Tanner Pearson’s future with the Vancouver Canucks is in murky waters with two more years remaining on his current contract.
It looked like a questionable deal when it was signed and we have seen many players join other NHL teams for much cheaper and have better offensive numbers. One of the things that Pearson brings is his versatility and consistency to a lineup.
There were rumours about a possible trade for Pearson at this year’s Trade Deadline and we will likely see those rumours come up again in the offseason.
So, what is Pearson’s value?
And can the Canucks get a decent return for him? Or should they hold onto the player and his $3,250,000 cap hit?
Pearson will turn 30 this summer and is one of the names that consistently arises throughout the fan base when general manager Patrik Allvin talks about clearing up cap space. Pearson is currently on pace to have a 40-point season and has been playing great hockey as of late.
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Over the past 12 games, he has the highest control of goals-for on the Canucks with a 72.3% control of goals at five-on-five. He has been on the ice for eight goals-for and only three against in a stretch where the Canucks have gone 4-5-3. Pearson is raising his stock as the season nears its conclusion and that is good for his potential trade value. He has shown that his game can fit with different centres in different situations and believes it comes from playing a simple game defensively and not being overly offensive.
“I’m just sticking to my game, as long as I’m good on the boards and not cheating for offence, it helps me out,” said Pearson after Thursday’s morning skate. “My game stems from playing well in my own zone, it evolves from there so I just keep on trying to look at it that way.”
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With a simple style of play and a strong stick on the boards, Pearson likely makes sense on a lot of playoff teams’ third line.
When it comes to the wow factor, Pearson isn’t going to bring that. He simply goes to the net hard, wins a lot of board battles, and plays strong defensively. Out of the Canucks’ forwards this season, Pearson ranks fourth in goals-against /60 and sixth in expected goals against /60 on the Canucks. The eye test shows us that he is still strong on the boards with his stick and is consistently moving the puck in the right direction while in his own zone.
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Some analytic models actually have him playing at a more valuable clip than his current cap-hit.
There are plenty of moving parts for Pearson next season. With players like J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser, and Conor Garland having their names in the rumour mill —  the Canucks may look to keep Pearson and that would likely be just fine with head coach Bruce Boudreau.
“He’s played on two Stanley Cup teams and that’s for a reason, he’s responsible,” said Boudreau in Thursday morning’s media availability. “Most times, he’s been a 20-goal scorer for a few years and he can put pucks in the net. He’s a guy that’s responsible that you can put him up there and know that he’s gonna be good for you. I just feel more comfortable when he’s on the ice and then when he’s not.”
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The question from the new management needs to be about what Pearson’s role will be when this team is competitive in the playoffs. He has two more years at a salary cap that is not massive but not peanuts either. If other teams are interested in Pearson’s pedigree, the Canucks should explore all of those options. Rumours suggested that Pearson could have been worth a second-round as recently as the 2021 trade deadline.
If another team is bullish on Pearson’s services, the Canucks should look to use him as a piece to help bolster their prospect pool that took a beating on social media the other day when I released the top-10 list that was written about here on CanucksArmy.
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Whether you are adding draft picks or prospects, the Canucks should look to improve their chances of winning a Stanley Cup by exploring what Pearson can return in a trade. The trade to acquire Pearson clearly worked for the Canucks and the current extension that he is on may feel like an over-payment but doesn’t make his contract immovable.
The argument for Pearson to stay is that the Canucks are going to need top-six forwards and if he is able to continue playing at this level into his thirties, he provides value to the team. With him putting up a strong season and having two years left on his deal, it feels like this is the time to move on from him but another season and a half to raise his stock may make him an intriguing piece at the 2024 deadline. The problem there is that the Canucks should hope to be competitive at the 2024 deadline and you don’t want to be moving on from a middle-six player as you look to compete in the playoffs.
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All the signs lead us to believe that a decision on Pearson’s future will be made in the offseason and if teams come calling with significant offers, the Canucks will have to make a move on the winger. The value of Pearson gives the potential to bolster the prospect pool while clearing cap space — two of Patrik Allvin’s goals as the Canucks’ general manager.
This is a new management group that is looking down the road at a final destination instead of the first exit with an exciting gas station.
Offseason decisions on players like Pearson, Garland, and Miller are going to give fans an idea of where this team is going. At the same time, it’s not necessarily a rebuild if you move a player like Pearson. The management group needs flexibility with the salary cap and clearing up over three million dollars helps that cause.
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Stats from NaturalStatTrick
Pearson has been playing good hockey of late and has been one of the better Canucks’ forwards when it comes to consistency. Out of all the forwards, Pearson leads the team in control of expected goals with 53.6%.
If traded, the consistency of his play at both ends of the ice will be missed. For that reason, Pearson may be looked at as a player who sticks around. It’s not a black-and-white decision as many hockey moves aren’t. Age, salary, output and more will be part of the decision-making process.
The good news is that there should be value for a Pearson in the offseason. He could be a piece that fetches a prospect of value for when this team looks towards the next wave of talent to join their team. If he is not moved, the hope will be that he continues to bring value into his 30s — a tough task to do for many hockey players.
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It’ll be interesting to see where the chips fall during the summer, that’s for sure.