After the 3 p.m. deadline passed, additional trades continued to trickle out as the queue at NHL Central processed them. The Penguins made two trades: One for D Chris Wideman from Florida for Jean Sebastian Dea, the second for D Erik Gudbranson from Vancouver in exchange for Tanner Pearson.
When I first heard about it at 3:20 p.m., I was pretty angry. Now that I’ve had dinner and played with my kids, I’m downright disgusted. Jim Rutherford managed to do something amazing — he found a defenseman worse than Jack Johnson.
Here’s a sampling of tweets from the Vancouver media who have covered Gudbranson for the past 3 years:
Addition by subtraction
Today, the #Canucks moved their lowest individual controlled exit rate and their highest turnover and icing rates/60. The team is simply better without Gudbranson. Great move Jimbo
? Darryl Keeping (@dkeeping) February 25, 2019
Well, that’s not good. Maybe Gudbranson has some of those great intangibles that I’ve heard are so vital for terrible defensemen. Maybe he’s a great puck mover?
Hoo boy. But what do I know ? I’m just a stupid fan unaware of the intricacies of playing in the NHL. Let’s hear from Gudbranson himself:
Gudbranson on time in Vancouver: Honestly, I’m not too proud of it. I don’t think I played very well. I worked hard every single day, came to the rink and tried to get it together.
? TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) February 25, 2019
Here’s how he stacks up by various metrics in comparison to Jack Johnson:
For comparison, here’s Gudbranson v Johnson this year:
Gudbranson: -.305 exp goals per 60, -7.45 Corsi per 60 min
Johnson: -.178 exp goals per 60, -5.88 Corsi per 60 min
Congrats Jim Rutherford — you got a d-man worse than JJ#LetsGoPens
? The Point of Pgh (@thepointofpgh) February 25, 2019
And if you want to go old school, Gudbranson has a plus/minus of -27, the worst in all of the NHL.
To get all this goodness, which comes at a cap hit of $4M for the next two seasons after this one, Rutherford traded Tanner Pearson to the Canucks. In just one transaction tree, observe how Rutherford has gone deeper and deeper to make the Penguins worse — Hagelin to Pearson to Gudbranson.
Hagelin was not very good this year, but he had speed and was a dependable penalty killer. More importantly, he was a free agent at the end of the year and his $4M cap hit would have been off the books. Then he begat Pearson and his $3.75M cap hit for the next two years. Pearson was flipped into this current monstrosity at even more cap hit for two years. And at a position that is already flush with #6/7 defensemen in Marcus Pettersson, Jusso Riikola, Chad Ruhwedel, Jack Johnson, and now Gudbranson.
Jim Rutherford uses trades as his life-drug of choice. He’s continually trying to chase the dragon and find that high he experienced for two years during the Cup runs. But it’s evident that the magic is gone and he’s reverted to being a mediocre GM.
Rutherford has obtained and then traded the following players since the summer of 2017:
- Antti Niemi
- Matt Hunwick
- Ryan Reaves
- Riley Sheahan
- Jamie Oleksiak
- Derick Brassard
- Derek Grant
- Tanner Pearson
An optimistic person would say that Rutherford cut the losses quickly on his mistakes. A more rational person would see that in order to get out of these mistakes, draft picks have been lost and players of some marginal value (like Conor Sheary and Carl Hagelin) have had to be sacrificed at the alter of the trade gods.
It would be reductive to say that when Jason Botterill left to go become GM in scenic Buffalo that the magic was lost. I’m not saying that Botterill was the brains of the operation, but it’s not unreasonable to say that he may have brought a more modern approach that helped check Rutherford’s old school ideas of ‘grit’ and ‘defending teammates’ in a modern NHL built on speed and skill.