Canucks: Hughes and Pettersson likely to have different contract lengths

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - JANUARY 24: (L-R) Quinn Hughes #43 and Elias Pettersson #40 of the Vancouver Canucks take part in the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills competition at the Enterprise Center on January 24, 2020 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - JANUARY 24: (L-R) Quinn Hughes #43 and Elias Pettersson #40 of the Vancouver Canucks take part in the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills competition at the Enterprise Center on January 24, 2020 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

It appears that the Vancouver Canucks are making progress with Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes.

According to Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman, who joined Rick Dhaliwal and Don Taylor on “The Donnie and Dhali Show” on Monday afternoon, there is expected to be more conversation between the Canucks organization and their two RFA superstars this week. Of course, it’s hard to say how much discussion will actually take place in the next few days, and if it will be significantly more than what has already occurred, but the discussions appear to be moving in the positive direction, which is always good news for Canucks fans.

Friedman first spoke about Hughes, reminding us of the fact that the former-Calder trophy finalist is one of three high-end defencemen who are looking to sign big contract extensions this offseason. The other two blueliners? Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche and Miro Heiskanen of the Dallas Stars.

As previously reported, it appeared that all three of their agents were using Thomas Chabot as a comparable, and Friedman once again confirmed this while on air. Chabot, who signed an eight-year, $64 million contract in September 2019, just finished the first year of that deal this past season, where he was paid $7 million.

However, unlike Hughes, Makar and Heiskanen, Chabot still had one more year to go on his entry-level contract at the time of his new deal. Chabot is also expected to get a significant pay increase towards the end of the contract, with that number rising to $10 million starting in the 2024-25 campaign, all the way to 2026-27.

What makes it really interesting is that, according to Friedman, all three blueliners consider themselves ahead of where Chabot was at when he signed his new deal, both on the ice and in terms of the financial details of their next contracts. However, despite how each player individually feels, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all three players, particularly Hughes, will be receiving max contracts this summer.

It’s important to remember that Chabot’s contract was signed in a pre-pandemic world, by an Ottawa team with lots of cap space and flexibility. Plus, although the idea of long-term team security can be comforting for some, the three defencemen themselves might not want to be locked in for that much term, especially given how many years most other RFAs have committed to over the past few offseasons.

Friedman then went on to talk about Pettersson, and how the Canucks might be looking at Mat Barzal as a decent comparable in their negotiation talks. Barzal, who registered 59 goals and 148 assists in 232 games during first three seasons, signed a three-year, $21 million deal in January 2021.

Pettersson played 67 fewer games than Barzal during his first three years due to injury, but was still able to put up 65 goals and 88 assists over span. As a result, he posted a higher regular season points-per-game mark during his three rookie years compared to Barzal (0.93 vs. 0.89), and even had the edge in the postseason (1.06 vs. 0.80). Barzal suited up for 30 games in his rookie years, whereas Pettersson only played in 17.

However, Friedman also went on to say that competition might be the deciding factor in Pettersson’s negotiations as opposed to comparables, especially given his overall statistics. Similar to Hughes and his counterparts, Friedman wouldn’t be surprised if Pettersson valued himself slightly higher that Barzal, a fair notion that could definitely finds its way into the negotiations if Pettersson saw fit to.

This also wasn’t the first time that details of these contract negotiations were discussed on “Donnie and Dhali” this past month.

Two weeks earlier, NHLPA agent J.P. Barry also joined Dhaliwal and Taylor on their show to discuss the two RFAs. Barry currently serves as the co-head of the Hockey Division of the CAA with Pat Brisson, an agency that represents both Pettersson and Hughes.

Barry kicked off the interview talking about the current financial market in the NHL, and how it would shape free agency this offseason. In particular, he referred to Vancouver’s limited cap space, and how it has directly hindered long-term contract discussions.

"“The Canucks have cap issues. I don’t think we can do long-term deals for Petey and Quinn. We have started the dance; we are engaged in talks.”"

Barry also went on to provide specific numbers for his two clients, saying that he and Brisson are “exploring shorter term for Elias, 5 years and under, Quinn longer.”

One of the most recent RFA centres who landed a five-year deal was Maple Leafs’ forward Auston Matthews, but don’t expect the Canucks to give Pettersson the same annual salary of $11.634 million. Sebastian Aho also signed an extension later on in 2019, landing a five-year, $42.27 million deal after Carolina matched Montreal’s initial offer sheet. Aho has experience at both centre and wing, similar to Pettersson, but his $8.545 million AAV still might be too high for the Canucks to consider.

Aside from Chabot, only Sam Girard and Jacob Trouba have inked long-term deals out of restricted free agency over the past three years. Girard signed a seven-year, $35 million deal (AAV of $5 million) with Colorado in 2019, while Trouba landed a seven-year, $56 million deal (AAV of $8 million) with the New York Rangers in the same offseason. Originally, Hughes was expected to land in the middle of those values at around $6.5 million if he had signed a shorter bridge deal but, given the new information, he could very well be closer to Trouba’s numbers.

While Barry did mention that their plan is to work on both deals at the same time, much like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane back in 2014, it was also previously reported that the team will focus on resigning Pettersson first, as the Swedish centre could technically be offer-sheeted in a few weeks time. As we know, Hughes isn’t able to sign an offer sheet due to his 10.2(c) RFA status.

According to CapFriendly, the Canucks will have just over $15 million in cap space for next season which, in theory, should be enough for both Pettersson and Hughes if they end up going with the contract options that Barry outlined above.

Of course, this number isn’t necessarily a true reflection of what will be available for the team when it comes to extending Pettersson and Hughes, especially when you consider the myriad of possible factors that they need to consider first.

The Canucks would be able to save more money from LTIR candidates, such as Micheal Ferland, as well as player demotions to Abbotsford and potential buyout options. However, they could also move closer to the cap hit based on how they deal with upcoming UFAs like Alex Edler and Brandon Sutter, as well as how aggressive they are in free agency, particularly with a top-four right-handed defenceman or a third-line centre.

This year’s buyout period will commence two days after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Finals, which could go on as far as July 11th if the series goes the distance. The free agency signing period will kick off on July 28th at 12:00pm EST, for both restricted and unrestricted free agents.

In other words, the Canucks do still have time to finalize contracts for their franchise centre and blueliner, but fans are hoping that these negotiations won’t go down to the wire.

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What contracts do you think Pettersson and Hughes will eventually receive? Let us know in the comments!