I don’t know what the Vancouver Canucks are doing anymore. Neither does anyone else. News broke yesterday that the Canucks acquired Brandon Sutter and a third-round draft pick from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Nick Bonino, Adam Clendening and a second-round pick. From the structure of the trade, fans would think that Sutter is the best player in this deal. But this is the Canucks, and this team doesn’t make typical trades.
Instead, they overpaid for a fourth-line center who can barely play in the NHL (according to his HERO chart). While Sutter is acceptable defensively and can play on the penalty kill, giving up any valuable assets for him isn’t a good idea. Not only did Vancouver give up a high draft pick, they traded away two players who could have made an impact next year. Since Sutter eats up even more of their nonexistent cap space, giving up this many assets for him isn’t necessary.
First of all, Bonino is a better hockey player than Sutter and will have the chance to play on the Penguins’ top-six. But his play is interesting for multiple reasons. After scoring a career-high 49 points with the Anaheim Ducks in 2013-14 (thanks to an unsustainable shooting percentage), the Canucks bought high on him by trading Ryan Kesler to acquire Bonino. In his only season with Vancouver he experienced the opposite effect (an unsustainably low shooting percentage), leading to a disappointing 39-point campaign.
So the Canucks bought high on Bonino and sold low on him a year later. This is never a good investment plan. Bonino was one of the few players ready to break out for the Canucks in 2015-16 and they traded him away. After showing signs of improvement, this trade signals that Vancouver management can’t evaluate their players properly.
As for Clendening, he was terrible in the NHL last year. But considering he spent time playing with Luca Sbisa, there is room for improvement if he plays with different players. No one can look good playing with Sbisa — he is that bad.
All you need to know about this trade is the Canucks traded two improving players and a higher draft pick for a declining player and a lower draft pick. I wonder how long Jim Benning will remain the general manager of this team, as he is acting like a double agent at this point. With the news that Sutter will sign a long-term extension with the team, this trade will hold the Canucks back for years.