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The Curious Case of Brandon Sutter

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What should the Canucks do with the shutdown center going forward?

Columbus Blue Jackets v Vancouver Canucks

Through the first week of Canucks training camp, one notable absence from the ice was none other than Brandon Sutter. He’s been off and on the ice since camp started.

The veteran’s injury troubles since coming to Vancouver have been well documented, playing only one complete season out of five on the West Coast.

Two of those five seasons saw Sutter play even less than 30 games. When he is healthy, Sutter has been productive in his role on the third or fourth line, having scored 92 points in 232 games since coming to the Canucks (which would equate out to an average of 33 points over a full season).

However, when you look at Sutter’s total body of work for the club and compare it to his price tag, there is a definite discrepancy. The center is paid $4.375 million per year, and is under contract through next season, with a no-trade clause.

With the NHL salary cap staying flat at $81.5 million next season due to lost revenue from the pandemic pause, the Canucks are certainly in a cap bind. To make matters a little worse, they have big-ticket contracts coming to both Pettersson and Hughes in the summer of 2021.

At least by then, the Canucks will have Sutter’s contract coming off the books. Next year, though, his spot in the lineup is not exactly on solid ground.

Adam Gaudette showed this year that he’s more than capable of slotting into that third line center role. He’s more durable than Sutter and he’ll provide more offensive production as well. Additionally, we’ll see where Zack MacEwen goes with his development, as he could also prove to be capable of that role should there be injuries.

It just seems like there’s too many cooks in the kitchen to justify a definite role for Sutter on this team. So, what are Jim Benning’s options?

Well, Benning could buyout the remainder of Sutter’s contract, but since he is over the age of 26, the Canucks would still be responsible for paying him two-thirds of the remainder on his deal. However, a Sutter buyout would save the Canucks $2.3 million on the cap for next season, although it would cost them an additional $1.16 million in 2021-22.

There are some that believe Sutter does have value on the trade market. However, considering his age and contract, Benning would be hard-pressed to find any takers with his current contract.

Then there’s the other option of seeing out the rest of Sutter’s deal and hoping that he can finally find some consistent health and production in the bottom six. Despite his struggles to stay healthy, he does provide a much needed source of leadership and is a “glue-guy” in the locker room, loved by his teammates for sure. Just check out him on the team plane:

When the Canucks win games, more times than not Sutter was part of the equation. In the 21 games in which he played where Vancouver won, he totaled seven goals and six assists for 13 points.

But then again, the team seemed to perform better without Sutter, as they put together a record of 15-9-1 in 25 games without the forward in the lineup. For reference, the Canucks were 21-18-5 in the 44 games where he suited up.

Sutter could play a valuable role next season as somewhat of a mentor to Gaudette and or MacEwen. If bought out, though, it could help the Canucks hold onto as much of their pending UFA talent (Markstrom, Tanev, Toffoli) as they can.

It’ll be interesting to see how Benning manages Sutter this offseason, as this summer’s playoffs could very well prove to be the last time we see him in the blue and green.

What do you think is the most likely scenario for the 31-year-old this offseason? Does the team trade him, buy him out or keep him around?