Tanner Pearson has been somewhat of an underrated second line gem for the Vancouver Canucks this season. He’s the team’s best point producer outside its core, but where does he fit the roster when Vancouver is truly ready to contend?
The value Tanner Pearson has brought the Vancouver Canucks this year might truly be enough to deem the acquisition of his rights, Jim Benning’s best player for player trade. As the team general manager, he was able to move out a brutal defensive liability in Erik Gudbranson. Vancouver in return brings in a former Stanley Cup champion who then not only manages to salvage a bad season last year but is now on pace for a new career-best. Pearson has completely returned to form as a staple on the second line and for now, the Canucks have the top-six player they needed to help make the next step.
Pretty much any return in an offload of Gudbranson was going to have a positive effect for the Canucks, but the Pearson trade is really a home run situation. Since mid-November, you could argue that Pearson has been Vancouver’s best player. He might not be flashy and noticeable every time he touches the puck, but actually, in the last 24 games, he’s produced 25 points, which is consistent top-line production. His two-way play is proving it can challenge the league’s top opposition. He shows productive chemistry with Bo Horvat that can turn a defensive zone start into an offensive scoring chance. He’s helping Vancouver win, he’s helping them become a playoff calibre team.
He was expected to be a level up on Sven Baertschi, which he most certainly has been, but nobody would have guessed he could produce at a rate this high. The recent hot streak has stretched a few months, this is Pearson at his peak. He is a great piece to the puzzle right now and the Canucks need him in order to improve, but in my opinion, he’s here to help the team reach the next level, but he’s unlikely to be a factor in the Canucks winning a Stanley Cup. Don’t get me wrong, the rejuvenation of 27-year-old Pearson has been a pleasant surprise this season and he’s an important piece for the team right now, but after next season, at the same time his contract is up for renewal, Canucks’ cap troubles will have taken effect, handcuffing the Canucks and forcing Pearson to walk away from a team likely to be near its climax.
According to Cap Friendly, Pearson is locked up in Vancouver until the end of the 2020-2021 season. His $3.75 million will come off the books for the Canucks, but Van-City will likely need the money to help lock down its franchise players, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. Realistically, the Canucks will be in a much better spot to be contending around this time but Vancouver might simply have a hard time fitting Pearson under the league’s salary cap.
When the re-up is complete, Rumors swirl that Pettersson and Hughes could potentially reach a combined total of $20 million against the cap. The Canucks doomed for a cap crisis will most likely still be locked-in with a few ”difficult to move” and ”grossly overpaid” bottom-six players.
Look, a lot can happen between now and then, but for now, this leads to the conclusion that Pearson is a short term solution, and not a long term piece to the puzzle. Truth be told, the expiration date between the two sides probably works out for the Canucks. Top prospects Vasili Podkolzin and Nils Hoglander should be knocking on the door if not already making an NHL impact. Enjoy the Pearson show while it’s here, folks.