How the Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes Deals Fit

pettersson and hughes

It’s Christmas in October for Vancouver Canucks fans as Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes each signed their second deals on October 1st. Here’s how they will work for the players and the team.

Effects of the Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes Contracts

Of Agents and Agency

It was always going to be a balancing act between the team, the players, and the players’ agent. The fact that they share an agent now has benefits for both the players and the club. The players can use each other for reinforcement, and the team can say “Here’s the money we have. How do you want it split?”

It’s worth noting that the agency – CAA Sports LLC – negotiated both the Tyler Myers and Loui Eriksson deals. Not a great comfort to Canucks fans. But the deals that emerged for Hughes and Pettersson are actually quite good — certainly better than the aforementioned duo by any standard. Let’s take a closer look.

Of Cores and Commitments

Vancouver was never going to get the two stars signed long-term for the amount they had, so a bridge is no surprise. Yes, a deal may have been reached that meant moving other players out, but it’s quite clear the team was uninterested in doing that. So Pettersson and Hughes are coming to town with shiny new deals to live up to. Can they achieve such marks?

Pettersson’s Deal

As Pettersson himself put it, he wants to be on a winning team. Moving parts out isn’t a great sign you’re doing that. Here’s what the Canucks’ top-line centre got in his deal (hat tip to CapFriendly for the numbers):

$4 million total salary in 2021-22 ($3 million base + $1 million signing bonus)
$7.8 million in 2022-23 (all salary, no bonus)
$10.25 million in 2023-24 (all salary, no bonus)

As you can see, that’s quite the accelerated pay raise. The biggest reason for that is because the NHL is taking a sizable portion of player salaries in escrow as teams recover from their COVID losses. That escrow will go down as fans return to the buildings and teams make more money. It’s set between 14-18% in 2021-22, 10% next season, and just 6% from 2022-23 through 2025-26. A lower paycheque now means less money taken in escrow. That’s not taken from bonus money, either, so Pettersson gets that $1 million in cash in year one.

Just to clarify, the next qualifying offer is NOT dependent on his $10.25 million year. Instead, as with any deal signed after July 10 of 2020, it’s based on the average value of the contract. This means it’s a much friendlier team salary of $7.35 million. The qualifying offer is 120% of that at $8.82 million.

Good or Bad Deal?

This contract is good. Great, even. This deal is one that Pettersson is virtually guaranteed to outperform. And as a bonus, if he lives up to his potential, he’ll be worth a much bigger deal next. If that’s eight years it means he’ll only be 32 when it expires. Not much risk of age-related regression on that contract! If he got a six-year deal, he’d be –

Tell you what, let’s just go there.

Hughes’ Deal

A good argument could be made that the more important player of the two is Hughes. A number-one defenceman has massive responsibilities, plays more than the forwards, and is something every team is hunting for. They are only available in trades with extreme rarity and they are expensive. So here Hughes does have a higher total cost but potentially carries more value than Pettersson.

$4 million total salary in 2021-22
$6.5 million in 2022-23
$8.6 million in 2023-24
$9.5 million in 2024-25
$10.25 million in 2025-26
$8.25 million in 2026-27

The same sort of escrow-dodging in Pettersson’s deal is visible here and for much the same reason. But the fun part is in the last year. The Canucks are buying a year of free agency, which is the earliest any sort of trade protection could apply. But none are listed. Add the drop in cost, Hughes becomes slightly easier to trade in that last year, should the Canucks feel the need.

Hughes will turn 22 years old two days after the 2021-22 season is underway. In the final year of this deal, he’ll be 27. The player and team will have a lot to talk about by then. If the Canucks haven’t had consistent success, he may well get dealt. With a deal shaped this way, it’s an option. And who knows what a top-line defenceman will be worth by then?

Good or Bad Deal?

Like the Pettersson deal, this one is very good. There were some grumblings* about not getting both players long-term, but the year was a strange one. If a deal was signed at seasons’ end, the team may well have locked up both players for a relatively low rate. The essentially flat salary cap combined with the financial hit team owners took made it look like salaries would stagnate a little. That didn’t happen, with massive, record-breaking deals handed out to several players. And Creative Artists Agency (CAA) aren’t amateurs. They waited until comparable deals were signed elsewhere before wrapping up their respective contracts with Vancouver.

Even so, Quinn’s $7.85 million average value for six years is looking like a low-risk deal for the team.

About the Team

As we mentioned before, this isn’t the 1970s. Neither player is out of shape, even if they aren’t quite up to speed just yet. With two preseason games remaining, they do have several new teammates to meet and – hopefully – work with. Pettersson steps onto a top line that may or may not have J.T. Miller on it. At least at the start of the season, it may not have Brock Boeser on it, either. And, unfortunately, it looks like Brandon Sutter is still trying to shake off the effects of last season’s COVID-19 attack and an injured shoulder. With him and Tyler Motte gone, Miller could be earmarked for anchoring the third line. That would open a spot for Conor Garland at Pettersson’s wing.

Hughes may or may not have last season’s defensive partner this year, with Travis Hamonic undecided about his return. Hamonic did not opt-out this season, but what happens next is still well in the air. The team has several options, but whether those options are better than having Hamonic is debatable at best. They range from pairing him with Luke Schenn – with whom Hughes played briefly in his 9-game call-up in 2019 – to moving Brad Hunt to his off side, to skating with Tyler Myers. A Myers-Hughes pair has experience together but was only deployed when the team was down a goal late. It seems unlikely coach Travis Green would be up for that as a regular unit.

All told, Pettersson and Hughes have some catching up to do. And now they have less than two weeks to do so.

*Among Canucks fans? Say it ain’t so!

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images


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