The future of Henrik and Daniel Sedin will be on the table this coming week, as Vancouver Canucks executives and agents for the players sit down to officially begin discussions about new contracts.
The twin brothers turn 33 this month, and both were on the ice Tuesday at the University of British Columbia with about 20 or so other Canucks, as the players assembled for an informal practice ahead of the start of training camp next week.
This is the last season of the five-year, $30.5-million (U.S.) deals that pay the Sedins $6.1-million each annually. While the players have previously expressed a desire to remain in Vancouver, and have said getting a deal done before the 2013-14 season starts would be good, the talks could be complicated. The last time the two sides bargained, it went down to the last moment before free agency.
Given the complexity, it's possible a deal is not clinched in the next month – and then the question of the brothers' future lingers around the club, not unlike the pulsing question of goaltending that coloured all of last season.
"There's a lot of things that need to be discussed," Henrik Sedin said after practice. "It's money, it's terms, it's years, it's a lot of different things. So I'm sure it's not going to happen in one day, but we'll see what happens."
On wanting to stay, he said: "Of course." But added: "If they want us here, I'm sure they're going to show that."
The last time round, in the summer of 2009, the Sedins agreed to what everyone viewed as a hometown discount, to stay together, in Vancouver. This time, the question of money is a moving target, with the league salary cap predicted to rise next year, and possibly for the next several years, giving the Canucks room to provide, and the Sedins space to ask.
More challenging, likely, is the length of contract, which could become the most considerable factor. A four-year deal, for example, would take the twins to their 38th birthdays – which is probably attractive to them, but possibly less so to management.
"They still have many years left to play in the game," the Sedins' agent, J.P. Barry, said from his Kelowna, B.C., office in an interview Tuesday. "The topic of term becomes a big topic."
The two sides – with team president/general manager Mike Gillis and assistant GM Laurence Gilman working on behalf of the hockey club – have had informal chats and have not yet exchanged any documents.
Face-to-face meetings have been booked, Barry said. "It'll take some time to do a contact this significant."
For their previous contracts, the Sedins played out the final season, 2008-09, ahead of free agency, which was Gillis's first year as an NHL GM. Gillis at the time showed little flexibility, standing by an offer of five-year terms.
If the twins had then gone to free agency, observers figured they could have scored at least $7-million a year from another suitor.
The same pressure exists for the Canucks. The team locked up their best players for below-market rates through their best playing years. (In the four seasons since, Henrik has scored 332 points in 294 regular-season games, Daniel has 296 points in 264 games.)
If the Sedins were to leave next summer, a central pillar of the team would be gone – and it would be a difficult fill. The Canucks may have little choice but to sign the brothers on something closer to the players' terms than the club's.
To put the Sedins' contract in perspective, the recent extension for San Jose Sharks centre Joe Pavelski is one frame of reference.
First, the group of free agents seems to be lessening. Pavelski signed a five-year contract extension this summer, which takes hold after his four-year deal ends at the end of this year – so a guy who would be a much-sought-after free agent will never hit the market.
Second, Pavelski signed for five years and $30-million – almost exactly what the Sedins make – and is finishing four-year, $16-million deal. Pavelski, 29, is solid but has never been near a point a game, while the Sedins have both led the league in scoring and were close to point-a-game last year even as they carried a much-bigger defensive load.
The Sedins won't come cheap – and the twins view these deals as probably the last they will sign in pro hockey – and that's what will make the talks tricky.