The Pittsburgh Penguins ended July with a bang. They came from left field and executed a trade that no one saw happening so soon. Brandon Sutter is a member of the Vancouver Canucks and Nick Bonino is now a Penguin.
We covered the trade right when it happened, and here’s the analysis from the day it was executed. On paper, this deal looks to be a clear win on the part of the Penguins, especially considering that advanced metrics say Bonino is a superior player to Sutter. Tack on a promising defender and a second round pick, and the move looks even better.
*Cue the Tanner Glass to Sidney Crosby scale*
Brandon Sutter vs. Nick Bonino on the #GlassToCrosbyScale pic.twitter.com/ItFJCFJYaS
— Domenic Galamini (@MimicoHero) July 30, 2015
Just how out of the blue was this move? Seth Rorabaugh of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did some research and found the last time the Penguins and Canucks made a trade.
Before Tuesday, it had been a looooong time since the Penguins and Canucks swung a trade: pic.twitter.com/TKVCGhPmNU
— Seth Rorabaugh (@emptynetters) July 31, 2015
This was the first trade between Pittsburgh and Vancouver in over 11 years. What has been even more surprising is how the Canucks are handling the arrival of Sutter.
Benning calls Sutter a ‘foundation piece’ for Canucks http://t.co/aX0Mk6OnSi
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) July 28, 2015
It seems that the Canucks have not watched Sutter play in recent years. He is a viable scorer in the bottom-six, but he is not a ‘foundation piece’ like Jim Benning seems to think he is. Fans loved Sutter in Pittsburgh and most overvalued what he was. It’s easy to see 21 goals from a third-line center and be more than satisfied, but consider that four of those were short-handed goals and nine were against non-playoff teams.
This isn’t to say that scoring goals is easy in the current NHL, but you have to expect more from a player earning $3.3 million per season. In fact, 2014-15 was the second time that Sutter even topped 20 goals in one campaign. The first time was back in 2009-10 when he was with the Carolina Hurricanes in his second season he scored 21 goals and assisted on 19 more.
That is the type of production the Pens were expecting from Sutter when they acquired him in the Jordan Staal trade.
So, how did the Penguins dodge the proverbial bullet?
We know that Vancouver’s management views Sutter as a piece they can build around. They are currently working on an extension with the 26-year old center that should keep him with the Canucks for five more seasons.
The Canucks are reportedly offering Sutter $4.4+ million per season. This deal would make Sutter the Canucks’ fourth-highest paid player and seemingly slot him onto their second line for years to come.
The Penguins had no options, they had to deal Sutter. He’s entering a contract year and the way their salary cap is setup, they could not afford to give Sutter anymore than $3.3 million per season, and even that was pushing it.
He was a polarizing player in Pittsburgh most people either loved him or hated him, but none of that matters anymore. Sutter is a Canuck, Boninio is a Penguin and Vancouver can enjoy giving him $4.4 million per season.
Sutter was never a bad player, but he was never a good player either. The one thing that most people agree is that he wasn’t worth what the Penguins were paying him.
If the Pens had intentions to sign Sutter to a contract like Vancouver is offering, it might have been able to work with their salary cap. It would have required some major modifications to the team and with players like Olli Maatta and David Perron needing new contracts next season, it’s almost impossible to have found a way to keep all of them.
Sutter’s leadership, humor and work ethic will be missed in Pittsburgh, but this chapter of Penguins history is now closed. The Pens are heading into the 2015-16 season with the deepest group of forwards they have had in years.