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

    Again the Canucks downgrade their draft position. I really think that Benning’s plan is to collect players in the last years of their deals and flip them all for more draft picks and/or prospects at the deadline. Otherwise I dont get it.

  • 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.

  • Spiel

    Not for nothing, but the Canucks stand a better than even chanceof finishing lower than Pittsburgh, making the Pens picking up of our second rounder worrying. Also, we won’t have a second rounder for a second year in a row in an era of “retooling on the fly”. This deal astounds me.

    • Spiel

      The trade was Anaheim’s 2nd rounder that was picked up in the Bieksa deal. The 3rd rounder is Buffalo’s. Reasonable to think that those picks will be within 10 picks of each other.

      Still, why move lower in the draft during a rebuild?

      • OMAR49

        Moving lower means little right now with the way Benning picks up players and moves them. There are many candidates to be dealt off the roster at the trade deadline-Burrows,Vrbata,Miller,Vey,Higgins,Hamhuis…..
        Every trade is about getting better and this deal solidifies the center ice position. The Canucks just became a much,much better playoff contender.

        • Double Dees

          A trend that has been emerging is Benning trading players with multiple years on their contract to bring in guys on expiring contracts. Could it be that he will flip these players at the deadline? We will have to wait and see.

          At first I was shocked and a bit confused. But after finding out it is Anaheim’s 2nd rounder and Buffalo’s 3rd, it seems fair and it does make sense for both teams.

          Pens needed cap relief – they got it.

          Canucks needed a more defined two way C who can play against other team’s top lines. Sutter can do that. It will free up H. Sedin to play a more offensive role, and Horvat can play a sheltered 2nd line C role.

          The draft picks are almost negligeable but all some people see is “2nd” and “3rd” without knowing how close they will be.

          On a side note, the PK really suffered after Richardson was injured. Sutter is great on the PK. With both him and Tanev out there killing penalties I’m confident we will have a top 5 PK unit this upcoming season.

    • Spiel

      I think it is the second round pick we got from Anaheim for Bieksa so we will still have a seconder.
      That being said we shouldn’t have traded a draft pick here. Especially a high one.

  • OMAR49

    I liked the way Bonino started the year, but he fadded fast. The Canucks always need to get tougher and Sutter will bring that. Maybe Sutter can be a second line center. He would never get the chance in Pittsburg. I do not like that we gave away a good young defenceman on this, but I think Canuck managment is not dealing from a position of strenght. Okay, they look desperate.

  • bigdaddykane

    I like Sutter. Buuut…….a 2nd and clendenning for a 3rd and a more expensive pending UFA than a cheap Bonino? Huh? On a team desperately in need of draft picks and a stocked cupboard? How does help the Baerstchi negotiations? Sutter is a great young grinder. But he’s expensive and about to be a UFA after next season.
    Feels like too much cost for me.I like Sutter over Vey for sure. But then why trade for Vey? Where does he fit on the chart now? Sutter is an upgrade, but thats a steep price, particularly because Bonino is a million cheaper for 2 years.

    If they’re gonna try and recoup that 2nd rounder through a trade, look at this year and the Lack trade. Sigh. The tank may be on despite Bennings attempts otherwise.

  • Spiel

    Bonino was not a good fit here. Couldn’t skate, couldn’t win a draw. Not a good complimentary center for a team with Henrik Sedin. On the plus side, he was on a cheap contract.

    Hate giving up a 2nd rounder in this deal, but reports are now that the 2nd rounder we gave up is Anaheim’s (Bieksa deal) and the 3rd rounder is Buffalo’s that Carolina had acquired. So potentially there is not a huge difference in those picks.

    Bieksa and Bonino for Sutter and Buffalo’s 3rd? Overall, I don’t like the deal.

  • 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.

  • Spiel

    First thing that came to mind was Bonino laying in the parking lot with his back seized up. I was never impressed with Bonino’s work or grit or face off abilities, definitely an upgrade in that aspect. Clendening was virtually an unknown so that will be a wait and see. As far as picks, I think there will be more of those coming so I don’t see it as a big deal. It’s all about work ethic and being harder to play against and a definite upgrade at center. More money though and Sutter’s needs to be resigned so that is a head scratcher unless something else is in the works, Sven needs to be signed yet. Of course Benning got fleeced again according to the Alberta crowd.

  • 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.

  • Spiel

    Benning’s forte is supposed to be scouting and knowing the players. So you can be a dissenter all you want on this deal. I am really happy with it. Always liked Sutter. If he can pot 20 behind Crosby and Malkin, he should do just fine here on the second line.

  • Spiel

    C’mon guys. I hated lack & Kassian trades but this is decent. Poor Bones cannot skate and neither can Clendening. Sign Sutter or trade him at the deadline for a second/third and it’s not so bad.

  • andyg

    This guy is a real center. Better on face-offs,faster and scored 21 goals last year while playing behind Crosby and Malkin. He is a perfect fit.

    We will have lots of money to resign going forward.

  • Spiel

    Just like the Canucks solved their “problem” of too many good goaltenders, so they will solve the problem of replacing the Sedins’ offence.
    Like Seinfeld, their plan is nothing! No goal scoring.

    • Spiel

      According to Benning’s interview on the radio this is the plan. To deal with the talent that Calgary and Edmonton have drafted with top 5 picks, the Canucks will have two-way defensive centers.

      He admits he can’t out skill those teams, so the plan is to grind them down?

  • andyg


    You’re dreaming if you think Stamkos is coming here. He just went on a trip to the SCF on a team that develops talent, and has a smart GM. Stamkos will sign before the summer is over.

    On the other hand, the Canucks are a team on the opposite path. They have some promising young players, but the management team is getting fleeced. The Canucks are on their way to being a team no good free agents will consider coming too, at least not without a massive overpay.

    Everything that Benning does screams impatience. He wasn’t patient with Kesler deal, maybe there was nothing to do. But the Sbisa contract, the Dorsett contract, the Kassian-Prust deal, this deal, they all look like he just lost patience and caved. Gillis was too patient, but Benning looks too impatient.

    Maybe things will turn out okay, but right now, it’s not looking pretty.

  • andyg

    I don’t mind the deal. Sutter is an excellent line 3 centre. Top 20 in face-offs and great on the PK. Also adds a bit of grit and can skate.

    Bonino may have better finish (?) but faded fast and hard. He was horrid at face-offs and not physical. Canucks got the better player here.

    Buffalo 3rd for Anaheim 2nd is almost a wash.

    Adding Clendenning? Hmmmmmm. Canucks have way too many small D men so I am ok with moving 1. I kinda wish it was someone else. Clendenning has the offence Canucks need. Maybe the Canucks make some more moves and sign Franson.

    I am thinking Benning will be making more deals before the summer is up.

    So far, I don’t mind the deals made. Nothing great but moves that needed to be made.

  • 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.

  • andyg

    The most interesting aspect of this trade is that both Bonino and Clendening are guys that Benning brought in. Benning has been accused of not wanting to undo bad moves (like Miller), but this shows he at least re-evaluates some of his decisions.

    I agree with all of the assessments of Bonino so far, but wanted to add that he was pretty good in the shootout. Without him the 14/15 Canucks don’t crack 100 points.

    Someone pointed out that the pk has been upgraded considerably, maybe they’re planning to be in the box quite a bit this year 😉