Signing Elias Pettersson to a Barzal-esque extension would be a major coup for the Vancouver Canucks
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
9 months ago
There hasn’t exactly been an abundance of positive headlines coming out of the Vancouver Canucks through the first third of the 2022/23 season, so the news that broke earlier this week about franchise centre Elias Pettersson’s desire to sign a long-term extension definitely stood out — in a good way.
That Pettersson even wants to stick around at this point could be considered great news in and of itself. That, as his agent JP Barry stated, Pettersson wants to start talking about an extension as soon as possible cannot be seen as anything less than cause for celebration.
And that bit about Mathew Barzal’s eight-year, $9.15 million AAV extension, signed a couple of months ago with the New York Islanders, being a primary comparable for Pettersson’s camp in the upcoming negotiations?
That’s nothing short of a major coup for the Canucks.
Now, that is a hefty price tag, to be sure. Barzal’s deal, which doesn’t kick in until this summer, totals $73.2 million in compensation, gives him a modified no-trade clause through the last seven years, and covers Barzal from the ages of 26 to 34. Currently, Barzal’s AAV would count for 11.09% of the maximum salary cap, good enough for the 38th highest cap percentage in the league.
We’re not talking chump change here. But for Elias Pettersson? The Canucks can safely sign any extension in the neighbourhood of the Barzal deal with Pettersson and walk away feeling like they did extremely well for themselves.
Barzal signed his extension on the heels of a 2021/22 season that saw him post 59 points in 73 games. As of this writing, Barzal has rebounded to 31 points in 32 games for 2022/23, bringing him up to 342 points in 394 career games. That’s good for a PPG of 0.87.
It doesn’t take advanced analytical tools to see that Pettersson’s performance has simply been superior. This season, Pettersson has 34 points in 29 games, putting him on pace for 96 points. He’s got 86 points in 78 games over the past calendar year. Despite a couple of rough patches here and there along the way, he’s now up to 255 points in 274 career games; a 0.93 PPG that is only going up from here.
Offensively-speaking, there’s no real contest to be had between Pettersson and Barzal.
One could argue that Barzal has the defensive edge on Pettersson, having received a single second-place Selke Trophy vote a few years ago, but even that claim is becoming dubious. It would be mildly surprising if Pettersson were to only receive a single Selke vote for this current season, and it seems very likely that he will continue to be in the conversation for years to come, whereas Barzal’s two-way game seems to have grown a bit stagnant.
Even the intangibles are starting to tip in Pettersson’s favour. Barzal does great work under a restrictive system in New York, and has certainly demonstrated an ability to make his linemates better. But Pettersson is that rare sort of centre who can truly elevate the performance and stature of his linemates. He instantaneously turned Andrei Kuzmenko into a point-per-game winger, and he’s nearly single-handedly justified the lucrative UFA contract given to Ilya Mikheyev this summer. Pettersson’s capacity for improving his linemates may be second only to his capacity for self-improvement, which is why it seems certain that the gap between he and Barzal is only going to grow as the years roll on.
Suffice it to say, then, that if the Canucks were able to sign Pettersson to a similar extension, they would get more value out of it than the Islanders, at the very least. Never mind the fact that Pettersson’s deal would kick in a full season later, after the salary cap has presumably risen a decent amount, whereas Barzal’s deal was signed with the flat cap still in effect.
It doesn’t even have to match exactly, either. Any eight-year deal — which would carry Pettersson from age 26 to 33 — that had an AAV starting with a “$9.something” has to be considered a win for the franchise.
And that remains true, even separated from the Barzal context. Pettersson has been scoring at a near-100-point-pace for some time now, and that sort of production puts him in the uppermost echelons of the NHL. And yet, a $9.15 million AAV wouldn’t even be in the league’s top-30 salaries for the current season. Even bump Pettersson up to a nice, even $9.5 million AAV, and he’s still barely cracking the top-20.
Then, of course, the cap is going to rise over the course of the eight years of Pettersson’s next contract, and salaries are going to explode, and that $9.whatever million is going to slide further and further down the list, until all of a sudden Pettersson is on a bargain contract and still in his prime.
Given the way Swedish superstars have traditionally been built for this franchise, it’s hard to imagine that Pettersson will even be in decline by the time he hits 33. It’s entirely feasible that such a contract would start out as a bargain and end up as an even greater bargain, despite Pettersson himself being eight years older by that point.
That’s the sort of contract that a team simply cannot afford not to sign. And so, when Pettersson becomes eligible for an extension on July 1, 2023, the Canucks’ first two questions to him should sound something like this:
“You still interested in the Mathew Barzal?”
“What colour pen when you like to sign it with?”
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