Vancouver Canucks rumors: Maple Leafs interested in Erik Gudbranson

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 5: William Nylander
TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 5: William Nylander /
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Erik Gudbranson has struggled during his tenure with the Vancouver Canucks, and the Toronto Maple Leafs need to beef up their blue line. Rumor has it that the Leafs are interested in trading for the 6-foot-5 defenceman.

It’s been 18 months since the Vancouver Canucks traded for defenceman Erik Gudbranson from the Florida Panthers, sacrificing young centre Jared McCann and a pair of draft picks. So far, Gudbranson has struggled to find his groove in Vancouver.

Wrist surgery cut Gudbranson’s first season in Vancouver short, as he played in just 30 games. Thus far, the advanced statistics aren’t kind to the big defenceman. He owns just a 42.1 Corsi For percentage, according to Hockey Reference. Gudbranson’s relative goals for percentage is also -1.55, per Corsica.

But Gudbranson provides much needed muscle and physicality on a fairly undersized Vancouver team. The third overall pick of the 2010 Draft is also a pending unrestricted free agent, and could be an attractive trade candidate at the deadline if the Canucks decide to sell.

Renaud Lavoie of TSN Sports recently appeared on the Jeff Blair Show (s/o to ProHockeyRumors.net), and said there is interest in Gudbranson, and the Leafs are among the interested parties.

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This comes after Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province reported that the Florida Panthers are no longer interested in a reunion with Gudbranson. That could make Toronto the best possible suitor for Gudbranson.

Despite being armed with top forwards in Auston Matthews and William Nylander, plus a top goalie in Frederik Andersen, the Maple Leafs are among the worst defensive teams. Toronto is allowing 3.11 goals per game (11th-most), and 33.6 shots per game (seventh-most), according to ESPN.

Gudbranson would be a good fit on a Toronto defence that is full of speedy (but lacking in size), players like Morgan Rielly and Zach Hyman. On top of that, Toronto has plenty of young forwards that could entice general manager, Jim Benning.

Though it’s safe to assume Toronto wouldn’t trade any of their top-six forwards, perhaps a prospect like Kasperi Kapanen or Carl Gundstrom. The Leafs have to save future cap space to extend guys like Matthews and Nylander long term, so there’s no sense in Toronto holding onto top prospects — especially when they’re on the cusp of being a bonafide contender.

If the Canucks were to trade Gudbranson to Toronto, the Maple Leafs may only offer up one or two draft picks. That’d still better than nothing, given how much he’s struggled with the Canucks thus far.

Vancouver and Toronto don’t have much of a trade history, though a lot of that could be attributed to Mike Gillis and Dave Nonis not doing business — with the former replacing the latter as Canucks’ GM in 2008.

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But if the Canucks are looking to shop Gudbranson, Toronto is a great fit. They need a player of his caliber, and have plenty of prospects and draft picks they can afford to part with. We’ll see if this gains traction leading up into February.