Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports
The Vancouver Canucks are close to signing newly acquired centreman Brandon Sutter to a five-year extension worth somewhere in the neighbourhood of $22 million in total, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
Sutter, 26, is a pending unrestricted free agent who managed to score more than 20 goals for the Pittsburgh Penguins last season. He’s a large and sturdy defensive centreman with a propensity for getting buried in his own end of the rink and producing even-strength offense at a pedestrian rate.
If the annual average value of Sutter’s contract extension comes in a just under $4.4 million per, as Friedman expects, then that will be roughly in-line with what we’ve seen high-end third-line centremen paid for their unrestricted seasons recently.
A few examples of such players include Philadelphia Flyers centre Sean Couturier, Montreal Canadiens pivot Lars Eller, and new Chicago Blackhawks centre Artem Anisimov. Couturier and Eller have lower cap hits than Sutter will possess once this expected extension is finished, but looked at in isolation, the value of their unrestricted seasons hovers at just about the $4.5 million mark.
The issue for the Canucks here is that all of Couturier, Eller and Anisimov have been more productive offensively, particularly at 5-on-5, over the past three seasons. That’s likely to be reflected in the overall value of Sutter’s deal, but only partly.
Because Sutter is so close to unrestricted free agency, the Canucks have no way of buying out his unrestricted years in a way that restrains the overall annual average value of his next contract. The result is a hefty deal that, while absolutely in-line with market value, is still a lot of cap space to commit to a depth centreman that doesn’t drive offensive production or the run of play.
At least a hypothetical five-year deal extends through Sutter’s prime and not too far beyond it (he’d be 32 years old when such a deal expires).
The deal also isn’t so rich that it serves to scuttle the team’s flexibility under the salary cap next summer, when Benning has indicated that he’d like to be a player in the high-end unrestricted free agent market. Assuming a $4.4 million cap hit for Sutter, the Canucks project to have $53 million committed against the cap for next season with eight forwards, three defenseman, and two goaltenders signed and a handful of restricted players (like Linden Vey and Sven Baertschi) who could help fill out the roster affordably.