What should the Canucks do with Tanner Pearson after next season?

Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

Tanner Pearson is entering the final year of his contract. Should he be a part of the Vancouver Canucks’ long-term future?

Last month served as a tough reminder to the Vancouver Canucks that the salary cap doesn’t allow you to keep everybody you want.

The cap-strapped Canucks saw goalie Jacob Markstrom, defencemen Chris Tanev and Troy Stecher and forward Tyler Toffoli all leave in free agency. General manager Jim Benning filled two of the voids by signing veteran netminder Braden Holtby and by acquiring standout blueliner Nate Schmidt in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights.

Unless he trades away an expensive veteran, Benning is unlikely to bring in any more impactful players this offseason. And as the NHL and NHLPA work on a format and structure for next season, Benning has time to think about the long-term salary cap outlook.

Benning had to make tough calls on Markstrom, Tanev, Stecher and Toffoli. Next offseason, he’ll have to decide on two pending UFAs — longest-tenured Canuck Alexander Edler and top-six forward Tanner Pearson.

The latter has been an excellent fit since coming over via the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2019 trade deadline. He had nine goals and 12 points in 19 regular season games, and Pearson followed it up with a superb outing in 2019-20.

Pearson had 21 goals and 45 points in 69 regular season games. He was also productive in the postseason, with four goals and eight points in 17 contests.

More from The Canuck Way

The 28-year-old has fit nicely on the second line with Bo Horvat. But should the cap-strapped Canucks look to extend Pearson? Trade him? Wait and see? Or simply hold onto him with the intention of letting him walk in 2021 free agency?

At first, extending Pearson seems like an easy call. He’s a capable 20-goal and 40-50 point player with a 2014 Stanley Cup championship on his resume. His experience and leadership has been instrumental on a young, energetic Vancouver team.

But Pearson will be 29 after next season, and who knows how many productive years he has left? The Canucks simply can’t afford another expensive contract that won’t age well.

Don’t forget that Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes also need new deals after next season. Pearson deserves a contract similar to that of Toffoli’s — a four-year, $17 million deal with the Montreal Canadiens. He could very well receive more term and a greater average annual value on the open market, too.

The other thing to consider is that the Canucks have two excellent prospects in Vasili Podkolzin and Nils Hoglander, both 2019 draft picks who could eventually play their way into the team’s top-six.

If the Canucks extend Pearson, and if Hoglander and Podkolzin are both NHL ready by 2022 or 2023? Where will head coach Travis Green make room for them?

Take everything into account here, and there’s really no easy call on what to do with Pearson. If I’m Benning, I’m not looking to extend Pearson, but I’m also not looking to shop him.

dark. Next. Canucks will rely on young core to produce offense

At this point, the best bet is for the Canucks to hold onto Pearson in their push for a Stanley Cup championship, even if it means possibly losing him for nothing in 2021 free agency.