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Why is Elias Pettersson’s contract a story right now?

None of the material facts have changed, but Elias Pettersson's situation with the Vancouver Canucks is suddenly major news.
Elias Pettersson is a pending restricted free agent in line for a massive contract. But will it be with the Vancouver Canucks?

Elias Pettersson’s next contract has the potential to be one of the biggest stories in Vancouver Canucks history. 

The 25-year-old forward is on pace for his second-straight 100+ point season, which would make him the first Swedish player ever to accomplish that feat. If the pending restricted free agent re-signs with the Canucks on a long-term contract, it will surely be the biggest contract in franchise history, dwarfing the total value of the previous record, Roberto Luongo’s 12-year, $64 million deal. 

One alternative is that Pettersson refuses to sign a long-term deal and forces a trade, just like Matthew Tkachuk did two years ago, which would have the potential to be the most consequential trade in franchise history.

Either way, history will be made.

But why is this a story now?

"What exactly is going on here?"

The Canucks are currently first in the NHL in points and are coming off an emotional, cathartic win over the Boston Bruins. Pettersson is currently in the top ten in NHL scoring, not far behind J.T. Miller for the Canucks lead in scoring. There are lots of stories to be told about how the Canucks have put together this unexpected success, what still needs to be fixed, and what to expect as they push into the playoffs.

Instead, the Canucks story that everyone has been talking bout ad nauseum is Pettersson and whether he’ll be in Vancouver long term. 

On a surface level, this became a topic of conversation because of a report from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman over the weekend.

“One of the things that I think has developed over the last couple of weeks in Vancouver is the amount of noise around Pettersson,” said Friedman on the national Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. “I think what that has led to is teams calling the Canucks and saying, ‘What exactly is going on here and could he be available?’ Now, the Canucks do not want to comment on this. They feel the noise is already enough. But they are telling teams, ‘We are trying to sign him and that is our goal.’”

This Friedman bomb on a national level has led to all sorts of coverage on the local level but let’s just take a moment to question what exactly is new in this report.

Has anything actually changed for Pettersson and the Canucks?

Essentially, the only new information here is that an unknown number of teams have contacted the Canucks inquiring about whether Elias Pettersson might be available in a trade and the Canucks have said no, he is not.

Because why would Pettersson be available in a trade right now? The Canucks are at the top of the NHL standings and Pettersson is a major part of that success. They’ve already made a blockbuster trade with their 2024 first-round pick, going all-in on this season in hopes of winning the Stanley Cup. There is absolutely no chance that the Canucks would actually trade Pettersson ahead of the deadline a month from now. 

At the same time, any team that doesn't make a call to the Canucks inquiring about Pettersson isn’t doing their due diligence. Imagine missing out on acquiring a franchise forward because you didn’t make a simple phone call. “I didn’t even know he was available” is a regular refrain after big trades, but that just sounds like an admission that the general manager in question isn’t doing his job.

So yes, it makes sense that teams would slide into the Canucks’ DMs hoping for a hook-up and it makes just as much sense that the Canucks would politely decline. But why is this a story right now?

Friedman obviously heard from a source — or sources — that teams have talked to the Canucks about Pettersson. 

That source could be other front offices around the NHL, letting Friedman know that they’ve reached out to the Canucks. It could be the Canucks themselves, intentionally leaking information in hopes of speeding along contract negotiations with Pettersson. Or it could be an unintentional leak from the Canucks from someone frustrated with the situation.

There’s a certain irony in the Canucks letting people go from the organization because they were worried about leaks when one of the most likely sources for many of the leaks is the one guy they can’t fire. 

Pettersson wants to wait until the offseason to negotiate a new contract

In any case, the Canucks are allowed to be frustrated that Pettersson doesn’t want to talk about a new contract right now but that doesn’t change the facts. 

Pettersson made it clear ahead of the season — in an interview with Friedman, natch — that he didn’t want to negotiate his next contract during the season so that he could focus on hockey. He reiterated that desire back in January, saying, “Wait until end of the year.”

Sure, the Canucks would like to get Pettersson locked up to a long-term contract as soon as possible — it would certainly make free agency easier to navigate if they knew Pettersson’s cap hit ahead of time — but it’s Pettersson’s right to wait. 

Heck, when Pettersson signed his three-year bridge deal in 2021, it was already understood that he could sign his one-year qualifying offer and walk to unrestricted free agency. The facts of this story have been known for ages and Friedman’s report didn’t actually change any of those facts.

The Canucks’ front office should keep touching base with Pettersson’s agent to see if he’s willing to change his mind about signing a new contract in-season. They should also be exploring their options and working through scenarios just in case Pettersson doesn’t want to re-sign long-term — they wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t.

But right now, there are no new developments. The story is the same now as it was months ago. Pettersson wants to wait to negotiate his contract. The Canucks aren’t going to trade him during the season. The two parties are in a holding pattern until the offseason.

There’s nothing wrong with discussing this situation, of course. Again, this is shaping up to be one of the biggest stories in Canucks history, so it’s worth revisiting now and then, especially for those in talk radio with hours of airspace to fill. 

At the same time, there’s no need for histrionics or panic. The situation has not materially changed. The song remains the same. Everyone calm down.

Of course, it's entirely possible that the Canucks do trade Elias Pettersson ahead of the trade deadline. It's just likely to be the other Elias Pettersson — the defenceman prospect still playing in Sweden. Now that will be a confusing story.