As the Vancouver Canucks prepare to start training camp for the 2021-22 NHL season, there is one question hanging above the franchise… Will Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning find a way to get both Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes signed before the regular season kicks off?
While both players are currently restricted free agents (RFA’s), their perceived value is well above what the average bridge deal would entail. Pettersson is an electric top-six center who was on pace to score 30 goals in his first two seasons before they were cut short, where Hughes is a top-four defenseman who has one of the highest offensive ceilings in the entire NHL.
Despite this potential, both players also have clear shortcomings in their game that are indicative of a player their age. They still have many years of hockey ahead of them to learn and grow before they will be at top form, meaning that Benning may not be ready to give them that big $7-plus million per year contract just yet.
Due to this, negotiations between both parties stalled throughout the offseason, meaning that the Canucks will be entering training camp with this major issue still hanging over the franchise. While it may be the topic of conversation, Benning still feels that they’re “not that far apart” in their contract discussions.
“We’ve been dealing with that all summer, and I’m disappointed that they’re not going to be here for the start of camp,” Benning said “I don’t think we’re that far apart, but these are complex deals for two young players that are an important part of our group, so we are going to continue to work with Pat (the agent who represents both Pettersson and Hughes) until we get something figured out.”
Benning Must Get Pettersson and Hughes’ Contracts Right
There’s no doubt that being an NHL general manager is a stressful job, but the situation Benning finds himself in right now is one of the toughest in the league. Not only is he trying to improve a roster that failed to reach the 2021 playoffs after making a surprise run to Game 7 of the Second Round in the 2020 postseason, but he is doing so knowing that he needs to commit millions in cap space to his two young stars.
However, if he overpays either of the duo, it will cut deeply into his remaining cap space, which may make it impossible to sign the other. So, Benning will have to play a balancing act to get both under contract at a cap hit they agree to that will still give him the room needed to make a deal with the other.
To put it simply, that will not be an easy task. Both Hughes and Pettersson are rising stars who will, rightfully, demand a premium contract. Even with the issues in their respective play on the ice, Vancouver will be a significantly worse team if they take the ice on opening night without either of them.
So, Benning will have to play the situation perfectly to get an all-around positive outcome. Luckily, there still is enough time to get this sorted out and both players ready for the start of the regular season, but with every passing day, that will get a little bit more difficult.
However, if you’re the Canucks, it may be more important to get these long-term deals right rather than to rush an extension for the start of the season. Given the situation, however, one should expect Benning and both Hughes and Pettersson to figure out a new contract that makes both parties happy so they can get back to the thing that matters most, playing hockey and winning games.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.