The Canuck Way Mailbag: Trade bait, Pettersson and Hughes’ deals, and more

(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /
1 of 3
Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

The Vancouver Canucks finally have some much-needed time off, as their 37 regular-season games so far are the most among any team in the NHL. During the off week, I’m looking through your questions through a stretch where Vancouver will play just once in nine days.

With the trade deadline just around the corner, will the Canucks be buyers or sellers on April 1? Who would they be selling? What does the offseason contract situation look like? Let’s get straight into it.

Comparing contracts from around the league isn’t necessarily the “be-all-end-all” in guessing what a player is going to make on his next contract, but it’s worth taking into consideration.

First and foremost, Elias Pettersson. The single closest comparable I can think of is Sebastian Aho. Both players are young, superstar first-line centers on young teams with a lot of talent and promise.

Aho got better and better in every year of his entry-level contract, going from 49 points to 65, to 83, along with scoring 24, 29, and 30 goals in those three seasons respectively. Pettersson had 66 points in each of his first two seasons, with 28 and 27 goals each year.

Both players were also crucial in playoffs for their teams during that time, with Aho scoring twelve points in Carolina’s fifteen games during their 2019 run, and Pettersson scoring 18 points in 17 games for Vancouver in 2020.

In the 2019 offseason, Aho signed an offer sheet with the Montreal Canadiens for roughly $8.4 million per year for five seasons, which was matched by Carolina. If Pettersson’s term is five years or less, expect it to be in the Aho range. However, Benning will be motivated to get Pettersson locked up long-term. If that’s the case, and Pettersson signs a seven or eight-year deal, expect the total to be closer to nine million dollars.

The closest comparables to Quinn Hughes are both also restricted free agents in the summer; Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche, and Miro Heiskanen of the Dallas Stars. Right now, the closest comparable I could think of would be Ottawa’s Thomas Chabot.

Chabot signed an eight-year, $64 million deal back in September 2019, which kicked in this year. Chabot signed the deal after his breakout season, scoring 14 goals and 55 points in 70 games for a Senators team that finished dead last in the NHL that season. Since signed that deal, Chabot has regressed, at least production-wise, but that can be excused as the fault of the rapidly deteriorating franchise around him.

Overall, Chabot doesn’t have the same offensive or skating ability that Hughes posses, but makes up for it by being better defensively. If Hughes signs a long-term deal, you’re likely looking at the same contract as Chabot, eight years at $8 million per season.

One other factor that needs to be taken into consideration; Hughes and Pettersson now have the same agent. If they enter contract negotiations together, I would be surprised if Pettersson walks out of it with a higher AAV than Hughes, even though… I do think ‘Petey’ is worth more.

I don’t think these two are connected right now. Playing the kids doesn’t mean the Vancouver Canucks have given up on a playoff spot. It just depends on which veterans you take out. I have been thoroughly underwhelmed with the play of Antoine Roussel and Jay Beagle so far this season (both are on IR right now), and I genuinely think any “kids” you’d play in their place would be a legitimate upgrade.

Jayce Hawyrluk, Marc Michaelis, and even Zack MacEwen are all under 25 years old, and with a bit more development, could slot into Vancouver’s bottom-six long term. if SKA St. Petersburg is eliminated from the KHL playoffs, I’d love to see Vasily Podkolzin step in for the rest of the year, especially if Tanner Pearson gets dealt before the deadline.

Kole Lind and Jonah Gadjovich are also both having good seasons in the AHL, but calling them up from Utica this season is likely out of the question when you take the mandatory quarantine into consideration.

On the defensive side, I have been baffled all season as to why Olli Juolevi has been scratched in favour of Jordie Benn. After a bit of a rocky start, Juolevi eased himself into a steady game, reliable up and down the ice. Benn has an impressive eight assists this season, but realistically, he isn’t in Vancouver long-term, so why not help the development of somebody who is?

I still think Green should have given Brogan Rafferty more of a chance. The 25-year old had 47 points in 55 AHL games last year but has only played three NHL games since the start of the 2018-2019 season.

Jalen Chatfield has also been solid in his ten games this year. If the Canucks move on from one or more of Benn, Alex Edler, or Travis Hamonic at the trade deadline, I’ll be excited to see the young defensemen get their shot.

Finally, between the pipes, I would be absolutely thrilled if Green gives Michael DiPietro a shot if or when the Canucks are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. DiPietro hasn’t played in a long time, sitting on Vancouver’s taxi squad for most of this year.

DiPietro had a fantastic 2019-2020 season with the Utica Comets, and at 21 years old, needs to continue to see game time to help his development. Braden Holtby has been extremely disappointing throughout this season, so if hope is eventually lost for the playoffs, why not give Mikey a couple of starts?