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It is Time to Move On from Erik Gudbranson

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Erik Gudbranson experiment has been a controversial one since his arrival in Vancouver. Gudbranson, acquired from the Florida Panthers in exchange for young forward Jared McCann and a 2nd-round-pick, was brought in to provide grit and leadership to the Canucks right side of defense. However, after two and a half seasons, it is time to close the book on the Gudrbanson Experiment.

Since joining the Canucks in 2016-17, Gudbranson has been among the league’s most ineffective defenders. Over the course of his time in Vancouver, he has the second worst CorsiFor% of any NHL defenceman, and the fifth worst Relative CorsiFor%, among defencemen with a minimum of 1500 minutes over those three seasons. In terms of Game Score per 60, which measures a player’s impact on a game, Gudbranson ranks third worst. This doesn’t come in exchange for offensive production, either. In his 127 games with the Canucks, he has an unimpressive five goals and 19 points. Evidently, he offers little value in terms of driving play, and is an undeniable defensive liability.

One can also comfortably make an eye-test case against 27-year-old. While he does physically look intimidating, it’s rare that his presence is especially notable on the ice. Does he unload the occasional noticeable hit? Sure. However, this occasional burst of entertainment is not nearly consistent enough to offset every other aspect of his game, nor does it appear to have any tangibly positive impact on a game-to-game basis. Everything he was promoted to be good at, has yet to take place in any regular fashion.

The on-ice case against Gudbranson isnt the only one. General Manager Jim Benning doubled-down at last year’s trade deadline, signing Gudbranson to a three-year, $12 million contract. The move was not well-received by the fanbase. While many were relieved, in that Benning is known for excesses in contract negotiation (see: Eriksson, Loui; Beagle, Jay; Sutter, Brandon), that was of little comfort. The price tag is a hefty one for a defenceman peforming at a bottom-pair level (if that). One can certainly argue that it was market value, as it is probably the correct assertion. However, this does not consitute a win. What it does indicate is that there may be a market for Gudbranson, and the Canucks would do well to take advantage of it. In 2017, there were reports that they could have acquired Jason Demers as a return (had he not nullified the move via No-Trade Clause), and some speculate that Florida Panthers GM may have interest in bringing him back. It’s up for debate what he could return in a trade - general consensus appears to be similar to what they gave up for him - but it does appear as though there is a market for him around the league.

By all accounts, Gudbranson is a tremendous person and teammate, and it isn’t his fault that Benning and many in the hockey community appear to overvalue his play, and don’t cast him appropriately. However, the best call for the Canucks is undeniably to ship him out for assets. His play has been a drag on a blue line that wants to get younger, in a league that is growing faster and more offence-driven. In moving out Gudbranson, the Canucks are making room for a younger option, shedding cap space, and improving their blue line, all at the same time.