Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Elias Pettersson and Filip Hronek could both become UFA-eligible in 2025, and that’s a dangerous outcome for the Canucks
7 months ago
The Vancouver Canucks have been relatively busy thus far in the summer of ’23, and yet GM Patrik Allvin and Co. have yet to make much progress on the two most important potential transactions of the offseason: extensions for Elias Pettersson and Filip Hronek.
Now, “most important” does not necessarily translate to “urgent.” Neither player’s contractual status can really be called a pressing matter, with both still under contract for the entirety of the 2023/24 season and set to hit the ice in a couple of months for Training Camp.
And even after next season is complete, both Pettersson and Hronek will expire into restricted free agency, allowing the Canucks to retain their services with a simple qualifying offer.
But beyond 2023/24, there are several potential issues that could crop up when it comes to Pettersson and Hronek and their future with the Canucks. The longer either of them goes without an extension, the closer those potential issues come to reality. And with each having been eligible for an extension since July 1 of this year, it’s easy to understand why there’s growing impatience around the situation, and an ever-increasing desire for the Canucks to get it done.
Here’s the real issue at hand: both Pettersson and Hronek are set to become UFA-eligible in the summer of 2025. That date might be a full two years away, but it’s worthy of ample consideration in the here-and-now.
There’s little doubt that Pettersson and Hronek are two of the most important players to the franchise right now. Pettersson is the team’s best and most valuable player, period, and in the running for the honour of “most talented player in team history.” Hronek’s importance is a clear step below, but he’s easily the team’s second-most important defender in the present moment, and he’s someone in whom the team invested a couple of high draft picks via trade.
For Vancouver to have either player walk as a UFA in 2025 would be absolutely devastating to the organization.
But while that outcome is unlikely, it is certainly possible, and it becomes more likely the longer Pettersson and Hronek go without long-term extensions.
Here’s how it could go:
Should Pettersson and Hronek go through the entire 2023/24 season without extension, both of their contracts will expire. With neither yet at the age of 27 or at seven accrued NHL seasons, both are eligible for RFA status at the time, so long as the Canucks make them a one-year qualifying offer matching the AAV of their previous contract.
That’s where things get dangerous. If Pettersson or Hronek accept that one-year qualifying offer, they’re signed up for the 2024/25 season. But when that contract is up, Hronek will be 27, and Pettersson will have just completed his seventh NHL season. That means that both would become unrestricted free agents at that point, and be free to shop themselves around on the open NHL market.
And what a market it will be! The NHL’s salary cap is expected to climb to as high as $90 million by 2025, injecting a whole lot of spending room into the league and making it rain on those free agents lucky enough to be available at the time. The impending windfall of 2025 is something that players and agents are absolutely aware of, and can be seen in the phenomenon of big-ticket UFAs signing two-year deals this past offseason. Players like Vladislav Gavrikov and the Canucks’ own Andrei Kuzmenko left longer-term contracts on the table so that they could hit UFA again in 2025, with the understanding that there’ll be a lot more money being thrown around at that time.
Which, from a Canucks perspective with two core players just a few short steps away from UFA status in 2025, is potentially quite dangerous.
We’re not suggesting that either Pettersson or Hronek have already decided to push things that far. All indications are that discussions of extensions are ongoing, and we’re nowhere near the “threatening to go UFA” stage yet.
But the longer that said negotiations go on, the more the looming date of 2025 becomes a factor. Get all the way through the 2023/24 season without extensions, and then Pettersson and Hronek are just a ‘yes’ to a qualifying offer away from becoming UFAs in what promises to be the most lucrative free agency period in NHL history.
That’s a pretty strong negotiating position for them to be in, and a pretty bad one for the Canucks. At that point, the conversation becomes “give us the extensions we want, or someone else will next summer.” That’s not at all where Allvin and Co. want to be.
Never mind the distraction that will inevitably ensue if they let things get that far. The longer Hronek and especially Pettersson go un-extended, the more their walking away becomes a real possibility, and the louder the questions and what-ifs will become.
Nobody wants that.
So, how can the Canucks avoid all this? By getting those extensions done this summer, before the puck even drops on the 2023/24 season. Give each player an extension that buys up some of those UFA years and keep them both in the fold for the rest of the decade, at least.
It’s not like the Canucks can really do without either of them, so why play around?
If extension negotiations go past September, they become a point of conversation throughout the 2023/24 campaign. And if they go beyond that, then suddenly both Pettersson and Hronek find themselves in the incredibly enviable position of being one year separated from having every team in the NHL flush with cash and pursuing their services.
Like we said at the outset, the issue isn’t yet urgent, in that it doesn’t technically have to be solved right now. But there is some urgency at play all the same, in that the sooner this gets sorted out, the better…and the longer without, the more dangerous.
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