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Canucks Fleeced In Brandon Sutter Trade

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

  • louielovett

    Saying the Canucks got fleeced is way off. Sutter is the better player.
    He also has a lot more heart and competitiveness than Bonino. He’s a Sutter and plays like a Sutter the same way Bobby Clarke did – not ever wanting to lose. Bonino doesn’t have that quality and that doesn’t show up in those stats. At the same time, I can’t see the Canucks getting better, they are getting worse with their other moves and teams like the Oilers and Flames are on the upswing. (Coach Desjardins also played with the Sutters in the 70s with the Lethbridge Broncos).

    • Matt Miller

      You are so far off… its like you have never seen Sutter play. He is one of the softest in the NHL, he will never win you a battle on the boards. They say Bonino is no better… but Bonino can bring up his linemates and produce more points when not forced into the top two lines. Guess what, Bonino is NEVER going to be the 2nd line center in Pitt. Van vastly overpaid, and Sutter is not better. Learn hockey bud. Two soft players, Bonino outscores Sutter, for what will be next year, under half the price.

      • Neil_2B

        Bonino is a LH shot, and slow. On VAN he’d be buried at 2C, working the second PP unit, which is really not very good right now, and playing as a slower C on the PK against younger, faster players. While I’m hearing noises that he might be moved to LW to play up, I’m not sure that’s the plan, as Pittsburgh needs a third option at C more than another opportunistic sniper at wing who can’t drive the bus.

        Sutter, while not as gifted offensively, is a faster-skating RH shot with better faceoff metrics. He will likely get significant 1PP time, and will pair up with either Higgins or Burrows on the top PK unit. While not physical, per se, he is much more physical than Bonino.

        It’s entirely possible, especially if Bones gets shifted to wing, that both players could post career numbers this season. And it’s worth noting that both players would be facing declining usage & worse numbers if they continued playing for their old team. I’m unsure which team won this trade (early returns would indicate the Pens did, but we’ll wait to judge until the puck has dropped), but it’s pretty clear to me that Bones and Sutter are both big winners individually.

        • Matt Miller

          He will only be the 3rd line center until Fehr comes back off IR most likely. Initial reactions were that Fehr would get the 3rdC spot over him, but due to his injury rehab to start the seaon, that may not occur until the following season.

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  • Tracer

    I don’t like much of anything Benning has done since he became GM. But, as they say, the game is played on the ice.

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