Canucks acquire Brandon Sutter from Penguins for Bonino, Clendening

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Canucks have been linked to Pittsburgh Penguins centre Brandon Sutter for years, certainly since he was the rumoured centrepiece in a Ryan Kesler trade at the 2014 NHL trade deadline. 

On Tuesday the club actually acquired the 26-year-old defensive centre in a deal that included the actual centrepiece of the Kesler deal, Nick Bonino. In addition to Bonino the club will send the Penguins a second-round draft pick and defenseman Adam Clendening, while the Penguins will even out the deal (sort of) by sending Vancouver a third-round pick.

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This is a bit of an odd deal, and once again, it would appear is if Vancouver’s new management team recouped iffy value on the trade market.

Sutter is a legitimately good defensive centre in my estimation, and has generally fared well by the shot based metrics when he’s been fortunate enough to play with competent line mates (like healthy Beau Bennett or Steve Downie). He’s not a positive puck possession player though, and he’s scored at a paltry rate during his Penguins tenure. 

Sutter is more expensive than Bonino for this upcoming season, as his annual average value sits at $3.3 million – Bonino’s is at $1.9 million – and his deal comes off the books following this season, whereas Bonino remains an extremely affordable commodity for the 2016-17 campaign. 

Bonino’s two-way game exceeded all reasonable expectations in his first season with the Canucks, and he’s a much more prolific offensive player than Sutter. He’s also basically the same age. You could probably argue that he’s more valuable than Sutter is, which makes the draft pick swap and the inclusion of Adam Clendening a bit tough to swallow.

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Generally speaking though I think Bonino’s two-way game is flawed, and he was only really good at 5-on-5 when he was playing with both Chris Higgins and Alex Burrows (both of whom are excellent defensive wingers). Though Bonino has got decent edge work down low, a dangerous shot and is an all-around clever player, the affordable American-born pivot’s lack of physicality and foot speed was pretty evident last season – and particularly in Vancouver’s first-round series loss to the Calgary Flames. 

Sutter’s puck possession game – so impressive during his time with the Carolina Hurricanes – has suffered enormously during his time with the Penguins, but he’s bigger, faster and better in the face-off circle than Bonino, and he’s also right-handed, which will help the club replace what they lost in Brad Richardson.

On a superficial level I’d almost look at it like Sutter is an upgrade on Richardson, while the Canucks will hope that 20-year-old Bo Horvat – who was dynamite in the second half of the season – can fill in for Bonino. 

The value isn’t there for the Canucks in this transaction, but I’d argue that the fit is.

  • ikillchicken

    I am shocked by the stupidity and hatred that some on this site have demonstrated, both the writers and the respondents. First, in all likelihood the change of a late second for an early third is almost meaningless, and saves money for the Canucks on that contract. Second, if Clendenning stayed a Canuck he would have had to be with the team all year as he is not waiver exempt, whether he is ready or not, and many on this site have questioned his defensive skill set at present, so we dumped our number 8 dman and his salary. When you add the two salaries, we are losing about $.5 million, but we clear another spot so we can choose to carry a second spare forward, Virtanen perhaps, or Cassels or Gaunce, while carrying 7 dmen. We have about $2.3 million in cap space for two positions to get to 23. Sven B. will be one of those signed and we should have enough to bring up one of the rookies. As far as Sutter versus Bonino. Goals not that far apart despite Bonino having a minute more pp time on average. Sutter did not get the advantage of playing with the 2 stars and never got a chance to play second line minutes with Crosby and Malkin ahead of him. He also suffered from rotating wingers because of the injuries in Pittsburgh, so I think he has some upside offensively over Bonino. He is also bigger, stronger, sounder defensively, I mean he played well defensively on Carolina and Pittsburgh, two of the most defensively challenged teams in the league. So for $.5 million plus 4 spots or so in the draft, and not losing a dman on waivers, and more flexibility, we got a grittier, bigger, stronger and more aggressive (I mean he is a Sutter) player. I think we won this one, not by a lot, but we will be better next year.

    • Dwj

      Well put sir, can I also add. If horvat does move up to the second line. We need a third line centre who is defensive minded first. Not a guy who is half defensive and spotty offensively. It will make it much harder for other coaches to match lines against us and gives Willie-D another decent face off guy in our zone. I think if bo can gets an offensive roll he could blow some minds. Clandenning was OK but let’s be honest he won’t be a regular d- man in the nhl. I think it was a good trade.

