Vancouver Canucks: Grading the Tanner Pearson extension

There has finally been some good news for the Vancouver Canucks who locked Tanner Pearson down to a new contract.

It has been a pretty scary few weeks for the Vancouver Canucks who were hit by a huge outbreak of a pretty aggressive variant of the COVID-19 virus, with over 21 players and staff being infected and some members of the team really struggling with symptoms, but they appear to be nearing the light at the end of the tunnel and resumed hockey business on Thursday after signing forward Tanner Pearson to a new deal.

Given the severity of the outbreak and how badly some players and even family members were affected, actual hockey talk hasn’t been high on the agenda when it comes to the Canucks, and rightly so, and they remain out of action until the NHL and health officials give the team the green light to resume playing, which could be next week.

In the meantime, though, General Manager Jim Benning was able to get some important personnel business conducted after signing Pearson to a three-year, $9,750,000 million contract which will run through the 2023-24 season and carry an Average Annual Value of $3,250,000.

Per Darren Dreger of TSN, Pearson will be due a $1.5 million signing bonus in July 2023, while it is also interesting to note that the new contract has a No-Trade Clause in year one of the deal and a modified seven-team No-Trade Clause in year two, meaning that the veteran won’t be able to be selected by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft and it will be hard for any team to swing a trade for his services over the first two years of this year.

There is, however, no trade protection in the final year of the contract in 2023-24, while the fact that the final year is also backloaded could mean that Pearson is easier to trade for the Canucks once that signing bonus has been paid.

Whatever way you look at it, this is an interesting contract extension and we’re going to delve in and unpack it fully, before attempting to give it a final grade. Let’s dive right in…

Tanner Pearson (70)

Tanner Pearson #70 of the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Grading the Vancouver Canucks and Tanner Pearson contract extension

Firstly, this is a big win for Tanner Pearson who has earned himself a nice little payday in the National Hockey League who, while still only 28-years-old, is very much a declining asset and is probably only going to regress from this point on rather than improve.

In 121 regular-season games for the Vancouver Canucks over three years, Pearson has 68 points (36 G, 32 A) with a plus / minus rating of -11, while averaging 16:31 of total ice time and dishing out 164 hits, 70 blocked shots, 61 Takeaways and 56 Giveaways.

He has 11 points (6 G, 5 A) in 33 games this season with an average of 16:33 of total ice time, and some of his offensive metrics are well below average, including a 47.7 CF% and a 39.1 oZS%, which illustrates the fact that the left-wing isn’t going to offer a whole lot offensively going forward.

Again, Pearson probably isn’t much better than a top-nine forward at this point and he’s more suited to a third or fourth-line role, particularly on a Canucks team that boasts so much high-end young talent at the top of its lineup.

As for Vancouver, it is clear that after losing key locker room guys in Jacob Markstrom and Chris Tanev during the offseason that they didn’t want to shed more veteran presence, and Pearson is a respected guy inside the room while he’s a model professional who leads by example and allows his play to do the talking.

He also knows what it takes to win having won a Stanley Cup with the LA Kings and he’s exactly the type of role model you want for the likes of Elias Pettersson and Nils Hoglander, while locking Pearson down now ensures that the front office have around $20 million in cap space this offseason to dish out big contracts to their young studs in Pettersson and defenseman Quinn Hughes.

Tanner Pearson (70)

Vancouver Canucks forward Tanner Pearson (70). Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

But, on the flip side of that, the Canucks already have to deal with a boatload of awful contracts for the next couple of years and, while Pearson is taking a minor pay cut, it is likely that he’s only going to regress as a player over the course of this contract and it will be near impossible to move him as such given that his value will be on the floor.

Therefore, the Vancouver Canucks could soon find themselves in yet another situation where they are paying a bottom-six grinder over $3 million per year, as they are with Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel, and that won’t make life easy for the front office when it comes to trying to put weapons and supporting pieces around a young core in a flat cap world.

You can make the argument that having recorded 45 points (21 G, 24 A) in 69 games last season, that Tanner Pearson could be due a bounce-back year in 2021-22, which is possible, but this still seems an overpay for a forward that is showing clear signs of regression and shouldn’t be a top-six forward given the young talent on this roster.

Vancouver Canucks C-

Overall, this is very much a deal where it feels as though the Vancouver Canucks are paying more for what Tanner Pearson brings off the ice in terms of his leadership and his presence in the room, rather than his production on the ice which should be the main driving force of any contract negotiations. This contract could become another heavy albatross around the necks of the Canucks if Pearson continues his downward trend and that is bad news for a team already in salary cap hell.