What is Elias Pettersson’s contract extension going to cost the Canucks?
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
3 months ago
The Free Agent Frenzy of 2023 continues to approach, and the Vancouver Canucks have yet to make any major decisions.
We’ve talked already about those internal pending UFAs and RFAs that GM Patrik Allvin and Co. are going to need to sort out in the weeks to come.
We’ve talked about the small batch of suitable external UFAs that the Canucks could seek to add when bidding opens up on July 1, as limited as their spending power might be.
But what we haven’t talked too much about yet is the most important contract that the Canucks will — or won’t — sign this summer: the extension of Elias Pettersson.
Pettersson will become eligible for an extension on July 1, 2023, the opening day of the FAF and exactly one year to the day of the expiry of his current contract.
That’s not a deadline by any means. It’s literally the first day he can sign another contract, and the Canucks could theoretically take up the whole next calendar year, or longer, to actually ink the deal.
But everyone involved understands that the sooner the Canucks extend Pettersson, the better.
Which, of course, brings us fairly naturally to our central question here today:
What’s it going to cost?
Setting the Baseline for Negotiations
Pettersson will be 25 years old, going on 26, when his next contract kicks in. He’ll have at least one 100-point season under his belt, and maybe two if the Canucks wait long enough to sign him.
Even when setting the baselines for negotiations, we’re going to be heading into the upper echelons of NHL contracts.
Only four players have signed extensions in the wake of a 100-point season in the past five years. They were Nikita Kucherov in 2018 (eight years, $9.5 million AAV), and then Matthew Tkachuk (eight years, $9.5 million), Johnny Gaudreau (seven years, $9.75 million), and Jonathan Huberdeau (eight years, $10.5 million).
That might be a small crowd, but it sets a nice floor for Pettersson’s next contract anyway: maximum term at a salary that matches or exceeds about $9.5 million.
The term shouldn’t really be an issue at all, as both sides should be equally interested in an eight-year commitment. The Canucks, because that gets Pettersson under contract from ages 25-32, otherwise known as the entirety of his prime. Pettersson, because signing a max-term contract is the best way to maximize his earnings and job security.
The salary total might be trickier to come to an agreement on.
Honestly, if Pettersson walked into the Canucks’ front office on July 1 and said “Give me the Tkachuk,” the Vancouver brass would be scrambling to find a pen. At this point, a $9.5 million AAV would be a steal for Pettersson, as it has already become for Tkachuk.
It is more likely however, due to a combination of Pettersson’s age, his position, his importance to the team, and the inevitability of the salary cap rising, that Pettersson’s cap hit will fall somewhere north of there.
To find out exactly where, we have to turn to the comparables.
Contract Comparables for Pettersson
This is another limited, but elite, group of players.
Mathew Barzal (Eight years at $9.15 million AAV)
Don’t take our word for it! Agent JP Barry himself listed Barzal as a potential Pettersson comparable back in December of 2022.
But, obviously, things have changed since then.
Barzal’s career high in points remains the 85 he got as an NHL sophomore back in 2017/18. The most he’s got since then is 62. That’s 40 points short of where Pettersson finished last season.
If these two ever were comps, they aren’t anymore. Or, they still are, but only in the sense that this further solidifies that Pettersson’s own AAV should probably be north of $10 million.
Brayden Point (Eight years at $9.5 million AAV)
This one strikes us as a more apt comparison. Pettersson’s 102 points last year beats anything that Point has produced, but Point has seasons of 92 and 95 points under his belt — not to mention those two Stanley Cups and a well-earned reputation as a playoff beast.
One could certainly argue that Pettersson is the more important to his team of the two, but otherwise they’re quite close.
In a perfect world, Pettersson and Point should be getting paid about the same, and Point did sign his contract at the exact same age that Pettersson will. But one has to keep in mind the income tax-related benefits that come from signing in Florida. A $9.5 million AAV contract in the Sunshine State is equivalent to a $10 million+ deal in Vancouver, and that will undoubtedly be a factor in negotiations.
Jack Eichel (Eight years at $10 million AAV)
Eichel is an important comparable here as a de facto franchise center that still falls a tier below the McDavids and MacKinnons of the world. He signed his contract back when he was just 21 years old, which makes any direct comparisons to Pettersson difficult, but the value in what they currently bring to the ice is definitely similar, so it can still be used as a comparable.
In fact, looking at what Eichel contributes, and looking at what Pettersson does, it becomes difficult to argue for Pettersson being paid any less than that $10 million benchmark.
Aleksandr Barkov (Eight years at $10 million AAV)
In terms of playstyle and impact on the ice, Barkov is probably the closest comparable we are ever going to find. He got this contract after a season of 88 points in 67 games and ample Selke Trophy buzz, which is perhaps a step or two ahead of where Pettersson is now, but not by much.
Barkov was 26 when he signed the deal, and without much more team success than Pettersson has experienced. They’ve both missed considerable time due to injury, though Barkov appears more prone. Both are leaders on their team.
Perhaps the argument can be made to tack a few extra dollars onto a newer contract due to inflation, but that’s about it. Pettersson and Barkov should wind up paid about the same.
Contract Comparables Yet To Come
And this is why the Canucks should want to get this contract inked as close to July 1, 2023 as possible.
These were the only real comparables we could get our hands on right now. But that will change, and it will change soon.
The list of pending RFAs in the summer of 2023 still yet to sign includes Alex DeBrincat, Jesper Bratt, Trevor Zegras, and Pierre-Luc Dubois — important players, sure, but no one who is good enough to impact Pettersson negotiations.
The list of Pettersson’s fellow 2024 RFAs includes Rasmus Dahlin and Moritz Seider, two who could push for that $10 million salary range, but who play a different position than Pettersson and won’t serve much as comparables.
It is the pending UFAs that should have the Canucks a little worried about the shifting of the comparable landscape.
The 27-year-old Auston Matthews will get a new contract at some point in the next calendar year. If he pushes for a salary upward of $13 million, what does that do to Pettersson negotiations?
The same could be said, to a lesser extent, for Sebastian Aho.
It will be in the Canucks’ best interest, one way or another, to get Pettersson signed before any more comparable contracts hit the books.
As vital as getting this contract right is to the future of the Canucks, we actually figure this one’s pretty simple.
Pettersson will sign for an eight-year term, and at an average salary somewhere in the neighbourhood of $10 million.
If he signs this summer, we suspect that number to fall somewhere in the $10-10.5 million range.
If he signs sometime during or after next season, we suspect that number to fall closer to the $10.5-11 million range.
That’s a lot of money, to be sure. But while we’re always happy to second-guess our own predictions and prognostications, there’s something we’re quite certain of when it comes to this contract: Pettersson will be worth every penny.
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