    • Dwj

      Well put sir, can I also add. If horvat does move up to the second line. We need a third line centre who is defensive minded first. Not a guy who is half defensive and spotty offensively. It will make it much harder for other coaches to match lines against us and gives Willie-D another decent face off guy in our zone. I think if bo can gets an offensive roll he could blow some minds. Clandenning was OK but let’s be honest he won’t be a regular d- man in the nhl. I think it was a good trade.

  • Spiel

    Clendening was surplus with Corrado the better RHD third pairing.
    Boniono was soft as ice cream on a California summer day.
    Sutter is a younger Kesler-great in the circle and can score.
    The picks are a wash and Vancouver definitely just became much stronger in the middle.
    Very good move. Canucks just got much stronger up the middle.
    Now the goal is a legitimate puck moving d man that could make this team a contender.

  • ikillchicken

    We have such a bad GM. Tanking and trading away picks. Just got to hope he doesn’t make too many more trades before he’s fired at the end of the season.

  • trthomas

    OK, I have no idea what the hell the Canucks are doing anymore. Maybe slowly adding all the pieces that have been rumored about for years in other trades (Bartkowski, Sutter, 2nd and 3rd rounders), trying to get pieces by stealth? Honestly I have no clue. It is odd that Benning is giving up on so many players supposedly in their prime with team-controlled years to get older, more expensive, and gritty. I get that we would have lost Clendenning on the waiver wire after the signings of Weber and Bartkowski, but then why trade Forsling for him in the first place?

    Maybe we’ll just ice the grittiest fourth-liniest/third-pairingiest team ever…and grind our way down to a serious pick next year (in which case stop throwing in draft picks to get middling players). Can’t tank as openly as Buffalo or Arizona in a hockey market like Vancouver so…

    Anyway probably best to just check in and view the carnage in October – impossible to know what Benning is doing. I wonder if he does?

  • wojohowitz

    I am very glad to see Benning has properly evaluated his talent pool. Bonino might turn into a sniper with Sidney setting him up but his foot speed was borderline and his future was not definite. Clendening had problems with the physicality of the NHL. His puck handling was excellent but his ability to win puck battles was very questionable and that`s why Chicago let him go. Once again he might have a future as a PP point man but as a regular defenseman his future was not definite. Sutter will play this next season looking for a contract although at $3.3m it is unlikely the Canucks will qualify him next summer. Sutter also fills a role as a solid third line center behind Henrik and Horvat and helps make the Canucks competitive next season. Benning is opening up cap space for the next round of free agants and he probably already knows who he wants – like Stamkos at $10m per. I really like this deal.

    • andyg

      I agree with your assessment on Bonino, not so sure about Clendening (didn’t get a chance to really see him play). However, I was really looking forward to seeing Clendening in a Canucks uniform.

      I think Sutter is a far better centre than Bonino in a 3C role. Having Sutter will take defensive responsibilities off Horvat so he can focus on being an excellent two way centre. Henrik can take offensive leads and Sutter can handle tough defensive match-ups. I just hope they keep him after or else this is one cery expensive rental.

  • ikillchicken

    Another headscratcher move by #teamebenning.

    Bonino scores more. Is comparable defensively by pretty much every stats package.

    Better possession wise.

    2 years at a very nice 1.9m

    Neither Sutter or Bonino are very physical.

    Toss in a 22 year old defensemen and a higher pick.

    Doesn’t make sense in any way shape or form.


    Benning is not good at trades.

  • andyg

    Why is everyone surprised that the Canucks are doing what they do best, which is to make it hard or impossible for any player to want to to come or stay here? Canucks assets are to be dealt away so that they have another new crew to piss off.

    When other teams play against the Canucks with former players, they all know they’re really playing against Aquaman and we all know there’s no better motivation than having an opportunity of putting a dagger in the former boss’s face.

    As Gretzky would say, the Canucks are a Mickey Mouse club and its leader is the Aquaman. You can always tell who the suckers in society are when you see them lining up to get in a Rogers Arena every fall.

  • andyg

    So we gave up Bonino for the second coming of Shawn Matthias?

    Why not resign Matthias and keep the draft pick and Bonino?

    Why not sign Santorelli at this point instead of trading?

    I can’t figure out what the Canucks are doing anymore.

    • birdie boy

      The fact that you want Santo back and suggest Matthias is a better line 3 C than Sutter makes me think you probably have no idea of what’s happening…at all.