Vancouver Canucks need to explore a Brendan Gaunce trade

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 5: Brendan Gaunce
TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 5: Brendan Gaunce /

There are one too many Brendans in the Vancouver Canucks locker room.

The time has come for the Vancouver Canucks to invest everything they have to the rebuild. Last year, the rebuild took form in the trading away of fan favourites Alexandre Burrows and Jannik Hansen, two of the few remaining pieces from the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Now, it’s time for more.

Looking at the offseason it has been for the Canucks, it’s easy to see that there is a massive logjam up front in the forward ranks. It will surely result in arguably NHL-ready forwards seeing time in the minors, at least to begin the year.

Not too many will fuss over demoting a forward like Jake Virtanen, Nikolay Goldobin, Griffen Molino or even Brock Boeser. They are all exempt from waiver,s so the Canucks can fluidly move them around.

There is one name that is not protected from the waiver wire. He isn’t due for another season in the AHL, either. Many were afraid of losing him in the Vegas Expansion Draft, but here he is a former first-round pick.

Enter Brendan Gaunce.

No room for two Brendans

There simply is no room for Brendan Gaunce in the Canucks organisation anymore. There are pieces ahead of him that won’t budge for at least a couple of years and there are younger players coming to catch him from behind.

Right off the bat, the Prospects Showdown revealed that centre Adam Gaudette could be everything that Brendan Gaunce already is, with added offensive upside.

With the addition of Sam Gagner and Alexander Burmistrov, the Canucks added two potential centremen in free agency.

Though that Tweet may suggest that Gagner may play as a top-six right winger, it seems that Burmistrov is here to play and not to fill up the press box. That’s one less spot for Gaunce.

Of course, there’s a guy named Brandon Sutter who is set to be a Canuck for the years to come. He is set behind captain Henrik Sedin and future captain Bo Horvat as the third centreman for the Canucks.

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Gaunce, by default, would need to move to the wing. Unless Sutter makes the move or plays pivot for the Sedins to save Henrik from faceoff duties.

Which, in turn, means that Gaunce has less chance to play as a bottom-six winger despite his faceoff prowess having won 51.2 percent of his draws last year.

Then where do top-six wingers Loui Eriksson and Sven Baertschi fit?

Is there space for Markus Granlund and Anton Rodin to the right?Rodin and even Reid Boucher surely deserve a second chance, do they not? What of Derek Dorsett and his contract that would suck to have to rot away in the press box? Are there spots for any one of Virtanen, Goldobin or Boeser?

We could go on and on and on. The bottom line? There is no place for Brendan Gaunce with the Canucks.

Heck, Jayson Megna and Michael Chaput are already filling up the press box. Or are they?

Gaunce is Mike Gillis’s man

Another factor that points to Gaunce being moved is his history as a pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the second-last draft for the Canucks under the Mike Gillis regime that was from 2008 until before the 2014 draft.

From those six drafts and 44 picks, only four players from outside the top ten are still with the Canucks. Aside from Bo Horvat and picked ninth overall, only Anton Rodin, Joe LaBate, Ben Hutton and Brendan Gaunce remain with the Canucks.

When Jim Benning took over, he was all too happy to let go of the other Gillis picks. Recall Hunter Shinkaruk, Gustav Forsling, Nicklas Jensen and Frank Corrado (waivers). Even others like Alexandre Mallet and Patrik McNally, former Gillis picks, were traded for other prospects and picks.

In that regard, a trade involving Gaunce would be something Jim Benning could do to do away with the old regime’s scouting department after changing up the personnel significantly this past month.

In Jim Benning’s mind, Adam Gaudette is already his improved version of Brendan Gaunce:  a two-way player who is not afraid to hit, but with more offensive upside than Gaunce has.

Take some calls but don’t trade Gaunce quite yet

The need to trade Gaunce is there and evident. The timing, however, isn’t so clear.

After a 2016-17 campaign that saw him record no goals, Gaunce’s stock is nowhere near what it could be. Put it this way; Gaunce’s value right now is so low that the Vegas Golden Knights chose Luca Sbisa over him.

A team like the Arizona Coyotes using analytics could be interested in Gaunce’s cheap services, the past season showing great promise for Gaunce with his +3.2 percent relative Corsi For and +3.5 percent relative Fenwick For.

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Gaunce’s relFF was the highest out of all Canucks players last year who had a sample size of at least ten games. Of note, Boeser was a +5.1 percent relFF in his nine games last season.

That being said, Gaunce needs some time to produce in the NHL. That will be the only way to add to the 23-year-old’s trade value.

Gaunce would be a welcomed depth addition to a team looking for a cap-friendly option to add size and defensive strength for a long run in the playoffs. What does that mean? Gaunce’s stock would be the highest at the trade deadline, should he produce points consistently.

Once the trade deadline is past and Gaunce is gone, the mean-nothing games for the Canucks who would likely be near the bottom of the standings would be great opportunities for younger prospects to come up from the AHL and try out, before returning the Utica for the Calder Cup Playoffs.

This season will most likely be the last one for Gaunce in Vancouver unless he has a phenomenal offensive outbreak. Likely headed to a one-year deal under a million dollars as a result of arbitration, Gaunce either walks away at the end of this upcoming contract or gets traded as outlined above.

Next: The Future Watch - 8 Thoughts from the Prospects Showdown

Let’s see what Gaunce can do after a full NHL season under his belt and let’s see how management handles this situation that could lead to assets coming to help the rebuild here for the Vancouver Canucks.