As NHL training camps are set to open, the Vancouver Canucks are still missing two of their most important players.
Centre Elias Pettersson and defenceman Quinn Hughes have yet to sign extensions with the team. Both restricted free agents are coming off their entry-level contracts and are two of just eight RFAs league-wide that have yet to re-sign with their clubs.
Canucks head coach Travis Green remains optimistic that Pettersson and Hughes will re-join the team soon.
“I think up until now I was saying that I’m really confident that they’re going to be in,” Green said on the latest episode of The Ray & Dregs Hockey Podcast. “And now we’re getting closer. I still have our teams on the board, original teams from camp, lineups for exhibition games.
“For a coach, it would be very disappointing if they’re not in. But yet I do understand that that’s part of the business nowadays.”
In a shortened 2020-21 season, the Canucks struggled, finishing last in the North Division. COVID-19 hit the organization hard last season, including an outbreak where 21 players and four staff members tested positive for the virus. It caused six games to be postponed.
Pettersson, 22, hasn’t played since March 2 after sustaining an upper-body injury that ended his campaign. The 2019 Calder Trophy winner had 10 goals and 21 points in 26 games last season.
Hughes, 21, had three goals and 41 points in 56 games in 2020-21, his second in the NHL. He was nominated for the Calder Trophy in 2020.
The Canucks have made the playoffs just once in the last six seasons and Green stresses this is an important training camp, not just for Pettersson and Hughes, but for the whole team.
“With having so many new players and faces on our team, this is going to be a very important training camp for us as a group and also I think it’s a very important training camp for these two young players who are still learning and improving in their game as well, said Green. “I should say when I say that, I know that they know that as well. They feel that and they don’t take it lightly if they’re not in camp.
“And I don’t think this is a ‘hey it’s important and we’re not coming’, they just haven’t got to a deal yet. You know sometimes deals get done down to the final minute before camp and I’m hoping that happens with these two big parts of our team.”