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A Much Too Early Look at Pettersson’s Next Contract

What does the Auston Matthews signing mean for the Canucks young superstar?

Elias Pettersson
Jan 20, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Elias Pettersson (40) awaits the start of play against the Detroit Red Wings during the first period at Rogers Arena.
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

If there are three givens in today’s NHL, here they are:

  1. The game is trending younger and younger.
  2. These young stars are taking over the league.
  3. These young stars are getting paidddddddd.

The Auston Matthews contract that was announced on Tuesday will see him make $58.15 million for the next five seasons, for an annual cap hit of $11.63 million. With Pettersson’s rookie season looking like it could be more impactful than Matthew’s rookie campaign, it’s fair to assume that Pettersson’s contract could have a similar Average Annual Value (AAV) when negotiations are eligible to begin on July 1st, 2020.

Seems like a ways away, but all Pettersson has done in Vancouver so far is prove that he can be one of the best players in the game. With extensions for key contributors such as Alex Edler and Brock Boeser coming up, the Canucks do need to think about how those deals could impede or affect an upcoming Pettersson contract.

There’s no doubt that Pettersson will sign the richest contract in Canucks history, but just how rich will he be?

Here’s a look at other stellar rookies in the cap era, and what they signed for as their first big deal.

First, Should Pettersson be in This Conversation?

I think we all know the answer is absolutely, but here’s a reminder of just how fantastic Pettersson’s rookie season has gone.

Pettersson Rookie Comparables

Pettersson’s 3.22 even-strength points-per-60 is currently third overall in the entire NHL, trailing only Viktor Arvidsson and Nikita Kucherov.

Now, it should be noted that scoring is up over the last two seasons, after hovering between 5.47 and 5.53 goals-per-game between 2010-17. However, there have been more than six goals scored per game since the beginning of the 2017-18 season.

Despite the extra goals, only six players have averaged more than a point-per-game in their rookie season since the 04-05 lockout. Those players are McDavid, Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, Pettersson, and Mat Barzal.

If Pettersson continues on an upwards trajectory, he might do more than sign the richest deal in Canucks history. There’s a chance he could sign one of the richest contracts in NHL history, as AAV’s continue to rise.

Contract Comparables for Pettersson

Before we make a prediction, here’s a look at how some of the deals for Pettersson’s comparables, along with the percentage of the cap they took up.

Elias Pettersson Contract Comparbles

Before predicting Pettersson’s future deal, we also must consider what the salary cap will be in two years time. After rising steadily for years, the cap jumped up at a higher rate before 2018-19, and reports suggest another sizable jump for 2019-20.

The latest estimates from December suggest that the cap will rise to $83 million. That’s a 4.2% increase from this season’s cap. Prior to 2018-19, the cap rose 5.6% from $75 million to $79.5 million.

Let’s merge those two percentiles and estimate that the cap rises 4.9% for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 season. Therefore, the cap for the 2020-21 season would be just above $87 million, and the cap for 2021-22 would be $91.3 million.

As the chart above shows, most of the players that are performing at Pettersson’s current pace (also known as the best players in the game), were making more than 15% of their team’s cap hit when their deal kicked in. Matthews would likely have been at that level if he signed for 8 years, but I digress.

Now with this oversimplified math, here’s a prediction for Pettersson’s contract. This assumes he signs an eight-year deal, and his deal takes up 15% of the team’s cap hit ($91.3 million in 2021-22)

Pettersson’s Contract Prediction: Eight-year, $109.5 million dollar deal ($13.7 million AAV)

There are certainly a lot of variables before a Pettersson deal is signed, but does this deal seem like it’s out of the realm of possibility? The numbers, and the history, would suggest not.

Here’s something else that caught my attention while figuring out Pettersson’s potential contract.

At first, I thought that was an interesting observation from Lawton, a former GM. But after looking at contracts handed out to Crosby, Ovechkin and Malkin, it’s clear that nothing has really changed since the 2004-05 lockout.

On the above graph, it was Ovechkin who engulfed the highest percentage of his team’s cap hit, at almost 1.25% above McDavid’s behemoth contract.

Whether Lawton’s right about this begin discussed during CBA talks is one thing. Regardless, there’s nothing new about superstars being paid relative to their team’s cap hit.

And guess what, there probably won’t be anything different when Pettersson signs the richest contract in Canucks history.