Yes, we’re talking contracts, but “talking contracts” and “contract talks” are two very different things. Don’t expect anything to happen this week as Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning is taking a little summer break, plus we haven’t reached what player agent Pat Brisson refers to as a “pressure point”. These points are all about timing and none are really expected until after Labour Day. That’s when the pressure will start to build to get deals done for both defenceman Quinn Hughes and centre Elias Pettersson.
The relationship is good; the team and the agent are in touch on a regular basis.
“Everyone sees what the cap is, what kind of room there is, we’re navigating through all that,” Brisson told VHN on Monday.
“Petey” will likely get done first as he’s the more accomplished player and his pressure points come earlier. Pettersson is subject to an offer sheet from another club while Hughes doesn’t have that right. His only leverage is sitting and waiting as long as he can until training camp and maybe the start of the season. You might recall Hughes joined the club out of college hockey and played only 5 games his first “season” in the spring of 2019. Because he hasn’t amassed a sufficient number of NHL games coming out of his entry level deal, he hasn’t gained the same leverage. He’s what’s called a 10.2(c) Restricted Free Agent which simply refers to the sub-section of the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players union.
The terminology is minutiae, just know that Hughes could do what Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau did in a similar situation in 2016, when he “held out” until two days before the start of the regular season and received a six-year, $40.5-million deal. Hughes’s teammate Brock Boeser was of similar status in 2019 but he signed a three-year bridge deal in the middle of September. That bridge doesn’t take him all the way to unrestricted free agency when the contract expires. Neither Gaudreau or Boeser are represented by Brisson’s agency.
If I were wagering, which I’m not, I’d say Pettersson follows in Gaudreau’s steps contract-wise and gets a longer deal for more, while Hughes will go bridge for less. Which means I don’t think he’ll be holding out. Neither of them will be for that matter.
A scenario from the Canucks standpoint: Lock up Petey, see where Hughes takes you. One for the agents: Eat up what’s available in the salary cap with two healthy bridge contracts and get both players to unrestricted free agency. For Brisson, it’s still a matter of process and it’s too early to say.
“Our responsibility is to do right for each client, so when there’s an opportunity to sign one player over the other by virtue of what is on the table, (yes) if it makes sense,” Brisson said, adding, “we have to be very transparent with our players, our clients. At the end of the day, maybe one will sign first or maybe both will sign together.”
Brisson and his associate JP Barry at Creative Artist Agency (CAA) have been down that road before. In one case, the situation was agent-utopia. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, both CAA clients since their career’s started, have signed identical contracts, outside of entry-level performance bonuses, three separate times. Conveniently coming out of their entry-levels and off a Stanley Cup championship the two signed dualling five-year, $6.3-million per season deals in 2010. They’d win two more Cups, and there is every reason to believe that the arrangement, with two comparably important but differently talented superstars matched up financially, paid dividends psychologically for the individuals and the team. In 2015, fresh off that third Cup title, they both signed for eight years at $10.5-million per season. Tip top dollars at the time.
Another good problem to have yet slightly more complicated was CAA’s situation in Pittsburgh with Penguins clients Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. I say only “slightly” because Sid has made things a bit easier by always insisting on being paid his birthday (8/7/87), and his jersey number (87) each season in millions. As in $8.7-million per year since 2008. That’s it. So, although he should be paid more than anyone else, Sid has his thing, and he wants to win, so he always took one for the team. Malkin meanwhile … what?, he’s gonna turn down money? He took the same deal as Crosby in 2009 for five years but since 2014 he’s been paid $9.5-million per season. Sid didn’t mind and it worked. Another twosome with three Cups.
Hughes and Pettersson are more complicated than the aforementioned because they play different positions, therefore have differing upsides, and of course because of the Vancouver Canucks salary cap. Although the two signing bridge contracts isn’t entirely out of the question, they wouldn’t be for the same dollars. Also, Hughes’s contract term would need to be a year longer than Pettersson’s to get him to UFA status because of his lesser games played.
“Honestly I can’t tell you whether it’s going to be longer or shorter for either one of them,” Brisson told VHN.
So many scenarios, but when asked whether it’s easier or harder for one agency to have two guys on the same team up for deals, Brisson said he prefers it.
“It’s not more complicated for us, I like it better this way. It’s gives us a deeper picture of what we’re trying to accomplish and we work as a team. My partner JP Barry is very involved with me as is Jim Nice, who’s been with me for 26 years. We approach this as a team and we’re very transparent with our clients, and what’s good for player-A might not be as good for Player-B, but we’re open with both.”
“You have deeper conversations, your level of knowledge runs deeper,” he added. “But at the end of the day it’s a process. There are always dates, critical dates.” And those dates are drawing nearer.
His message to Vancouver Canucks fans when asked: “Let’s not panic yet, we’re having healthy conversations, and hopefully we’ll find a win-win situation here in the near future.”