First it was Michael Del Zotto, then it was Sam Gagner. Then, as the minutes ticked away on trade deadline day, it was Erik Gudbranson.
This was the first season that Canucks general manager Jim Benning has begun to realize his mistakes. Unfortunately, some of Benning’s biggest mistakes and grossest overpayments are still lingering on the roster.
Getting rid of Del Zotto and Gagner were baby steps towards admitting mistakes, but the Gudbranson deal was a quantum leap forward. Even though the returns were mediocre at best, it at least indicates a willingness to move on from underwhelming players.
In the first article of this mini-series, let’s look at possible scenarios where Benning could ship out some of the pricey veterans who are seeing their roles diminished. With the rise of Adam Gaudette, the need for Brandon Sutter is less and less evident.
How the Canucks can trade Brandon Sutter
While not a terrible player, it’s hard to argue that Sutter isn’t overpriced. There was no rush for Benning to sign Sutter to a five-year extension before he even played a game for the Canucks. This season — his third of that five-year deal — has easily been Sutter’s most disappointing.
Sutter has played in only 26 games and has but four goals and two assists. One of his greatest weaknesses is that his playmaking ability is non-existent, and his assist totals reflect that.
Throughout four seasons and 188 games in Vancouver, Sutter has just 11 primary assists at even-strength. In comparison, Elias Pettersson hit 11 primary assists at five-on-five in his 39th game with the Canucks.
Out of 514 forwards over the last three seasons, Sutter ranks 440th in primary assists, and 417th in total assists at even-strength.
What Sutter does well
Three things come to mind: he can shoot, but often doesn’t get the opportunity because he’s hemmed in his own zone against the other team’s best players. He can win faceoffs, although he dipped below 50% for the first time since 2011-12 this year, and he can kill penalties.
Sutter’s penalty killing prowess might be one of the most notable things about his performance. He’s fourth overall in the NHL among forwards with the fewest goals against per hour at four-on-five.
He has been a bit lucky, riding a PDO of 103.5 at four-on-five, but positionally, Sutter tends to be reliable while shorthanded.
Potential Trade Scenarios
In any trade scenario involving Sutter, the Canucks would likely have to retain salary. Let’s assume the Canucks retain $1.375 million on the cap, meaning Sutter would come to a team at $3 million per season.
Also, starting on July 1st, Sutter’s no-trade clause turns into a modified no-trade clause, meaning he can submit a list of 15 teams he cannot be traded to.
With that being said, here are three possible fits.
Why he could be a fit: The Chicago Blackhawks currently have the worst penalty kill in the league at 73.3% efficiency. That’s an area where Sutter could help. If the Canucks were to retain salary, then Sutter could effectively replace impending free agent Marcus Kruger (who’s cap hit was $2.775 million) for the same cost.
What a deal could look like: Brandon Sutter (31% salary retained) to the Chicago Blackhawks for John Hayden and a 2020 3rd round pick.
Again, this is one of those situations where the Canucks probably should have moved on from Sutter last season, when there was more value. However, his limited no-trade clause does open up some doors.
While you might have gotten a first-round pick for Sutter last summer, even a third round pick seems like a stretch. Maybe if the Blackhawks dump the unproductive John Hayden onto the Canucks, then perhaps they part with a third-rounder.
Why he could be a fit: Pretty shallow depth in the bottom six, and an organization that seemingly still values “old school” hockey players. It’s also not like Florida is in a rebuild, that’s a organization that should be competing in the playoffs now.
One of their main flaws is that they allow too many goals (5th worst goals against in the NHL), which could fuel a need to chase a shutdown centre. Sutter would also be an upgrade over current bottom six centre and UFA Riley Sheahan.
What a trade could look like: Brandon Sutter (31% salary retained) to the Florida Panthers for Dryden Hunt and a 2020 4th round pick.
Hunt, a Cranbrook native, got his second taste of NHL action this year at the age of 23. He seems like a “hockey trade” guy Benning would target, instead of going for a higher draft pick.
New York Islanders
Why he could be a fit: This could hinge on what the Islanders do with Valtteri Filppula. The 35-year-old is having a decent season but is due for a new contract this summer. Sutter is younger and seems to fit the style of grinding defensive hockey that the Islanders have implemented under Barry Trotz. The Islanders are also the fourth-worst faceoff team in the league.
This would also be a homecoming for Sutter, who was born in Huntington on Long Island.
What a deal could look like: Brandon Sutter (31% salary retained) and a 2020 6th round pick to the New York Islanders for Josh Ho-Sang and a 2020 4th round pick.
This deal might be a bit of a stretch, unless you buy into the ongoing saga that is Ho-Sang and the Islanders. He was a healthy scratch in the AHL for a multiple games last month, and has played but 10 games with the Islanders this season.
Here’s what Bridgeport Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson had to say about Ho-Sang after his healthy scratches.
“I think it’s just a learning lesson,” Thompson said to the CT Post. “For me, it’s learning play away from the puck, and unnecessary turnovers. All it is is development. Every kid, like I said, has their own path, needs a little bit of a boot sometimes. This is a chance to reboot and see where it takes him.”
This does sound like a Nikolay Goldobin 2.0 situation, making a Ho-Sang trade less likely. Ironically enough, Ho-Sang was taken with the 28th overall selection in the 2014 Draft, just one spot after Goldobin.
However, Ho-Sang does have more NHL success in less games that Goldobin. Here’s how the two players stack up.
Goldobin: 124 NHL GP, 19-27-46, 0.37 points-per-game.
Ho-Sang: 53 NHL GP, 7-17-24, 0.45 points-per-game.
It’s a deal that could be a worthwhile gamble for the Canucks. Based on Ho-Sang’s potential, this deal might seem asinine to some, but clearly the Islanders aren’t crazy about this player.
So, what would you do with Brandon Sutter? Keep him, or trade him, assuming the return is middling or mediocre?
What would you do with Brandon Sutter?
This poll is closed
Keep him (Foundational piece!!)
Trade him, even if the return is middling