Two-way winger has scored 36 goals in 121 games since arriving from Pittsburgh early in 2019, proving to be a dependable player who kills penalties and can contribute on the power play

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Tanner Pearson is set to be a Vancouver Canuck for another three years.

The National Hockey League team announced Thursday that the veteran winger has signed a contract extension that will run for three seasons, through the end of the 2023-24 season, paying him an average of $3.25 million per season (all figures in U.S. dollars).

“Tanner is a veteran who’s won a Stanley Cup and leads by example,” said Benning. “He plays a complete game and provides invaluable leadership experience to our core young players. We are very pleased for Tanner and his family to continue his career as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.”

Acquired late in the 2018-19 season, the 28-year-old Pearson has scored 36 goals in 121 games since then, while proving to be a dependable left-winger who kills penalties and can contribute on the power play.

He posted a career-high 45 points in the 2019-20 season, his first full campaign in Vancouver. He has slumped a little this season, with just six goals and five assists in 33 games played, playing mostly on a line with Bo Horvat.

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Pearson has proven to be a solid leader in the Canucks’ dressing room and should remain a useful forward for the club in the next few seasons.

Still, it’s hard to ignore what the well-worn path of free agency and contract extensions beaten by general manager Jim Benning looks like. Pearson is a handy player, acquired in one of the better trades of the Benning era, brought in in exchange for Erik Gudbranson, the big defenceman whose time in Vancouver was mostly disappointing and who is now on his third team since the Canucks.

But Benning has signed other forwards to extensions or new contracts of dubious value: He signed Sven Baertschi and Sam Gagner to three-year deals, then decided a year later they weren’t useful to the team. Bottom-six mainstays Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel were both handed four-year deals at annual $3-million cap hits (both of which expire after next season). Jake Virtanen was re-signed before this season to a two-year, $2.55-million annual hit (four goals this shortened season) while fellow winger Tyler Toffoli left for the Montreal Canadiens, where he has scored 19 times.

And just over a year ago, Toffoli cost the Canucks a well-regarded prospect in Tyler Madden and a second-round draft pick in last year’s lottery.

Canucks winger Tanner Pearson in action against the Maple Leafs during a February game at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Canucks winger Tanner Pearson in action against the Maple Leafs during a February game at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. Photo by Claus Andersen /Getty Images files

Pearson’s new deal features a no-trade clause for next year.

A month ago, Benning said he believed this team was two years from contending. There are lots of solid pieces, mostly acquired through the draft: Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Thatcher Demko.

Looking ahead to next season, the Canucks have a couple big tickets to lock down in stars Pettersson and Hughes, who are coming off their rookie contracts. The club has budgeted a number for the duo, and Pearson’s re-signing apparently doesn’t have an impact on that plan.

Pearson’s average salary is essentially a reallocation of the sum totals taken up on this year’s cap by Baertschi, who has spent a second straight season buried in the minors at AHL Utica, and Ryan Spooner, who was bought out before last season, following an underwhelming cameo in the latter half of the 2018-19 season.

That leaves about $17.5 million in cap room, the bulk of which will surely be taken up by Pettersson and Hughes. The Canucks will still need to find a handful of other players to fill out the roster and won’t have much wiggle room to do so.

CHEK TV’s Rick Dhaliwal said Wednesday that Beagle’s injury, which currently has him on the long-term injured reserve list, could keep him out for some or even all of the 2021-22 season. If so, that would open up more cap space to add players.

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And then there’s taxi squad regular Loui Eriksson, whose six-year, $36-million contract signed in 2016 ends after next season, albeit with a final $4.875 million charge on the cap. In 252 regular season games for Vancouver over five seasons, Eriksson has scored 38 goals.

Demko signing made official

A week after the news leaked out that the team had re-upped with their No. 1 goalie on a five-year deal — and tweeted about by owner Francesco Aquilini — the Canucks made it official Thursday that Demko will indeed be back on a contract that will average $5 million per season.

The five-year deals buys out three years of unrestricted free agency for Demko.

What of Green?

With ownership willing to commit to two players on these deals like this, one Canuck who is still unsigned for next season is head coach Travis Green. His preference has been to stay here and Benning has spoken of wanting to retain the bench boss whose tenure in the Canucks organization goes back eight years, to four seasons as coach of the Utica Comets farm team before joining the big club.

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