The time of Tanner Pearson in Vancouver Canucks blue & green is over. Whether it ended because of injuries, his contract, or just because management didn’t want him, his stay was an eventful one.
No Pearson in Vancouver Canucks Plans
Everyone knew that the Vancouver Canucks were in tight this season. They had little in the way of salary cap space and needed to find room for some prospects. A surplus of players on the wing made getting value back for them difficult.
Taking what value they could, the Canucks managed to shift Pearson out in return for a veteran backup goaltender. It cost the team yet another draft pick, but that was a better price than they got to move Jason Dickinson‘s deal.
In The Beginning
Pearson came to Vancouver at a low ebb. His 2018-19 started as a disaster, getting one point in 17 games with the LA Kings before getting shipped to Pittsburgh. The Penguins kept him for just 44 games before they decided they wanted Erik Gudbranson more.
It was a long fall from being on the most dangerous line in the 2013-14 Stanley Cup Playoffs. But a funny thing happened in Vancouver. He started scoring again. His nine goals in 44 Penguins games were repeated in just 19 games with the Canucks.
He found chemistry with linemates Bo Horvat and Loui Eriksson, working on both special teams. The next season, though it was truncated, was the best scoring rate of his career. Pearson scored 21 goals and 45 points in just 69 games. The best part? It wasn’t even in a contract year!
Show Me Some Money!
Career-best years were often bad news for Canucks fans. There was legitimate reason to think that the Canucks would be overpaying Pearson in Vancouver. And Jim Benning liked him.
And what wasn’t to like? He played well on the second line, was responsible defensively and contributed to the offence. He liked his board work and getting the puck to others. Somehow, he made playing with Loui Eriksson work. He even contributed four goals and eight points in 17 playoff games that year.
Still, the team had time to negotiate with him. There was at least one more year with Pearson in Vancouver, and if he kept up anything like this pace, then of course he should be paid for it.
The next year, needless to say, was an utter disaster.
It wasn’t just Pearson, of course. The entire team was a straight-up disaster, just in time to trade away their first-round pick for the second year in a row. Some individual performances were solid, but Pearson’s was not one of them.
In arguably his worst all-around season, he managed just 10 goals and 18 points in 51 games. And yet, since Jim Benning liked him and there was still a happy glow from a playoff series past, he got a three-year deal with the team.
To many people’s surprise, Pearson took a pay cut to stay with the team. The three-year contract included no-trade clauses in the first two years and a bonus payment in the third, but a player took a pay cut! In Vancouver!
Fortunately, that nightmare season gave way to a more normal 14-goal, 34-point 2021-22. He put together solid – if overpaid – middle-six numbers and put his career back on track.
But who said life with the Canucks was easy?
No Break for Pearson in Vancouver
Did someone say “nightmare season”? Already off to a shaky start with just one goal in 14 games, Pearson sustained a wrist injury in Montreal. While it shouldn’t have ended his season, the initial corrective surgery didn’t take.
Neither did surgeries two through six. Fortunately, seven does seem to be a lucky number for Tanner Pearson – allowing him to be traded to the Montreal Canadiens earlier this week.
One side effect to come from the injury is, indirectly, the captaincy of Quinn Hughes. A repeated talking point brought up in the defenceman’s favour was how he spoke out about his teammate’s treatment. That forced Jim Rutherford to call a press conference – his first in weeks.
It wasn’t long after that conference, combined with heavy criticism for his treatment of then-coach Bruce Boudreau, that Rutherford decided to spend less time in the public eye. He turned over much of the visible work to Patrik Allvin.
Not a Surprise, But Kinda
After a year like that, it would be unsurprising if Pearson wanted to move on. Vancouver, for its part, won’t mind opening a spot for one of the younger and cheaper players. The nearly $1.5 million in cap savings doesn’t hurt, either.
As for Casey DeSmith, he is an experienced backup in the NHL. He didn’t have a good year last season, but Spencer Martin was no better. Adding DeSmith lets the Canucks keep Arturs Silovs in Abbotsford as the starter, even in the event of injury.
Is the team done? It’s hard to say, but probably not. They’d surely like to move another $2 million in cap space before training camp, just to be working with the players they’ll have for the year.
But if they don’t manage that, cap compliance is at least within reach. And they won’t need a broken arm to get there.
Main Photo Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports