How the Elias Pettersson deal got done: A trade offer, a face-to-face meeting and a change of heart

Life moves fast.

One week ago today, reports that teams were calling the Vancouver Canucks to test the club on pending restricted free agent and superstar centre Elias Pettersson were surfaced by Elliotte Friedman on Hockey Night in Canada.

Less than a week later, the details of a max-term extension that will keep Pettersson in Vancouver through 2032 were all but agreed to. Pettersson slept on the completed offer on Friday night, and signed it on Saturday morning at Rogers Arena.



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It was a dramatic week punctuated by high-decibel noise, intense local speculation, a face-to-face meeting between Pettersson and Canucks brass, and a serious, credible offer for Pettersson’s services from the Carolina Hurricanes. And it ended with the team flying out to Southern California to continue their dream campaign, with Pettersson in tow, his future as a Canucks star secured.

The Athletic’s Rick Dhaliwal and Thomas Drance have worked the phones to try and ferret out what exactly occurred in a game-changing week for the Canucks and their superstar pivot, culminating in his historic extension, the biggest contract in Canucks history.

How things changed on the Elias Pettersson front

Pettersson hasn’t been at his absolute best over the past month, but make no mistake, he’s a singular talent.

The sixth Canucks player to ever crest the 100-point mark in a single season, Pettersson ranks in the top 10 in NHL scoring since the start of 2022. He’s fourth in scoring among centremen. He’s pacing toward his second consecutive 100-point campaign and he’s just 25.

Combine that superstar scoring profile with his still-precocious age and his consistent two-way reliability, and you have a franchise player — the sort of player the Canucks needed to keep in Vancouver for the long haul.

Pettersson, who became extension-eligible on July 1, 2023, had preferred to defer a decision on signing long-term in Vancouver until after the season. He’s always enjoyed living in the city and playing here, but for much of the campaign, he hasn’t been prepared to consider the possibility of negotiating long-term. He’d been crystal clear on that point, both publicly and privately.

During All-Star weekend, for example, Pettersson met with his agents Pat Brisson and JP Barry of Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to discuss his future. And at that meeting, the Canucks star once again reaffirmed his position. His preference was to wait and he remained steadfast that he didn’t want to consider his future at length until after the conclusion of Vancouver’s season.

On the Canucks side, there was some mounting frustration at the slow pace of contract talks. Moments of optimism about the prospect of getting the deal done in expedited fashion — including this past summer, and again this past fall — ultimately amounted to nothing. The team, however, remained confident throughout that they would ultimately be able to retain the player.

In the background, as this season has gone along, the two sides have stayed in close contact, even if the negotiations weren’t precisely active from the perspective of getting a deal done. Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin had kept in close touch with Pettersson’s various representatives on possible frameworks of prospective Pettersson contracts featuring various term lengths in the five-to-eight-year range. Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford and Brisson, meanwhile, on multiple occasions specifically discussed the Matthew Tkachuk precedent — Tkachuk was an RFA when he informed the Calgary Flames in the summer of 2022 that he wouldn’t sign an extension in Calgary, utilizing that leverage to force a trade to a destination of his choosing — as a risk that the Canucks needed to manage.

While the Canucks were quietly confident that they would get a Pettersson deal done eventually, they were mindful of not getting backed into a corner in negotiations with a franchise-calibre player.

Early this week, with the rumours around Pettersson hitting a particularly harsh crescendo, the player sat down with Rutherford and Allvin for a face-to-face meeting.

At the outset of that meeting, Pettersson’s preference remained to wait on contract talks until after the season. His stance, however, was finally beginning to soften.

Allvin and Rutherford, meanwhile, pitched Pettersson on getting the deal done quickly. They told him a long-term deal to keep him in Vancouver was their top priority and discussed a shared sense that the lingering uncertainty was becoming a distraction and an unwelcome one given the club’s perch atop the Pacific Division standings. Why not do the deal now and get it done with, if they were likely to do it anyway?



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We’ve also been told that Canucks brass brought up the Tkachuk consideration to Pettersson, explaining to him that the club didn’t want to get caught in a similar situation.  And finally, the Canucks did let him know directly that teams were in fact calling to inquire about his availability. It was something the club had to at least consider.

Depending on who you speak with, the extent to which this outcome — a long-term Pettersson extension — was driven by Vancouver’s trade consideration differs somewhat. Various principals believe that Pettersson was always likely to do a deal to remain in Vancouver eventually anyway. In this formulation, it’s suggested that the team just convinced the player to accelerate the timeline slightly to get a distraction off his plate ahead of the playoffs.

That the Hurricanes made the Canucks a serious, credible trade offer for Pettersson’s services this week is a fact, though. Whether the trade was actually a serious consideration for Rutherford and Allvin, or not, is less certain.

In any event, the prospect of a trade was broached in the meeting between Pettersson and Canucks brass this week. Shortly thereafter, Pettersson gave his representatives the green light to get a deal done.

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The Hurricanes made a serious offer for Pettersson earlier this week. (Derek Cain / Getty Images)

From there, things moved quickly, which was partly the result of the groundwork previously laid.

With the William Nylander contract ($11.5 million cap hit) setting a floor and Nathan MacKinnon’s contract ($12.6 million cap hit) setting the ceiling, it was something of a paint-by-numbers exercise. The main decision was on term, and the two sides did seriously consider contract structures in the five- and six-year range. Vancouver was open to various formulations, but they narrowly preferred max-term.

The Canucks’ main priority was managing Pettersson’s cap hit, and they were willing to tilt the structure of the deal — the deal is very player-friendly in that it’s front-loaded, signing-bonus-laden and carries a full no-move clause — in the player’s favour to make it as team-friendly as possible. Ultimately, too, Pettersson did give the Canucks a bit of a discount relative to what he could’ve pushed for.

In any event, the desire of all sides to shut off the overwhelming noise that surrounded the lengthy extension talks stalemate, and the pressure that was added to the situation by the Carolina offer, served to stimulate extension talks between the Canucks and Pettersson this week.

The agreement was done quickly from there.

The Carolina offer

The offer the Hurricanes made to the Canucks for Pettersson was a serious one. It was, in fact, more serious than people realize.

It wasn’t enough to cause the Canucks to actually trade Pettersson. It was, however, enough to make them think.

While credible trade talks occurred between the Canucks and the Hurricanes this week, it never got to the point where the Hurricanes had permission to talk to the player. And in any event, if Pettersson wasn’t talking with the Canucks about an extension, he wasn’t going to talk extension with the Hurricanes.

Not that it mattered from Carolina’s side. They would’ve been comfortable acquiring Pettersson without an extension in place.

As best we understand it, the Carolina offer was built around a pair of talented young roster players, a first-round pick and an additional high-end prospect.

It’s worth noting that all sides, both the Canucks and Pettersson’s representatives, were furious that the existence of the Carolina offer leaked into the public record as negotiations were ongoing.

The impact of the Pettersson deal

The Pettersson deal will fundamentally alter the certainty of Vancouver’s long-term cap planning and roster construction. That’s more of a long-term consideration, however. This week, it won’t significantly impact or alter Vancouver’s deadline plans.

Now that the Canucks have doled out the largest slice of their 2024-25 cap space pie to their most important player on an expiring deal, however, their attention will turn — most likely after the deadline — to the litany of other expiring players on their roster.

Filip Hronek is the key name to watch here. The pending restricted free agent has arbitration rights and is enjoying a career year playing mostly on Quinn Hughes’ right side. Together the two have formed one of the NHL’s most dominant top pairs, and have arguably been the club’s key five-on-five engine.

The Canucks’ preference has always been to lock Hronek up long term, but given his statistical performance this season and his arbitration rights, it could be a complicated deal to get done.

After Hronek, the club has a variety of key glue guys also expiring on July 1: Teddy Blueger, Dakota Joshua, Sam Lafferty, Tyler Myers, Ian Cole and Nikita Zadorov among them.

The Canucks can’t keep them all, much as they might like to. Management knows that, and is planning for it.

The club’s priority will be to keep those players they think are indispensable to the team’s ability to contend over the medium term. Some efforts to talk extension with key expiring players will begin in earnest shortly.

Meanwhile, given the certainty that the Canucks will need to affordably build out the depth of their lineup next season, the stakes of their internal development down in Abbotsford are sky high down the stretch.

After an impressive cup of coffee with the Canucks over the past week, forward Arshdeep Bains was re-assigned to Abbotsford on Friday. Bains impressed Canucks coaches and management significantly during his run of NHL games, and will have an inside track to win a full-time NHL job at training camp next fall.

In the meantime, the team will want him to continue his development at the American League level. With Bains’ long-term development in mind, the organization’s plan — provided that they can avoid a run of injuries that would alter this arithmetic — is for Bains to participate in the Calder Cup playoffs this spring, as opposed to competing for a fourth-line job in the Canucks lineup come playoff time.

Additionally, look for Vasili Podkolzin to get a look at the NHL level down the stretch here. The club has missed the heaviness and weight that Dakota Joshua brought to their lineup sorely since his injury, and Podkolzin can potentially help address that.

While Vancouver has mostly been focused on rebuilding Podkolzin’s confidence at the AHL level this season, the team wants him to get a taste of NHL action down the stretch prior to the playoffs.

Trade deadline plans

Will the Canucks swing another big trade before the March 8 NHL trade deadline?

This is an aggressive front office and there are still needs on this Canucks roster that management would like to address, to strengthen this team ahead of the playoffs.

Things can change in a hurry at this time of year, so take what follows with that context in mind. Our best sense going into the final week of NHL trading activity, however, is that the Canucks are more likely to opt for a mid-range move than they are to go big.

At the root of this is the team’s reluctance to part with the sort of asset weaponry that may be required to reel in one of the big remaining names on the trade market. It would be hubris to describe Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Tom Willander and even Elias Pettersson (the defenseman) as “untouchables,” for example, but they’re very, very close to it. The team wants to keep all three.

Likewise, the team is also deeply reluctant to trade their 2025 first-round pick. There’s a feeling internally that this isn’t necessarily the time for the Canucks to sit on the sidelines of the first round of the draft in consecutive seasons.

In fact, the sense we get is that the Canucks may be more open to dealing a player off of their NHL roster, as opposed to parting with those four premium future assets.

Reporting on a team’s plans at this time of year is a dangerous game. A bidding war can change a team’s intentions in a hurry, a prospect that looms especially large given that some of the most aggressive prospective buyers — the Edmonton Oilers and the Vegas Golden Knights — are among the teams Vancouver is most likely to face in the playoffs.

If the Canucks are as intent on holding firm to their 2025 first-round pick and their top prospects as they seem to be, however, it’s difficult to see them catching one of the big fish remaining in the pond.

All of that said, Vancouver will still try to be creative in figuring out ways to improve their team. A forward who can help the team score at five-on-five remains the organization’s top priority heading into the deadline, although the Canucks would be open to bolstering their defensive depth and bringing in some size up front if the right opportunity presents itself.

Tyler Toffoli is an interesting name to track here. He had meaningful chemistry with Pettersson during his brief run with the Canucks in 2020, and the freshly extended Canucks centre is a huge fan of his game. Also, the lack of heaviness in the team’s forward lineup has factored heavily into the organization’s thinking during Joshua’s absence, which is why we’re also keeping an eye on Jordan Greenway. The team has rated Greenway highly for a long time, and he could be a deadline target that shakes loose in the sort of price range the Canucks would prefer to pay ahead of March 8.

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With Pettersson’s deal done, what kind of moves might the team make at the trade deadline? (Charles LeClaire / USA Today)

The Kessel Run

Phil Kessel has been in Vancouver now for nearly three weeks. He’s still in town, working out with the Abbotsford Canucks.

Both sides want a Kessel signing to take place, but the Canucks are taking their time here. We were told as of this morning that the team still hasn’t made a decision yet on signing him.

Time is getting a bit short here. The club has to make their decision soon. Kessel must be signed prior to the trade deadline if he’s going to maintain his eligibility to compete for the team in the Stanley Cup playoffs. One way or another, this is a situation that will come to a head in the next week.

One thing to watch for, potentially, is for the team to sign Kessel on the day of the trade deadline. After the deadline passes on March 8, the NHL’s roster rules shift. Thereafter, teams are limited to just four ordinary call-ups between the deadline and the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs (exceptions exist for loans under emergency conditions).

If Kessel is signed immediately prior to the deadline and added to their roster, the Canucks would be able to preserve their four recalls while also adding him to the lineup.

Two defenders of local interest

There are a couple of defenders with strong local ties that are worth keeping your eye on going into this offseason.

The first is Chris Tanev. Obviously.

We know the club pushed hard to get Tanev included in their deal for Elias Lindholm, but the Flames and Canucks couldn’t quite agree on the price of his inclusion.

Calgary tried to hold out for a first-round pick in selling Tanev as a rental, but ultimately netted a second-round pick, an additional conditional pick and a hard-nosed blue-line prospect in Artem Grushnikov from the Dallas Stars this week. The Canucks were in on that bidding until the very end, but ultimately couldn’t get the deal done.

Tanev is highly thought of internally. And the player would welcome being repatriated by the franchise that first brought him into the NHL as an undrafted free agent in 2010.

Unsurprisingly, the club will have serious interest in signing him when he hits unrestricted free agency on July 1, and that interest is likely to be reciprocated.

Whether Tanev returns to Vancouver or not, however, may have less to do with mutual interest or fit and more to do with the demand in the marketplace for Tanev’s services. There’s a real possibility, given Tanev’s late-career durability and his still super-elite defensive contributions, that he could demand $5 million (or more) on July 1. Given that Tanev is one year shy of the “35-plus” contract rules too, you can bet that Tanev and his camp will prioritize term. If Tanev’s price runs that hot, it’s a deal the Canucks won’t be able to afford given their other priorities.

Keep an eye out this summer, too, for Surrey native Brenden Dillon. The physical, reliable left-handed Winnipeg Jets defender is a pending unrestricted free agent and sources indicate that the team wouldn’t exactly have to twist the player’s arm to bring him to his hometown team.

A stalwart two-way defender, Dillon is making $3.9 million per season on his current contract, and he’s a player that the Canucks have had previous interest in.

(Top photo: Jeff Vinnick / NHLI via Getty Images)

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