Erik Gudbranson has struggled during his two seasons here with the Vancouver Canucks. A pending unrestricted free agent and one of this team’s few trade chips, Gudbranson should be on the move at the deadline.
It’s no secret that the Vancouver Canucks have had one of the NHL’s worst defensive units over the past five years. That’s why general manager Jim Benning dealt a young and skilled centre in Jared McCann and two draft picks to land 6-foot-5 rearguard Erik Gudbranson.
But Gudbranson’s tenure in Vancouver has been nothing more than a major disappointment. A season-ending wrist injury wasted most his 2016-17 season, as Gudbranson was limited to just 30 games.
A fresh start and a new head coach in Travis Green provided optimism for Gudbranson to morph into that shutdown defenceman. His size and physicality were to help the Canucks deal with bigger and tougher rivals like the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.
But Gudbranson has continued to struggle with the Canucks, and the stats are quite alarming. According to Hockey Reference, he has a woeful 44.0 Corsi For percentage, and a 39.1 Fenwick For Percentage. According to Corsica, Gudbranson’s relative expected Goals For percentage is -5.24.
And according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, you can probably expect a Gudbranson trade to happen:
So all signs are pointing to this brief marriage between Gudbranson and the Canucks ending. At this point, it should be a no-brainer for Benning to shop the pending UFA and secure any asset(s) for Gudbranson.
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He’s still a talented player with lots of potential. That’s why the Florida Panthers drafted him third-overall in 2010.
There should be no shortage of interested parties for Gudbranson, whose size and physical play could make him a difference-maker in the postseason.
The Toronto Maple Leafs can score a ton of goals, but they lack that ideal shutdown defenceman. Gudbranson may discover his full potential there.
Perhaps a division rival like the Ducks or Kings look to beef up their blue line, given both play physical styles of hockey and are in win now mode.
There aren’t very many defenceman available in the trade market at this time. You can see the list of pending UFA blue liners at Spotrac, but you’ll notice most of them are playing on playoff contenders — which means they likely won’t be available.
Mike Green of the Detroit Red Wings and Josh Gorges of the Buffalo Sabres may be available, but the market for blueliners on Feb. 26 isn’t going to be great. That’s why Benning could be dealing in a position of strength, as multiple teams will be trying to out-bid each other to land Gudbranson.
The Canucks simply need to overhaul the blue line a bunch this offseason, but they can start early by unloading Gudbranson at the trade deadline. He turns 26 in January, and could be a very attractive option for playoff contenders. That is why the Canucks need to make a trade happen, rather than lose him for nothing in free agency.