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.

  • Dirty30

    Vey and Clendenning would have made sense … This doesn’t.

    Could have had some decent lines with Sutter, Prust, Dorsett, Hansen, Higgins and Bonino … Maybe Gaunce, Kenins and Vey as needed.

    Could have got behind those guys in some combo.

    Now you’re stil short a centre and spare.

    Assuming Sutter signs

    PS: sbisa for Sutter straight up — righteous!

    This? Ridiculous.

    • birdie boy

      Vey/Clendenning for Sutter?


      You guys just kill me sometimes. (Wipes tears of laughter from eyes)

      Why on Earth would Pittsburg do that?

      It takes two to tango remember? (Maybe you need to spend more time picking up chicks in the dance halls of Buenos Aires?)

      • Dirty30

        JB gave up the 2nd round pick he got for Garrison to get Vey — so JB must have seen something in Vey (I see a wasted 2nd round pick).

        Gave up a shiny but unproven prospect for Clendenning.

        So why wouldn’t that be a decent offer if the only thing Pittsburg wanted was the cap space for Fehr?

        They still would have gotten a slightly improved pick and assets to use or trade.

  • 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.

  • birdie boy

    Getting a Sutter family member in Canucks colours showing the up and coming youngsters jow to be pros. This is beyond playing ability, this is about settin a tone in the dressing room, the practice ice and in life. Kassian and his toxic attitude-gone. *(Bonino seemed nice, just no grit)

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • andyg

      So why is everyone so confused. When has Benning ever said that we were in a full on rebuild?

      Until the twins retire or regress a lot, we will be pushing for the play-offs. This gives them a better player up the middle and stops them from rushing McCann and Cassels.

      I would prefer to regress and score a couple of top 5 picks but none of us are in control.

  • andyg

    This reeks of Aquaman wanting a big name like Sutter over Bonino/Clendenning to sell more tickets.

    I wont miss Clendenning. Saw a number of Comet games and he is/and plays small, his shot isn’t that accurate and he’s often falling on his @ss due to his own footwork.

  • Spiel

    I think Sutter will be a better player to have than Bonino. He’s faster, has more grit and hits, is better on the PK, better at faceoffs, which he takes RH (and let’s not forget how dismal Van was overall on faceoffs last year). He scored 20 behind Crosby and Malkin, and as stated above, apart from a few weeks early in the season, Bonino disappeared from the score sheet. And he hopefully won’t be prone to making slow line changes at terrible times. If Benning seems to be prone to trading for players on expiring contracts, and Sutter doesn’t re-sign or what ever, he should bring a fairly high pick at the trade deadline. To those that questioned why Sutter and not Matthias or Richardson, Vancouver was never going to give those players what they were asking for, and while they may have re-signed one or the other for what the got from other teams, they couldn’t afford both. The part I don’t really like is losing clendinning, as he already cost Van. that (younger) Swedish D man…was it Forslin? But Corrado gets a chance, and he showed what he could do 2 years ago. Plus I don’t think Benning is finished yet. And for God’s sake, all you haters, give the man a chance, ahe was never going to get a team this year that could win the cup. He didn’t get his job to think one season at a time.

  • andyg

    Jesse’s idea of Benning looking to make a series of trades makes sense. In terms holding onto and developing existing prospects, the Canucks have a number of prospects that look to be defensive centers, while Clendenning helped address a lack of defensive prospects in the pipeline.

  • andyg

    The trades can be questionable from a fans standpoint, like I wouldn’t have minded seeing them omit the draft picks from the deal, but only the gm’s actually know what fair value on the market actually is.
    As far as the acquisition goes, I think Benning is just building the team that Willy D wants. In the meantime I will just kick back and watch how it all unfolds and also pray that he can trade Spizza for a bag of pucks.

  • Fred-65

    After last season capitulation in the play-offs it became pretty obvious that this roster just wasn’t built for play-off hockey. This is one more step toward addressing this. Who know Bonino may excel under other circumstance although I doubt of playing behind Crosby and Malkin is the opportunity Bonino is looking for. But from the Vcr perspective Sutter does address in a small way part of the problem. JB did make mention of Blair Jones in his interview on 1040 which I thought was interesting. A point I am confused with is he said that the 2nd round pick he gave up was the Ducks pick..acquired in the Kesler trade ?? I didn’t think we had a second round pick ??

