The Vancouver Canucks always find a way to appear in hockey conversations.
On Saturday morning, the Carolina Hurricanes announced that they had tendered a one-year, $6.1 million offer sheet to current RFA forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi of the Montreal Canadiens. The 21-year-old, who was drafted third overall by the Canadiens in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, has played all of his 167 career games in Montreal, amassing 22 goals and 40 assists over that span.
For hockey enthusiasts, there’s a lot of good stuff to unpack here.
First and foremost, it’s clear that the bad blood between these two clubs continues to spill out. This move by the Hurricanes occurred just two years after the Habs tendered an offer sheet of their own, trying to pry away Sebastian Aho with a five-year, $42.25 million deal.
Of course, this news also sparked a handful of questions.
Is it surprising that the Hurricanes didn’t end up using some or all of the $6.1 million to keep Alex Nedeljkovic or Dougie Hamilton? Carolina fans would probably say yes.
Did General Manager Don Waddell play the troll role to perfection, hammering his point across by making sure to replicate every little detail from 2019? You bet.
Is the $20 signing bonus, an ode to Aho himself, the cherry on top of all of this? 100%.
Jokes aside, this upcoming week will be an extremely important one for General Manager Marc Bergevin and his Montreal management team. If the Habs don’t end up matching the offer sheet, then the Hurricanes will need to give up their first and third round picks from the upcoming 2022 NHL Entry Draft as compensation.
The real question – what does this have to do with the Canucks?
As expected, fans immediately hit their panic buttons in the hockey Twitterverse, spiralling into despair while frantically imagining what would happen if one of their RFA stars was subject to a similar offer sheet.
And when it comes to RFA stars, it’s hard not to think of Elias Pettersson himself.
In 165 career games with the Canucks, Pettersson has been able to produce at just under a point-per-game, notching 65 goals and 88 assists. The 22-year-old centre has solidified his position as the team’s top line centre and first powerplay unit sniper, while continuing to dazzle us with his speed, stick-handling and impressive dekes.
Not to mention, Pettersson has also proven that he can come up clutch in the postseason. In his first playoff appearance with the Canucks, Pettersson notched 18 points in 17 games, and helped lead his squad all the way to game seven of the Western Conference semi-finals.
Unfortunately, for Canucks fans, there has been a fair amount of uncertainty this offseason when it comes to Pettersson and fellow RFA Quinn Hughes, as both players are currently without contracts for the upcoming season.
Fortunately, those same fans don’t have to worry about the latter. Since being drafted seventh overall in 2018, Hughes has only played in 129 NHL contests over three campaigns, grouping him in the 10.2(c) RFA status. In other words, the blueliner hasn’t accrued enough professional seasons and is therefore ineligible to receive an offer sheet.
But what would happen if Pettersson received one?
Rumblings of this first took off in mid-June, when CanucksArmy contributor Sean Warren shared this juicy tidbit about Pettersson and Montreal:
As we all know, Seattle ended up passing on Carey Price and his $10.5 million AAV, and the Pettersson hysteria from Vancouver died down shortly afterwards.
However, given that there’s actually an official offer sheet in the NHL world right now, and that the move came from the aforementioned Canadiens, it’s hard for Canucks fans not to revisit their panic from June.
So what exactly would a Pettersson offer sheet look like?
According to CapFriendly, offer sheet compensation has seven tiers, which is determined by the AAV that is being offered by the submitting club. This compensation ranges from no penalty for offers between $1 and $1,356,540 million, and goes all the way to four first round picks for offers higher than $10,276,830 million.
For many, the last number on this list is extremely daunting. As of right now, the Canucks are projected to have around $16 million in cap space to sign both Pettersson and Hughes, once you factor in LTIR, as well as the handful of players that will eventually make their way to Abbotsford.
Not the tightest wallet to work with, fortunately, especially when considering the restricted financial situations of some of the other teams in the league, but still definitely not enough to sign both players to long-term deals, or to realistically match an offer of $10+ million without affecting Hughes’ contract negotiations.
It’s almost important to factor in other contracts that have been finalized around the league over the past few seasons. The best comparable would be centre Mathew Barzal, who inked a three-year, $21 million bridge deal in January 2020. Prior to his new contract, the 24-year-old Coquitlam native had played in 69 more games and had notched 54 more points than Pettersson, while also playing a similar role in the Islanders’ line-up.
Some might also look at Andrei Svechnikov and Sean Couturier, both of whom were extended to similar contracts just this past week, but that’s a bit of an undersell for Pettersson, given Svechnikov’s numbers and position in Carolina, as well as Couturier’s veteran role in Philly.
The compensation for offers like these? A trio of first, second and third round picks.
Despite all of these facts and speculation, it appears that the front office isn’t phased at all.
Shortly after the expansion draft, General Manager Jim Benning took to the radio waves, boldly stating that the Canucks’ organization would “match any offer sheet” that came their way for the former fifth-overall selection.
There’s no doubt that Benning pulled off a handful of smart managerial moves in order to gain more financial flexibility for his RFA stars. It’s also always reassuring to hear that your team’s front office will do whatever it takes to hold onto their best players, even if those same people haven’t stayed true to their word in the past (*cough* Tyler Toffoli *cough*).
Plus, according to Pettersson’s agents, as well as team insiders, it appears that both parties aren’t too worried when it comes to extending the Swedish centre, whether it be bridge or long-term, which should ease the anxiety of Canucks fans.
The team still has just under a month before their training camp kicks off in Abbotsford, with preseason games set to take place between September 26th and October 9th, followed by the season opener on October 13th in Edmonton.
In other words, there’s still plenty of time left on the clock. Yes, Benning’s initial statement took place in July, and lots has changed since then, but many are still expecting that the negotiations won’t disturb the upcoming 2021-22 campaign.
Of course, for Benning, he’d like to finalize both deals much sooner rather than later. But, as we’ve seen before, anything could happen between now and the first puck drop, so we’ll just have to hold on tight for the rest of this ride.
What are your thoughts, Canucks fans? Do you think Pettersson will receive an offer sheet? Or will Benning be able to lock down the Swedish centre soon? Let us know in the comments!