Canucks offseason trade candidates: Brandon Sutter

A serious cap crunch awaits the Vancouver Canucks, and veteran forward Brandon Sutter may be potential offseason trade candidate.

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has often been a little too generous in handing out contracts to veteran players, and now he has to work his way out of a difficult salary cap situation.

Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel, Derek Dorsett, Luca Sbisa and Brandon Sutter are among the players who were paid above market value on new deals from Benning. Three of those players are still with the team.

Top goalie Jacob Markstrom, trade deadline pickup Tyler Toffoli and blueliners Chris Tanev and Oscar Fantenberg are pending UFAs. 26-year-old blueliner Troy Stecher is a pending RFA. Vancouver stands to lose at least two of those players in free agency.

Young stars Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes will be RFAs next summer, too. So yes, Benning better find a way to move out one or two of these expensive veteran contracts if he wants to keep the bulk of his core intact.

It’s hard to imagine anybody taking on Beagle and/or Eriksson unless the Canucks throw in a sweetener. Having already given up a 2020 or 2021 first-rounder in the J.T. Miller trade and their 2020 second-rounder for Toffoli, Vancouver doesn’t have many “sweeteners” to offer right now.

That makes Sutter the most logical “salary dump” candidate for the Canucks. The 31-year-old only has one year left on his contract, and several teams can afford the $4.375 million cap hit.

Sutter might have some decent value on the trade market thanks to his versatility. He can play up and down the lineup — be it a No. 3 centre or a top-six winger. When healthy, he’s often been one of Vancouver’s most defensively sound forwards.

Sutter has recorded 17-plus goals in four different seasons, and he has two 21-goal campaigns on his resume. If he’s healthy, Sutter can produce around 20 goals and 30-plus points. Maybe somebody out there will take the chance.

Teams like the Ottawa Senators, Arizona Coyotes, Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks might be happy to take on one year of Sutter if it means landing an additional mid-round selection. What would they have to lose?

One way or another, Benning has to find a way to create some cap room. There is no way he can afford to lose his top goalie and/or two of his top five blueliners. As such, the Canucks will have to be assertive in trying to somebody who will take on the final year of Sutter’s contract.