A new perspective on Pettersson's contract situation

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On Saturday, Sportsnet's Elliotte Freidman reported that teams were beginning to call the Vancouver Canucks to enquire about Elias Pettersson's potential availability, once again fanning the flames of a fire that has, at times this season has been a spark and at others, an inferno. The latter, often after a Friedman report. 

The Canucks ended their first losing skid of the entire season in dramatic fashion against arch-rival Boston that same night, one that marked a return of the Green Men, Brock Boeser adding to his career high in goals, and JT Miller playing one of his best games as a Canucks player, as did Nakita Zadorov. Yet, all anyone in Vancouver wants to talk about since is Pettersson’s contract situation. 

I've tried to avoid the debates raging throughout the year and just let myself enjoy the best campaign the Canucks have played since 2011. I have held my thoughts primarily to myself in this regard, thoughts that have waned but generally leaned toward Petey somewhat holding the team hostage, and a feeling that for someone who says he just wants to play for a winner, he’s sure making it difficult for his GM to build one around him. 

Patrik Allvin has done a marvelous job acquiring pieces throughout the lineup that have quickly turned the team into a contender. Many of these players are pending free agents that Allvin would undoubtedly like to begin re-signing based on priority. The problem is priority number one is signing Pettersson, who only talks contract after the season. Until that domino falls, the rest are in limbo.

But Allvin isn’t the only GM Pettersson has played for in his Canucks career; he spent his first three and a half years under Jim Benning when the tone in Vancouver was much different. Perhaps never worse than when, after their bubble run, the Canucks let veteran leaders Jakob Markstrom, the beloved Chris Tanev, and newly acquired Tyler Toffoli, who had developed some chemistry with Elias Pettersson during his short stint in Vancouver, walk for nothing. A reminder of this by Bik Nizzar, while listening to “The Peoples Show” on Sportsnet 650 Monday afternoon, struck a chord and finally got me engaged in the conversation. 

Dan Riccio and Bik, who were filling in for regular host Satiar Shaw, debated the situation all afternoon. Dan posited that Petey must either be unsure whether he wants to re-sign in Vancouver or positive that he doesn’t and is walking himself as close to free agency as possible before asking for a trade. Why, Dan wondered, would Petey not have signed by now if he knew he wanted to remain a Canuck; Rutherford and Allvin having already made it clear they are willing to roll out the red carpet and sign him, within reason, to whatever term and money he wants? That is a good point by Riccio and one I agreed with. 

Bik’s retort, however, surprised me and may have changed my mind on the matter entirely. He pointed out that when they let Markstrom, Tanev and Toffoli walk, the organization essentially "hit pause on competing." Yes, Covid created special circumstances, but Pettersson was hungry to win, Covid or no Covid, and this did not sit well with him. His prime years were being wasted by a team content with losing. Bik essentially proposed that perhaps Pettersson is waiting to see just how far the team is now willing to go to make up for that time. 

The majority of Canucks fans seem happy with the addition of Elias Lindholm, especially since the deal didn’t require them to trade either of their top prospects. After all, you always have to have one eye on the future. This may make sense if you’re a fan and don’t want to see the cupboards run empty after an all-in cycle.

The same goes for ownership and management alike, who try to strike a balance between contending now and remaining competitive in years to come. Who might this not appeal to? The players. The players want to win. They don’t care about draft picks or prospects or what the attendance record could look like four years later. Especially a player as competitive and hungry to win as Elias Pettersson. Even more so, a player who watched his team choose to stop competing for years of his prime. 


Perhaps Pettersson is waiting for them to see if the organization will be willing to go to the extreme in the other direction in the name of glory. Maybe Elias is now holding management's feet to the fire to go truly all-in to land a star winger and finally give him a true running mate, even if it means giving up Tom Willander and Jonathan Lekkerimäki, and whatever else it takes.