  • trthomas

    Honestly, Sutter’s a fourth liner on a good team.
    What’s incredibly alarming is Sutter’s WOWY. Every player who played 100 minutes or more with Sutter showed dramatic offensive improvement away from Sutter. He’s an offensive blackhole for his teammates.
    And just as concerning is Sutter’s vaunted strength, defense. Almost all his teammates who played 100 or more minutes with him this past season almost all showed improvement without him.
    If the Canucks are expecting Sutter to come in and replace even half of what Bonino had done for this team, then they’re in for a rude awakening.
    Not that Bonino was a world beater or anything, but Bonino’s going into a situation where he’ll fit well, playing in a role that suits him.
    Sutter, not so much. It seems as though he’s being setup, unintentionally, to fail. Especially if the rumors about the Canucks already being in discussion with Sutter’s camp to extend him within the next few days are true. If he’s asking for second-line type money, and he gets that type of contract, then we Canucks fans will just have to hope he lives up to that sort of contract.

    • Dirty30

      So a winger leaves Sutter’s line and shows better stats on offence and defence. Hmmmmmmm. Gee. I guess Crosby, Malkin and the others might be pretty good players…maybe even above average. And here I thought the Pens had no talent at all. How could a player skating in that top 6 actually imrpove his stats?! OMG!

      • ikillchicken

        This is a great point on the WOWY’s actually. The presence of Crosby and Malkin on other Pens lines may skew these numbers considerably. Who wouldn’t play better “away” from Sutter if the “away” is with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin?

        As usual, I’m not clever enough to parse the numbers myself, but it would make an interesting assignment for Team Pocket Protector here at Canucks Army.

  • wojohowitz

    As many know I am not a Benning or Desjardin fan.But while I have been critical of his choices todays was better.

    Sutter is bigger and good in the faceoff circle an area than we needed help in,well we need help everywhere,lol.

    But at least its a change of minority status from Bennings stubborness to admit mistakes, Miller? I mean he has basically said he made a mistake getting Clendenning!

    Get ready nuck fans to the Harry Neale.Bob McCammon nuck days? I mean boring grind it out 3-2 hockey games. The question remains if we have the goaltending and defensive talent to be on the positive side of these games. My wager is we lose more of these 1 goal games than we win and finish at best in 8th but likely between 9-11 Western Confrerence standings.
    And Baertchi/Grenier do not have the upside of Virtanen/Cassels/McCann. However today Benning did not smell of being a 2nd class gm. Not a bad trade at all,Sutter is an upgrade to Bonino and he admitted failing on Clendenning.

    • wojohowitz

      Benning got a lot of praise at the time for swapping an 18yr old 5th round pick in Forsling who had just been a surprise top player at some international tournament for a 22yr old NHL-ready second rounder that was couldn’t get in the line up due to Chicago’s depth at D.

      I don’t really get how all the parts came together in today’s trade. Pittsburgh was likely shopping Sutter because they knew they could get Fehr for less, but so could everyone else. They get Bonino, even though they don’t need him, and so plan to move him to the wing. They marginally upgrade a draft pick and get a depth defender on his 3rd NHL team in 3 years. Clearly Pittsburgh asked for the pick swap because they win that part, but does that mean they think they didn’t get enough for Sutter without the pick swap?

  • 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.

  • wojohowitz

    A popular comment on Pensburgh reviewing Sutter’s season:

    “I gave him a 6. He produced more than I expected and unlike pretty much any other Penguin, he’s able to stay healthy. Though a lack of a physical presence might be a big reason why. Still hoping he is gone before next season. With his weak puck battling and playmaking skills I don’t believe he can ever actually center an effective line at ES. To add to that thought, the chances of Sutter re-signing in Pittsburgh are remote so instead of letting him leave as has been the MO of this franchise, they should be getting the best return they can with him.”


    • Spiel

      Gulp is right. Also, all those who are complaining about Bonino playing “soft” and not winning puck battles, well, Pittsburgh fans are saying similar things about Sutter.

      I recommend you all read the link Jack Soul put up, and the knowledgeable discussion by Pittsburgh fans, who were pretty divided on Sutter. What worries me is that Sutter was riding a high shooting percentage to get to 21 goals, esp on the PK and PP. Sounds like the Pens sold high on Sutter. As one Pittsburgh fan put it: “I do think getting a 2nd for him is reasonable based on many GMs dismissal of underlying numbers (which does portray Sutter very negatively for his salary). That is still a return I would be happen to take.”

      I wonder if Benning is one of those GMs who dismiss underlying numbers? Rutherford got much more than a 2nd round pick.

      Here’s the link again: