Project Petey’s Partner: 11 free agents the Canucks could sign to be Elias Pettersson’s winger

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 month ago
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Elias Pettersson needs a new winger.
Or two. But definitely at least one. And a high-quality one at that.
Aside from the necessary act of either re-signing or replacing their own free agents, there’s no greater priority for the Vancouver Canucks than finding an effective linemate for the player they just signed to an eight-year, $11.5 million AAV contract.
Pettersson had a fine season in 2023/24, but not a great one. And that was, at least partially, down to the quality of his linemates.
A few players saw success playing with Pettersson at times, but none did much to elevate Pettersson’s game, or to break him out of any of his slumps. His most frequent on-ice partners were the likes of Ilya Mikheyev, Nils Höglander, Sam Lafferty, and the departed Andrei Kuzmenko – no one who rightfully belongs on an NHL team’s top line.
And so, the mission for the summer of 2024 is clear: find Pettersson a winger. One capable of making a positive difference in both his game, and the overall offensive prowess of the team.
Of course, there are only so many players of that quality available, and finding one is easier said than done. The simplest method is via unrestricted free agency, and with that in mind, we’re starting this Project Petey Partner series with a look at those UFAs who might fit the bill on Pettersson’s wing.
Jake Guentzel, Carolina Hurricanes
LW, 29, 5’11”, 180lb
 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg TOICorsi
2023/24$6 mil6730477720:0157.1%
We won’t pretend this is an original idea. There has been talk of bringing in Jim Rutherford’s old charge from Pittsburgh since midway through last season, and there was some serious smoke about the Canucks acquiring Guentzel at the 2024 deadline.
That obviously did not come to pass, but now Guentzel is available again, and without any trade-related cost. That said, coming off a beyond-PPG season and a long history of consistent scoring, Guentzel still projects to be one of the most expensive forward contracts handed out this summer.
The impetus is clear: Guentzel is a borderline superstar in his own right, and he’s got plenty of experiencing not just riding shotgun with Sidney Crosby, but actually elevating the generational talent’s game. That’s what the Canucks need for Pettersson, and there’s probably no better option out there than Guentzel…so long as they are willing to pay.
Sam Reinhart, Florida Panthers
C/RW, 28, 6’2”, 193lb
 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg TOICorsi
2023/24$6.5 mil8257379420:1858.1%
We just called Guentzel one of the most expensive forward contracts to be handed out this summer. Meet the most expensive contract. Reinhart is coming off the career seasons to end all career seasons, and he’s carried that on to a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. If he’s not re-signed by Florida, he’s going to be getting some downright silly offers via free agency.
Reinhart is as talented as they come, and perhaps even a hair ahead of Guentzel on that front. He also plays a much more multifaceted game, and has developed into a true two-way force under the tutelage of Aleksander Barkov and Paul Maurice. He’s also a local product from West Van.
But despite all that, he’s probably one the Canucks should avoid, unless Reinhart comes offering a steep hometown discount. He’d only cracked 80 points once in his career prior, and now he’s coming off of 94. He’ll be paid accordingly, but living up to that contract seems like a lot to ask.
Teuvo Teravainen, Carolina Hurricanes
LW, 29, 5’11”, 191lb
 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg TOICorsi
2023/24$5.4 mil7625285316:2459.3%
Teravainen has flown a little under the radar compared to some other UFA forwards, and that’s partly due to a bit of a strange year. On the one hand, Teravainen set a new career high in goals with 25. On the other hand, he had one of his worst point-producing campaigns in a while, and occasionally found himself trapped lower on the Carolina depth chart than he would like.
Teravainen is a possession and playmaking master who could really serve to open up the ice for Pettersson to work his magic. His size isn’t ideal, but it’s either on par or slightly better than most of what Pettersson has been matched with of late.
The market will Teravainen will probably depend on how many teams are looking for scoring, and how many miss out on some of the bigger names on the list. But suffice it to say he won’t be bringing home an A-tier salary this summer, and that could lead to him having a surprisingly positive return for a UFA on Pettersson’s wing.
Tyler Toffoli, Winnipeg Jets
RW, 32, 6’0”, 203lb
 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg TOICorsi
2023/24$4.25 mil7933225516:5856.3%
Been there, done that. But it worked!
Like Guentzel, there was plenty of chatter about bringing Toffoli in at the deadline last year. And, at the very least, we know that he’s got some pre-established chemistry with Pettersson from his last stop in Vancouver, along with an ongoing run of very consistent production.
But Toffoli is definitely getting up there in age, and the team that did trade for him at the deadline, Winnipeg, wasn’t all that pleased with his post-trade contributions.
Toffoli would make sense as a stop-gap. But then you’ve got to somehow get him to agree to a short-term contract while competing with the open market. It’s possible, but it doesn’t seem very likely, and someone else will likely hand him something in excess of three or four years.
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
C/LW, 34, 6’0”, 182lb
 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg TOICorsi
2023/24$8.5 mil7940418118:1450.4%
In some ways, this feels like a pipe-dream. Then again, the situation seems to have soured for Stamkos in Tampa, and there are some serious questions as to whether they even have the space available to retain his services this summer.
If Stamkos does wind up parting ways with the Lightning, he becomes a mercenary. He’s already won it all, but we have to imagine that Stamkos would be interested in continuing to play for a contender…and maybe trying out playing in Canada?
Like Toffoli, Stamkos would have to be a short-term solution, and then the challenge becomes outbidding those teams willing to sign him right to his presumed retirement. In other words, he’d really have to choose Vancouver for it to make sense – but can you even imagine the dual one-time threats of a Stamkos/Pettersson line?
Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins
LW, 27, 6’0”, 197lb
 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg TOICorsi
2023/24$4 mil8019214016:5048.0%
DeBrusk is a name that is starting to make a lot of sense. He’s an all-around talent who has decent size, speed, hands, and skill, but doesn’t break the needle in any of those categories. He does play a down-low, in-tight sort of game that might lend itself well to Pettersson’s wing, but then again we don’t necessarily know what skillset fits best with Pettersson. The upside in DeBrusk is that, whatever the trait required, chances are he’s got at least a little bit of it.
There’s also upside in that DeBrusk is coming off a pretty bad season, easily his worst aside from an injury-hampered 2020/21 campaign. That’s bad timing for a UFA, but great timing for a team looking to sign that UFA. At just 27, DeBrusk will get offers all the same, but he won’t break the bank, and the Canucks could take advantage in signing him to something that’s not onerous in either the short- or long-term.
Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
RW, 33, 5’9”, 183lb
 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg TOICorsi
2023/24$5 mil8242276917:5449.7%
In the immortal words of Marchessault himself, “don’t waste my time!”
As meme-worthy as Marchessault coming to Vancouver might be, it’s not going to happen. Last year’s Conn Smythe winner will either return to Vegas or chase the highest contract on the open market, and even at age 33, someone will pay him for past playoff success.
The Canucks can’t really afford to be that team. Marchessault is a great talent, and his feisty sniping game might very well fit nicely with Pettersson for a season or two, but Marchessault is on the precipice of decline. If the Canucks wanted to put someone like Marchessault on Pettersson’s wing, they might as well just stick Conor Garland there.
Anthony Mantha, Vegas Golden Knights
RW, 29, 6’5”, 234lb
 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg TOICorsi
2023/24$5.7 mil7423214414:1351.8%
There’s always a point on these lists where we switch from great options to just “okay,” and this is definitely that point.
Mantha does have a few things going for him, namely that combination of size and skating ability that makes him a borderline power forward. But the Canucks have had enough of borderline solutions on Pettersson’s wing. The reality is that Mantha has only cracked 20 goals thrice in his career, and in signing him, the Canucks would have to be hoping that playing with Pettersson would elevate Mantha to previously-unseen heights. That’s a stupid bet to make during the Free Agent Frenzy.
Viktor Arvidsson, Los Angeles Kings
LW, 31, 5’10”, 185lb
 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg TOICorsi
2023/24$4.25 mil18691516:4255.1%
Maybe we’re not entirely out of great ideas. Arvidsson will fly under the radar due to injury concerns, which is a well-earned reputation. But prior to this mostly-missed campaign, Arvidsson was actually fairly healthy for two years running…and the results when healthy cannot be ignored.
In Arvidsson, the Canucks would essentially pick up a drastically-upgraded version of Mikheyev; fast as all get out, but with the hands to match. Arvidsson could both create space for Pettersson and finish off the plays that result from that space. This may be one UFA the Canucks can attract without an excessive salary or a lengthy term, and if they’re comfortable with Arvidsson’s current health, it’s not all that bad of an idea. But there is plenty of risk involved.
Anthony Duclair, Tampa Bay Lightning
LW, 28, 5’11”, 197lb
 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg TOICorsi
2023/24$3 mil7324184215:4644.5%
Duclair is an interesting player with an interesting recent history.
In 2021/22, he scored 31 goals for the Florida Panthers.
In 2022/23, he got injured and played only 20 regular season games, notching just two goals. But then he went all the way to the Cup Finals with the Panthers.
For 2023/24, Duclair signed with the San Jose Sharks, and like most players on that team, struggled. But then he was picked up by the Lightning at the deadline and proceeded to put up 15 points in 17 post-deadline games.
Duclair has speed, hands, and scoring ability. On those things alone, he might be considered an upgrade on anything Pettersson currently has on hand for wingers. But enough of an upgrade to pursue via free agency? That’s questionable.
Sean Monahan, Winnipeg Jets
C/W, 29, 6’2”, 196lb
 Cap HitGamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg TOICorsi
2023/24$1.985 mil8326335918:0648.2%
Monahan keeps plugging along, battling through injuries to put up decent-to-good numbers each and every season. He’s a multifaceted player who probably fits best as a scoring winger at this stage in his career. And given his veteran savvy, we figure he would probably figure out a way to succeed on Pettersson’s wing.
But at this point in the process, we’re far enough away from ideal options to start looking elsewhere. And in our next article, focused on trade targets, that’s exactly what we will do.
Monahan, meanwhile, will be signed by someone else.
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