The Vancouver Canucks answered some important questions over the summer, but many remain as the focus shifts from off-season transactions to on-ice action.
One of those questions, of course, is around the status of contract talks between Canucks management and star forward Elias Pettersson.
Asked about those conversations during the team’s season-opening press conference on Wednesday, Canucks GM Patrik Allvin took a tone similar to that of the star centreman who earlier this summer indicated there’s no need to rush into these talks.
“Well, first, he’s an RFA so we have another two years. So, that’s where there is no rush, versus if he was a UFA,” said Allvin.
Pettersson enters a contract year and if he remains unsigned will become a restricted free agent next summer. While that means there’s plenty of time for both sides to determine the best path forward, it leaves open the possibility he could go through arbitration next summer and sign a one-year deal that would walk him right into unrestricted free agency in 2025.
“The relationship myself and Jim have with his camp, we talk. We talk about a lot of things. But at this point, we feel that we’ll settle in here and Elias really wanted to emphasize and focus on having a good summer and he came in here 10 days ago and I believe that he’s in really good shape and excited where we are, the moves we made this summer, the direction the team and the organization is heading, and how we’ve got to play. So, at some point I’m definitely sure we’ll pick it up here again, but as I said I have a good relationship with Elias and his agent and I feel good about the situation.”
Pettersson will count for $7.35 million against the cap this year, the third and final year of the bridge deal he signed under former GM Jim Benning.
Asked whether there was dialogue ongoing, Allvin said, “We basically left it open here … and we will continue to talk.”
Wednesday’s press conference came one day after the club traded forward Tanner Pearson, a move that ended a long and unfortunate saga that saw Pearson undergo multiple procedures following an injury to his hand that was initially slated to hold him out only a month. Pearson now gets a fresh start in Montreal, while the Canucks acquire some insurance in net in the form of Casey DeSmith as well as a bit of cap space — $1.45 million worth, to be exact.
Allvin said the deal was the result of a combination of factors, including making room for younger players that could be ready to jump into the lineup.
“Yeah, it definitely was a combination. I want to thank Tanner for his five years here, especially going through what he did last year. Put his hours in and showing up here in good shape,” he said. “I couldn’t guarantee him ice time and a roster spot, and we felt that this was a hockey deal where we improved our depth in net … getting an established goalie, with Casey DeSmith.
“The improvement of our younger wingers made us excited, and we felt that this was a move that freed up some some cap flexibility as well. So, we wish Tanner and his family all the best moving forward.”
The cap crunch, of course, is far from resolved in Vancouver. Team president Jim Rutherford said Wednesday he feels the team is still “a contract or two” away from where he’d like the franchise to be.
Wednesday’s media availability also came on the heels of the club’s announcement that defenceman Tucker Poolman won’t be at training camp after being sidelined all but three games in 2022-23 as he continues to deal with ongoing migraine symptoms. Allvin said Wednesday the team has no expectation that he will play this season, and are “supporting him and helping him in any ways to get his life back and feel good.”
“Obviously, when you’re coming into a situation like this over the last couple of years, haven’t played much, hockey becomes secondary,” Allvin said.