It’s been a frustrating season for Vancouver Canucks defenceman Erik Gudbranson, who is in the first season of a three-year deal. So what should the Canucks go with ‘Guddy’ after this season?
Instead, Gudbranson was handed a questionable three-year extension worth $12 million. The move didn’t sit well with a number of Canuck fans, given Gudbranson’s injury history and struggles throughout his first two years on the west coast.
Well, it’s safe to say the first year of Gudbranson’s new contract has left a lot to be desired. The stay-home-defenceman has turned the puck over 21 times this season, and the advanced stats aren’t very pretty.
Gudbranson owns a not-so-great 43.14 Corsi For percentage, according to Natural Stat Trick. His Goals For percentage is 36.59, which also leaves plenty of room for improvement. In short, very little has gone right for ‘Guddy’ in 2018-19.
A simple search across Canucks Twitter, and you’ll see plenty of people clamoring for the team to do something about Gudbranson. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many options for Benning and head coach Travis Green.
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Buying out Gudbranson would cost the Canucks $2.25 million in 2019-20 and $1.25 million over the next two years, according to CapFriendly.com. Given that only two seasons remain on Gudbranson’s deal, it doesn’t make sense to keep him on the books for an additional two years.
The Canucks aren’t going to waive Gudbranson, because it’s highly unlikely they’d find a taker. Demoting him in the minors isn’t going to happen, either. That means the Canucks really just have two choices with Gudbranson.
Either trade him, or keep Guddy and hope for the absolute best.
But with Quinn Hughes and Olli Juolevi likely making the team next season, it’s hard to see the Caucks giving Gudbranson the ice time and opportunities to finally grow into a top-four blueliner. They have to accept he’s a bottom-pairing defenceman at best.
Benning’s best bet may be to try and trade Gudbranson for another struggling player that carries a similar contract. Benning should look at a player with a similar cap hit, with two or three years remaining on their deal.
Ilya Kovalchuk of the Los Angeles Kings could be an option, though the Canucks would likely have to add another prospect or draft pick to make the swap. Kovalchuk carries a $6.25 million cap hit through 2020-21, so the Kings would actually get some cap relief — and the Canucks would get the better player.
The Toronto Maple Leafs could use another blueliner to bolster their depth before the playoffs. Might they take on Gudbranson if the Canucks offer to take on Patrick Marleau, who carries a $6.25 million cap hit for the next two seasons?
Or, the Canucks could see if the Edmonton Oilers want to trade one struggling and overpaid blueliner for another. Kris Russell — signed through 2020-21 with a $4 million cap hit, would be a good candidate to swap for Gudbranson.
Those are just a few examples of players Benning should look at, if he decides to shop Gudbranson. Simply offering up one struggling player that carries a similar contract for another would be worthwhile. Neither team is risking anything in a move like this.
Otherwise, it’s up to coach Green to try and get more production out of Gudbranson. If not, the Canucks will simply have to eat up those final two years of his contract and move on after the 2020-21 season.
*Stats courtesy of Hockey reference and Natural Stat Trick, contract details via CapFriendly.com*