty-five goals (twenty-one average), eighty-eight assists (twenty-nine average), for 153 points (fifty-one average). There is no doubt Pettersson is one of the games most elite young centermen, and the terms of his contract reflect that in our opinion. The three-year term sets him up beautifully for an eight-year extension at the conclusion, as the $7.35 million AAV for Pettersson, the $6 million AAV for Tyler Myers, the $3.25 million AAV for Tanner Pearson, as well as the $2.65 million AAV for Jason Dickinson, all come off the books following the 2023-24 season. This means the Canucks will have $19.25 million in cap space, plus the amount the cap is projected to increase by 2024-25, which leaves no doubt in our minds that Pettersson could break double digit AAV into his thirties on his next deal. As for the deal he just signed, we determined Pettersson’s closest comparable was Eric Staal, who made $4.5 million on his second contract. Staal’s Career AB of 5.58 through his first three years is only 1.1 off of Pettersson’s +6.86. This is one of the rare cases we actually disagree with the result of our analyzer, as multiple outside events, such as COVID-19, shortened seasons, and Pettersson’s injuries played a more significant role in this number than we like. Under normal circumstances, like how 2021-22 is supposed to be, we think Petterson will be able to live up to the $7.35 million AAV tag and continue to be the best player in the organization for the foreseeable future.
Unlike Pettersson, the selection of Quinn Hughes 7th overall in the 2018 NHL draft was perceived to be one of the best picks of the draft by Benning and his group. Hughes entered NHL for five games in 2018-19 after registering thirty-three points in thirty-two games with the University of Michigan in the same season (five goals plus twenty-eight assists). Since becoming a full time NHL player in 2019-20, Hughes has been a 0.78 PPG player, as he has scored ninety-seven points (eleven goals and eighty-eight assists) in one hundred twenty-nine games. However, Quinn Hughes is the opposite of Elias Pettersson when it comes to AB performance, as he recorded the worst individual AB scores of any Canuck player last season (-13.86), as well as a bottom five score on the team in his rookie year (-5.16). Hughes’ contract of six-years, $7.85 AAV deal is by far the smallest signed by an elite defenseman this summer (Dougie Hamilton (9×7), Seth Jones (9.5×7), Zach Werenski (9.58×6), Cale Makar (9×6), and Miro Heiskanen (8.45×8). When we ran his number through our arbitration analyzer, Quinn Hughes’ closest comparables were P.K. Subban of the New Jersey Devils and Dustin Byfuglien, who is currently an unrestricted-free agent. Both of these players signed short-term second contracts with an AAV south of $3.5 million. However, each got significant raises after those deals, as Byfuglien signed a five-year, $5.2 million AAV deal as his third contract, and Subban signed a nine-year, $9 million AAV deal as his third contract. We believe what the Canucks did in this situation was merge these second and third contracts together, taking the gamble that Quinn will play into his contract by year three like Byfuglien and Subban did after their bridge deals. We will see if it pays off, and we will be intently watching Hughes’ performance this season.
The Vancouver Canucks are going to be one of the most interesting teams in the NHL this season regardless of how good or bad their performance is. Jim Benning appears to be on the hot seat as GM, but his acquisitions of Conor Garland, Oliver-Ekman Larsson, Jason Dickinson, Jaroslav Halak, along with the Hughes and Pettersson extensions signal a playoff or bust attitude for the club. The Canucks will play their first game of the season against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers on October 13th. We will certainly be watching and can’t wait for what feels like the longest offseason in all of sports to finally conclude in just under a week. Much more to come.