It’s that time of the year again, where we try to connect the Florida Panthers to Vancouver Canucks defenceman Erik Gudbranson with a trade. However, the team’s current position in the standings could put a wrench in things.
Like clockwork, we are discussing an Erik Gudbranson trade before the trade deadline. The Vancouver Canucks have invested a lot in the supposed rugged defenceman, both in trade and in cap space. It’s no secret that I don’t think he’s very good. The shine from his inflated start has long worn off and he has returned to form as one of the worst defencemen in the NHL.
However, that doesn’t mean he lacks value in this league. Why? Well, general managers are not the smartest of people out there. There should really be a new saying in the NHL. If there is a bad player, there’s a GM dumb enough to overpay for him.
Which brings me to the latest rumours around Gudbranson. Jason Botchford believes Dale Tallon will call up the Canucks soon about Gudbranson. It makes sense. Florida is a disaster on the right side after Aaron Ekblad and Tallon is just trying to discard his poor defencemen. Now, would Gudbranson have an appreciably positive effect in Florida? Of course not. But the key here is Tallon is dumb enough to believe that he is.
Part of the steam that came with Tallon’s return to power was undoing the “mess” created by the analytics team there. That group pushed for the Gudbranson trade (specifically targeting Jared McCann plus a draft pick) and made strong cases to draft Adam Mascherin, Aleksi Heponiemi and Grigori Denisenko.
Tallon handled Mascherin poorly, letting him walk and re-enter the draft. We should also mention dismantling his own NHL team with a pair of self-inflicted wounds from the expansion draft by giving up Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith to protect Alex Petrovic (recently sent to the Oilers for scraps).
Okay, Jim Benning has a target, but what about the price? That’s where things can get tricky. If Tallon is still feeling spiteful, maybe someone like Heponiemi or Denkisenko is on the table. Gudbranson has played approximately the same since he arrived in Vancouver, so I can’t imagine his trade value has diminished much in the eyes of Tallon.
However, players of that caliber may be too high of a price. Tallon isn’t the brightest bulb, but after watching the two at the World Juniors, he may not be so willing to part with either. That leaves draft picks. Florida lacks their own second and third rounders, but they did just acquire a third from the Oilers. That may be a tough sell to go into the draft with five picks, but if Tallon is making a playoff push (which is surprisingly possible), he may just pull the trigger.
Of course, the Canucks would have to take a contract back to make the money work. As long as Benning isn’t taking back a long-term deal, he could take an iffy contract in return. I don’t want Nick Bjugstad, but he seems like the type of player Benning would target. 26 years old, can play centre or wing in the middle of the line up and would help Benning speed up the playoff push.
The problem is that Benning may just trade Gudbranson for Bjugstad, which doesn’t help his team in the long term as well as a draft pick would. . On top of all that, the Canucks are a bubble team right now. It’s hard to say how willing Benning is to trade away Gudbranson, even though all the evidence shows he provides no additive benefit to the Canucks. Something will have to give and I hope Tallon pulls out all the stops. Every GM has a price and desperate people do foolish things. Hopefully, the Canucks can find a way to move on from Gudbranson and get a future in return.