What Sebastian Aho’s contract extension means for Elias Pettersson’s next deal

Photo credit:© James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Liu
9 months ago
The Caroline Hurricanes have locked up one of their franchise cornerstones in Sebastian Aho for the next eight years, and it was quite the hefty deal.
Yet, there are probably not many people around the league who would call this a bad deal. Aho has established himself as one of the Canes’ best players, their pivot on the first line that chips in both offensively and defensively. If anything, the $9.75 million AAV is a steal for how big of an impact Aho has on the franchise and only has the potential to look better with the cap expected to rise throughout this extension.
For Canucks fans looking at this signing, it gives an idea of what an Elias Pettersson extension might look like. The market has been set with Aho’s new deal, and most signs point to Pettersson’s AAV going over double digits. And realistically, that’s not awful either.
From the points alone, the pair look to be comparable players. Although Pettersson’s 102 career-high points from last season blow Aho’s 83 points out of the water, the pair have generally been hovering around the point-per-game mark for their careers. It should also be noted that Aho plays in a more conservative Hurricanes system, which isn’t the defensive shell that is the New York Islanders but would have an impact in terms of the offensive production that he generates. Heck, if a system can make Jalen Chatfield look like a top-4 stud, then there’s probably not going to be much change. Carolina is paying him to stay around point-per-game production, while Vancouver will have to figure out if Pettersson will be a 100-ish point scorer for the rest of his career.
When looking at the underlying stats, Aho does separate himself from Pettersson. The Canes’ centerman sported an impressive 58.40 CF%, 60.14 xG%, 58.89 SCF%, and 58.93 HDCF% in the 2022-23 season, while the Canucks’ pivot posted 50.39 CF%, 53.69 xG%, 50.44 SCF%, and 50.57 HDCF%. This is probably down to team differences, where Carolina was a playoff contender that’s known for their defensive work and systems that have forwards supporting as much as they can in their own end, while Vancouver is a bubble team that heavily underperformed expectations and didn’t have much in the way of defensive structure until garbage time in the year. Both players faced similar usage and deployed similarly in offensive zone starts and offensive faceoff starts while playing heavy minutes for their teams.
With the context of the metrics applied to their numbers, then it could be reasoned that both would’ve had similar defensive impacts on their teams, with Pettersson’s numbers arguably slightly more impressive given the fact that the Canucks were as bad as they were. Both Aho and Pettersson are clearly very intelligent players and can defend just as well as they can score. But, one has Rod Brind’Amour breathing down the teams’ neck about forechecking and pressure, while the other has only just had Rick Tocchet for like, 3 months. It will be interesting to see how Pettersson’s metrics change with a full season under his tutelage.
One thing that can’t be ruled out about Aho’s new deal is the faith in Carolina management to supply him with a good team to play on. For essentially his entire career in a Hurricanes jersey, Aho has had a supporting cast that can play with him and get the team far into the postseason. Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teravainen, Seth Jarvis, Martin Necas, Jaccob Slavin, Brady Skjei, it’s an incredibly solid and deep team that’s been built off shrewd dealing and hitting on their draft picks. There is no reason yet for Aho to believe that the team won’t be competitive with him around – and perhaps, could’ve brought down the AAV just that little bit. It’s speculation, but it’s not unreasonable to consider especially with the case of Pettersson. Since his debut in 2017, the Swede has only made one postseason appearance, and during the 5 years he’s been in the league, he’s had a rotating cast of wingers that he’s always been able to elevate but not quite dominate with. This past season, we saw Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko click. Is that the combination that he needs going forward? Only time can tell, but what is clear is that the benefit of the doubt that Aho could give to Carolina does not apply to Pettersson and Vancouver.
So what should the Canucks expect to sign Pettersson for? With the benchmark set by Aho, it feels unlikely that he would sign for anything less than $10 million. If anything, the contract would likely look in the realm of $10.5-$11.5 million, given the offensive pedigree, value to the team, and what Pettersson brings in all facets of his game. There is an argument to be made that Pettersson could become more elite than Aho. In that case, then an $11.5 million AAV doesn’t sound all that bad, especially locked up long-term. With the cap expected to jump in the coming seasons, the percentage that Pettersson will take up is only going to decrease. It’s why signing an extension now is essential for this team, because locking up your franchise center to 2022-23 market rates will only age better as time goes on as well as giving cap flexibility down the road.
All Vancouver needs to do is grip it and rip it on the extension talks.

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