Tanner Pearson will enter his contract year in 2020-21. Should the Vancouver Canucks look to extend him in the offseason?
Because of a tight salary cap situation, Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning will probably have to bid farewell to at least a couple of key roster players in the offseason.
He’ll have to make a decision on pending UFA and goalie Jacob Markstrom, who’s worthy of a long-term deal worth at least $5 million season. Jake Virtanen (a pending RFA) is due for a nice raise as he continues to enjoy a career year. Benning will likely have to choose between one of Chris Tanev (UFA) and Troy Stecher (RFA).
And as much as the Canucks would love to extend trade deadline pickup Tyler Toffoli, it feels like a pipe dream at this point. Toffoli (23 goals and 42 points this season) will be one of the most-sought after free agents, and he’ll likely price himself out of Vancouver. Also, his role will be reduced once Brock Boeser returns.
Alexander Edler, Tanner Pearson, Jordie Benn and Brandon Sutter will enter their contract years next season. The latter two probably won’t be back, but it’d be a surprise if Edler didn’t re-up on another short-term deal.
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But what about Pearson?
The 27-year-old will carry a bargain $3.75 million cap hit for next year (same as this season). And if he continues to produce as a reliable 20-goal, 40-point guy on Bo Horvat‘s line, he could seek around $5 million annually on his next deal. Perhaps more.
Though Pearson has been a valuable part of Vancouver’s success this season, anything close to $5 million annually may be too rich for a cap-strapped team, especially with Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes in line for monster extensions soon.
Pearson will be 29 years of age by the time he starts his new contract in 2021-22. Most forwards tend to slow down once they enter their early 30s, too. So there’d be some risk in giving Pearson a long-term deal.
But we also can’t overlook what Pearson brings to the table: Leadership, playoff experience and consistent production. And let’s not forget the frustrating search for a capable winger to play on Horvat’s line prior to the Pearson trade.
With Pearson enjoying a career year (21 goals and 45 points), this summer will mark the perfect time to extend him. Delaying negotiations until next year would be risky on Benning’s end, especially if Pearson performs just as well (or better) in 2020-21.
In short, the Canucks need to decide now if they value Pearson enough to keep him around for the long-term, or if they’re willing to lose him for nothing in free agency next year. If they extend Pearson this offseason, Benning could then plan around his salary cap situation for 2021. Maybe he’d feel more inclined to deal Sutter and another expensive veteran (Loui Eriksson or Jay Beagle?)
So if I’m Benning, I would absolutely try to hammer out an extension with Pearson in the offseason. Something along the lines of four years worth around $4 million annually. If that’s not enough to extend Pearson, or if the Canucks simply decide not to begin negotiations in the offseason, then there’s a good chance that his tenure in Vancouver will have been short and very sweet.