Lots of chatter on the interwebs today that Jim Benning made a major mistake in trading Jared McCann to the Panthers for Erik Gudbranson.
On the surface, it might be plausible that is the case but only if you look at it on a “one and done” basis.
But there is a much better way to assess the trade and that is to see it as part of Benning’s need to balance his team.
Benning paid a pretty high price for the towering Gudbranson but, as he told the Vancouver Province last night, it really was market value especially in light of the poor deal the Edmonton Oilers made in acquiring Griffin Reinhart.
“We talked to a lot of teams the last two or three weeks and this wasn’t something we expected to happen — it happened quite fast and we’ve be dealing with them (Panthers) the last two days,” said Benning. “It kind of came together rather quickly. We knew the price to acquire a top-four defenceman was going to be high and giving up McCann was a tough decision. But I just felt like we needed to add a top-four-guy to our group because the market is just so tough.”
“They (Panthers) had a lot of interest in Jared and if you look at the Dougie Hamilton deal in Calgary — a first- and two second-round 2015 picks to Boston at the last draft — and the Griffin Reinhart deal to Edmonton — a first-round pick and 33rd-overall pick to the Islanders — that kind of set the precedent. It was tough to give up the second-round pick in this draft. But we felt it was worth giving up that 33rd-overall pick.
What stands out here is that Benning effectively gave up a late 1st round pick (McCann) and a 2nd round pick for a young, huge RHD with 309 NHL games under his belt while the Oilers paid a higher price for Reinhart who has yet to become a full-time NHL player and has only played 37 NHL games.
Yes, Reinhart is 2 years younger, but at his age, Gudbranson had already played in 189 games in the NHL.
Most of the criticism of the deal from Vancouver’s perspective is that Gudbranson hasn’t lived up to his draft pedigree as he was selected 3rd overall in 2010…and that is true.
(Just as Reinhart has belied his 4th overall stats in the 2012 draft.
But Benning was trading for draft pedigree and, of course, Florida would not have moved Gudbranson if he had lived up to the hype.
What Benning acquired was a #4 RH D to balance his back-end and Gudbranson at a $3.5M cap hit next season (and a RFA after that) is certainly at the proper price point.
(worth noting that many of the fiercest critiques of the trade are Oiler fans whose team management is paying a #3 D, Sekera, $5.5M and a #5D, Fayne, $3.625M.)
The Canucks now have a D that is pretty well set and they avoided the temptations to get into the Jason Demers (a #3D) sweepstakes which the Oilers may blow their brains out at over $5M annually since there are very few RH D available as free agents.
Demers is likely better than Gudbranson now but let’s remember that Gudbranson is still only 24 and likely still has some upside and he costs a lot less.
The Canucks D pairings are now coming into focus and, if Alex Edler can stay healthy, they look solid if not spectacular.
Edler – Tanev
Hutton – Gudbranson
Sbisa – Larsen
Tryamkin – Stetcher
It’s easy to forget that Benning added the best defenseman for the NCAA earlier this spring or that Ben Hutton was a god send in his rookie season. Both he and their superb top pairing RH D, Chris Tanev, played for Canada at the recent WHC and that Philip Larsen was acquired earlier for a 5th round pick.
There is a pretty easy answer to that question…the Canucks have too many centres.
While McCann had a passable rookie season, he was likely never going to be a top 6 centre in Vancouver as long as Henrik is around and, with the 5th overall pick in the draft Benning can upgrade on McCann in a few weeks.
At the Draft
With the need for a second pairing D now gone, Benning can comfortably take the best of whichever forward left after the Oilers pick.
Whether they get Matthew Tkachuk, PierreLuc Dubois or Alexander Nylander, all are an upgrade on McCann based on pedigree (McCann was taken 24th overall in 2012).
I expect the Oilers will take Dubois unless they trade down and that will leave Tkachuk sitting there for Benning. He would be the perfect compliment to the Sedins in the short-term but, if another team (like Arizona) trades up to take him with the Oilers pick, Benning will have a shot at Dubois and Nylander either of whom have 1st line potential.
With college phenom Brock Boeser only a year away from pro hockey, the Canucks will have 2/3 of the Sedin succession plan already out-of-the-way and will only need to find a top end C to finish the job.
About the Cap
The acquisition of Gudbranson ends the temptation for the Canucks to re-sign UFA defenseman Dan Hamhuis saving more than a million in cap space.
If, as expected, the Canucks buy out Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins that will free up another $3M to pursue free agents.
With their long-term goaltending locked in place (Markstom, Demko) and their D all set, Benning and company can now turn their attention to adjusting their forward ranks before the season starts knowing they will also get another $6M in cap relief when Ryan Miller’s contract expires a year from now.
With departure of Radim Vrbata ($5M) and Hamhuis ($4.5M) Benning is setting himself up to have some where near $10M this offseason for acquisitions.
Steven Stamkos anyone?