Vancouver Canucks Paid Market Price for Gudbranson

Apr 4, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson (44) skates during the pre game warm up against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson (44) skates during the pre game warm up against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /

It looks like the Vancouver Canucks had to overpay to get Erik Gudbranson. Taking a deeper look at the deal, that is hardly deniable, but it’s what you have to do if you want defense in the NHL.

Defensemen, especially right-handed ones, are a hot commodity in the NHL, and the Vancouver Canucks got to feel that twice this year. First, they had to play guys like Matt Bartkowski or Luca Sbisa on their off-sides, before switching to right-handed Alex Biega for parts of the 2015-16 season. Then, GM Jim Benning finally got a deal done to acquire right-handed Erik Gudbranson, but he had to pay more than what many would consider fair value.

Gudbranson was the third-overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Unfortunately, he failed to develop into the No. 1 defenseman he was supposed to be. Worse yet, he might be nothing more than a top-nine stay-at-home player.

In the 2015-16 campaign, Gudbranson posted some of the worst possession numbers in the entire NHL, while playing on one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. His 54.4 Corsi against per 60 minutes is 97th among defensemen. That is quite bad, but not nearly as bad as his 47.6 Corsi for per 60 — ranking 182 among the league’s 198 500-plus minute players. Overall, he sits at a 46.7 Corsi-for percentage, 165th in the league.

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So what makes Benning think giving up top prospect Jared McCann along with the 33rd-overall selection at this year’s draft was a good idea?

First of all, analytics aren’t everything. They become increasingly important, but there are still managers and coaches out there who value character, size and grit at least equally much. Gudbranson might not produce a lot of shots on net while allowing quite a few, but at least he makes sure they are blocked and opponent’s get punished. Paired with a talented puck-mover like Ben Hutton, great things could be possible. Plus, Gudbranson is a great leader on and off the ice.

Furthermore, the Canucks were simply in need of some D-help. Who was supposed to play on the second pairing with Hutton? Sbisa? Re-sign Bartkowski or Yannick Weber? Gudbranson was probably the best option there.

Now that we have established that Gudbranson is probably a great addition to the Canucks despite his terrible possession stats, let’s take a look at the value. Giving up McCann and a second — plus turning a fourth into a fifth-rounder — sounds like a lot, and it sure is. But that is the price teams have to pay.

Trades of the Past

Just look at a couple of past trades for NHL defensemen.

In February 2015, the Carolina Hurricanes dealt pending unrestricted free agent Andrej Sekera to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for the Kings’ 2016 first-round draft pick, which turned out to be 22nd overall, and defense prospect Roland McKeown.

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At the 2016 trade deadline, the Calgary Flames traded Kris Russell, another pending UFA, to the Dallas Stars in exchange for defensive prospect Jyrki Jokipakka, prospect forward Brett Pollock and a conditional second-round pick for the 2016 Draft, which would have turned into a first-rounder, had the Stars reached the Conference Final.

The Sekera deal is probably the one that is most comparable to that between Vancouver and Florida. Jared McCann was drafted 24th overall, basically equal to the Kings’ pick this year. Then there is Roland McKeown, who was drafted 50th overall by the Kings, while Florida got Vancouver’s 33rd-overall selection. If there was a 2015 redraft, McKeown would probably get closer to 33rd, so that’s about equal value as well.

Sekera is tied for 127th in Corsi-for percentage at 48.8 this year, but overall, Gudbranson is easily the more valuable player. Even if you ignore the fact that Sekera was a pending UFA at the time of the trade. So, the Canucks had to add a fourth for a fifth.

The Stars had to pay even more — it could have been an NHL-ready prospect plus a top CHL prospect and a first-round pick. It turned out to be a second, but that is still a lot for one player.

That simply shows: if you want a young top-six defenseman with top-four potential, what the Canucks paid is the least a team has to give up.

Final Verdict

Talking about the trade for quite a bit now, I left out any personal judgement. Why? Because even though I am sure Benning paid the market price, he totally had to overpay. Which sucks.

Jared McCann for Erik Gudbranson straight up might have been a fair deal. But, it is also one that never would have happened. Gudbranson is a leader in the NHL while McCann likely would have started next season in the AHL. If he just becomes a middle-six center, Gudbranson for McCann would have been fair. Kind of like Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen at a lower level.

But McCann could become even more, and the Canucks added a second-round pick. Why? Because without it they would not have gotten Gudbranson. But that does not make the value better.

Next: Gudbranson Trade Analysis

Looking at next season only, the trade makes sense. The Vancouver Canucks improve their defense, no doubt about that. McCann would not have had a spot in Vancouver and the second-rounder would not have played in the NHL right away. However, it still hurts looking at the long term.

I am warming up to the trade. But I don’t quite like it yet.

*Stats via