With the trade deadline approaching, we will be profiling several players in the weeks ahead that have a good chance to be dealt by February 26th.
The Vancouver Canucks have been a fun story this year, thanks to the emergence of Brock Boeser as a legitimate star in his rookie season. Brand new head coach Travis Green had the team off to a good start before an injury to Bo Horvat seemed to suck all the energy out of his group, who now sit 14th in the Western Conference and in danger of falling completely out of the playoff race. Erik Gudbranson is scheduled to hit free agency as one of the youngest players on the market, meaning the Canucks have a big decision to make in the next few weeks on whether his time is up in Vancouver.
Gudbranson is on a one-year, $3.5MM contract. He will be a UFA in July, and holds no trade protection.
After missing 52 games last season due to wrist surgery, Gudbranson has returned this year to a diminished role. His minutes have been limited, trailing newcomers Michael Del Zotto and Derrick Pouliot in terms of ice time, and has lost his role as one of the teams few key penalty killers.
He was one of the last players in the league to record a point this season, not getting on the scoresheet until December 19th. Lately, he’s been taken out of the lineup thanks to back spasms, not playing since the middle of January.
Still, his rough and tumble game has been well-liked by some in the organization, with GM Jim Benning coming out recently saying that he plays a different—but still necessary—style of game than many of the Canucks other defensemen. The Canucks are still trying to get Gudbranson under contract going forward, meaning despite his offensive struggles he’s clearly not on thin ice with the organization.
32 GP, 1 goals, 2 assists, 3 points, -2 rating, 31 PIM, 29 shots, 17:44 ATOI, 43.0 CF%
The market for Gudbranson is difficult to gauge, because it relies heavily on personal opinions about his play style and value to an organization. In almost every front office in the league there will be an analytics department telling the team not to acquire him, but deadline acquisitions are often more about depth and physicality to prepare for the playoffs.
Toronto is often listed as the most likely destination for the defenseman, mostly due to their perceived lack of depth at the position. The team might be changing that notion with the impressive debuts of some young players, and they still have right-handed Roman Polak to fill a similar role.
One interesting possibility, though it most likely won’t come at the trade deadline, is a return to the Florida Panthers. It’s clear that GM Dale Tallon wasn’t pleased with the team trading Gudbranson to Vancouver while he wasn’t in charge, and even tried to get him back in a deal that was eventually blocked by Jason Demers’ no-trade clause. Though it might take free agency to get him back, the Panthers likely remain one of his biggest fans.
Likelihood Of A Trade
Despite wanting to keep him in Vancouver, the two sides reportedly haven’t begun conversations on an extension yet. Benning has admitted that if a deal can’t be reached by the deadline, he’ll have to seriously consider selling him to the highest bidder, making this a simple time crunch that seems destined for a resolution through trade.
Where Gudbranson ends up is still anyone’s guess, but signing him long-term in Vancouver seems like a mistake as the team continues their rebuild. Even for a modest return, a team as far out of the playoffs as the Canucks will seriously consider moving him to collect another asset, just like the ones they gathered from moving Jannik Hansen and Alex Burrows last year.
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