The Vancouver Canucks will soon face a serious cap crunch, and they’ll need at least one star to sign a bridge deal.
Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has constructed a roster that’s nearing Stanley Cup contention, but the hard part hasn’t arrived yet.
A handful of key players are slated for UFA or RFA status this offseason. Vancouver could also lose a quality player in next year’s Seattle expansion draft.
Next offseason, top centre Elias Pettersson and rising superstar blueliner Quinn Hughes will need new contracts (both will be slated for RFA status). Longtime fan favorite Alexander Edler and 20-goal man Tanner Pearson will also need new deals.
But of course, the salary cap won’t allow Benning to keep everybody. He’ll likely lose one of Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev or Troy Stecher this offseason, possibly two. Keeping the No. 1 goalie is going to be the main priority, but Benning will have a difficult time keeping both of those blueliners.
Let’s just assume that Benning manages to extend Markstrom and at least two of Edler, Tanev and Stecher. That would be nice for starters, but how about Pettersson and Hughes, who will both be in line for massive contract extensions after playing out their entry-level deals?
This is easier said than done, but the Canucks will need at least one of those two players to sign a bridge deal. Brock Boeser already did that (a three-year deal worth $17.625 million back in September). He’ll most likely want a long-term deal when this one expires in two years.
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It’s reasonable to think that Pettersson and Hughes will both one day earn contracts worth $10-million plus annually. With the salary cap consistently increasing, teams can afford to pay more money to retain their top stars.
But the Canucks won’t be able to invest around $20 million annually in those two players alone. Not with so many other key players in need of extensions down the road, and not with the likes of Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle and Tyler Myers on the books for several more years.
A bridge deal is always beneficial for both sides. It gives a team some much-needed cap room while giving the player a chance to receive maximum value on his next contract. Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning is the perfect example of this.
Boeser received a fair contract from the Canucks. If he can outplay his bridge deal over the next two years, Boeser will eventually get that massive contract. At this point, he looks to be in line for a deal that will pay him $7 million-plus annually.
If Hughes and/or Pettersson were to sign a bridge deal, they’d be giving themselves a nice amount of cash to begin with. When the time comes, they can then reach the long-term deals and receive fair value. It’s more money in the pocket, at the end of the day.
By taking a bridge deal, either star would keep Vancouver’s cap situation manageable, and that would go a long way in maximizing the Stanley Cup window. And if the Canucks can get Boeser and Bo Horvat to sign team-friendly deals, there’s every reason to believe they can get it done with Hughes or Pettersson.