On Tuesday, the Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins got together for a somewhat surprising hockey trade. The Canucks sent Nick Bonino, Adam Clendening, and a second-round pick to Pittsburgh for Brandon Sutter and a third-round pick.
Shortly after the trade, Michael Pityk had you covered here at Today’s Slapshot from the Pittsburgh point of view of this trade. Clearly the Penguins got better on Tuesday. When you throw in the Eric Fehr signing, it was a great day for hockey transactions in Pittsburgh.
Not so much in Vancouver.
Let’s start with the main players involved: Bonino and Sutter.
Borrowing the tweets from Pityk’s article to describe the advanced stats differences between the two players:
Bonino for Sutter is NOT a good deal for VAN on so many levels. The data doesn't lie. pic.twitter.com/ocfQ9nyGaj
— James Lepp (@jameslepp) July 28, 2015
Advanced stats aren't everything when evaluating players, but there's no denying them here. Wow. pic.twitter.com/0DHKoDwm1w
— Penguins Diehards (@PensDieHards) July 28, 2015
Put this all together, and Bonino is the better scorer and is better at puck possession. But there must be a reason that the Canucks wanted Sutter so badly, right?
For what it’s worth, here is how Canucks GM Jim Benning describes Sutter, who he seems to covet. Also keep in mind that Canucks coach Willie Desjardins is familiar with Sutter from when he coached Medicine Hat and Sutter played for Red Deer of the WHL.
"Brandon Sutter, to me, is a foundational piece going forward." – Jim Benning
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) July 28, 2015
Sutter will help the Canucks in faceoffs, particularly in their defensive zone. Over the past three seasons, Sutter has taken faceoffs in the defensive zone 53.2%, 58.9%, and 62.2% of the time (Behind the Net). The Canucks needed help in faceoffs, finishing 29th in that department last season with a 46.7% success rate. Sutter’s career average is 50.6%, while Bonino’s average is 47.4%.
There is also more of a physical edge to Sutter’s game. Although he is not an overly physical player, he took 86 hits last season to Bonino’s 31. Bonino’s lack of physical play did not make him popular with Canucks fans, particularly later in the season when his scoring tailed off.
There is, however, one more reason to prefer Bonino to Sutter: his cap hit. Bonino earns a cap-friendly $1.9 million over two more seasons, while Sutter earns $3.3 million on his current contract with one year left. If Benning is calling Sutter a foundational piece, then expect Sutter to earn a raise on that $3.3 million.
Work still being done on Sutter extension in VAN, but hearing five years is expected to be the term. AAV sounds like just under $4.4M.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 30, 2015
For all intents and purposes, let’s assume Sutter and Bonino hold similar value. Bonino is a favorite of the advanced stats crowd, while Sutter’s intangibles resonate more with the old-school hockey crowd.
This deal also featured an exchange of draft picks. The Penguins received a second-round pick, while the Canucks received a third-round pick. That one’s easy: Advantage Penguins.
To sweeten the offer for Sutter, Benning essentially threw Adam Clendening in for free. He was supposed to be a potential power-play quarterback, but his four points in 21 games last season didn’t get the job done. In addition, the Canucks appeared to prefer Frank Corrado as a sixth defenseman because Corrado is stronger defensively. Clendening has promise, but the Penguins already have defensemen with his skill set, such as Kris Letang and Derrick Pouliot.
So why on earth would Benning make this deal? He seems to make a habit of overpaying for certain players that he desires, such as trading for Brandon Prust and signing Derek Dorsett (4 years, $2.65 million) and Luca Sbisa (3 years, $3.6 million) for probably more than they would have received on the open market.
If Sutter is signed at $4.4, the Canucks will have over $13 million tied up in Sbisa, Dorsett, Prust and Sutter. Ouch.
— Sheldon Smith (@sheldons465) July 30, 2015
Will the Canucks be a tougher team to play against in 2015-16 than they were in 2014-15? Yes. Will the Canucks be a more talented team in 2015-16 than they were in 2014-15? No.
Maybe Benning is really planning a full-on rebuild. But he is keeping the faces of the franchise (Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin) so it doesn’t appear that way. From a business standpoint, this so the Canucks can continue to sell tickets, since the word “rebuild” will keep many a fan away from Rogers Arena during those cold rainy winter months.