It came down to the wire, but the boys are back.
After weeks of speculation the Canucks finally put ink to paper yesterday, signing franchise stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes to contract extensions totaling a very nice $69.15 million over the next six years. Pettersson returns on a three-year bridge deal with an AAV of $7.35 million, while Hughes’ landed the longer term six-year term with a team-leading AAV of $7.85 million.
The pair of deals Jim Benning walked away with after months of negotiating each have their positives, but they’re far from perfect. Two generational talents on your salary cap for under $8 million each is impressive. Only signing one to a long term contract? A bit less so.
While Hughes’ new deal makes him a Canuck until at least 2027, Pettersson’s three-year bridge is another case of Vancouver management kicking the can down the road. A flat cap and prioritizing supporting cast signings worked to shrink what little cap space the Canucks had left this offseason, forcing the team to make a tough decision on their star centre.
Three years seems like plenty of time right now, but in reality the Canucks have only this season and the next before both sides are able to head back to the negotiating table. And that’s without factoring in the other big names that’ll need new contracts over the next few years, including Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, Nils Höglander and J.T. Miller.
In other words, the long term path for the Canucks is as murky as ever. The short term plan, on the other hand, is crystal clear: it’s playoffs or bust.
The offseason moves that brought Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Conor Garland and Jason Dickinson to Vancouver sent a clear message that management team only has postseason aspirations on their minds. Pettersson’s new contract puts a definitive timer on it.
If all goes according to plan, the price that Pettersson will command in 2024 could reach well into the double digits. Meaning the Canucks have three years to utilize the savings from his new contract as best they can, move out any bad money left on the books and construct a Cup contender as best they can around him and Hughes.
If the duo’s media availability was any indication, the prospect of a contending team played a heavy factor in the way these deals were finalized. “I think this is probably the best roster we’ve had in my three years here,” Hughes said Sunday morning.
“I think Jim [Benning] made some great moves this offseason, and that’s a big part why me and Petey wanted to get back.”
Pettersson echoed those sentiments. “I’m really excited, our team’s looking really well.”
Whether the Canucks can deliver on those winning expectations is anybody’s guess, and it won’t be long before we’re talking about contracts with Pettersson again. But for now fans are guaranteed three more seasons of a Canucks core growing into its full potential, led by two of the greatest young talents in franchise history.
We’re going to need a lot more ink.
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