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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

    “Does Benning even know what Benning is doing?”

    Just because you don’t doesn’t mean he and the rest of us don’t. For all the reactionaries that are so apparently baffled, let the dust settle like after the other moves and you might start to see the bigger picture emerge.

  • 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)

    • 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.

  • Spiel

    The ridiculous negativity that is spewed by writers and fans on every deal is amazing.

    I get that puck possession and advanced analytics are the main idea of this blog…. But it’s obvious what the Canucks are doing and that’s getting bigger and tougher. Bonino wasn’t a bad player but he was and is a 3rd line center that started last season off great then was ok the rest of the way.

    With Horvat and Sutter the Canucks now have 2 big centers tan at can take face offs and play well in all three zones, not just one. Add in Prust and just the Sutter name and the team gets tougher. Some guys just don’t fit in a system and Sutter née seemed to fit in Pittsburg. I like the addition especially when we play Calgary LA and Ducks in Pacific.

  • 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?

  • Spiel

    As an Oiler fan certain that Bonino would be a huge bust when they traded Kesler for him last year, I am now stupefied as to what the hell this organization is doing. Bonino was better than he had any right to be, and instead of going forward with him, now they have an older, less effective player who will be a free agent at the end of the year? Wow.

    I once compared former 4th line center Boyd Gordon, with former 2nd / 3rd line center Sutter and found they got nearly the same points, only Gordon did it in fewer games, and played the second most difficult minuets in the entire NHL.

    Yep, Canucks got a real player there. Also, why did they get a worse draft pick out of this deal? I would almost guess another larger deal is coming, like say Seasbrook, and this was needed to clear cap or something, but I’m pretty sure Van actually took back more cap then they traded.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • wojohowitz

    Oh, and if you are wondering if Pensburgh thinks that Rutherford made a bad deal, here’s their analysis, including the signing of Eric Fehr (why didn’t Benning think of that, even Canucks Army bloggers thought about it):

    “This is pretty much a best case scenario. Fehr and Sutter are very similar players: they’re both tall, non-physical, right handed centers that are above average in faceoffs, and usually score 20g- 15a in a season. They even both wear the #16. The Penguins switch the two out and save $1.3 million to the cap due to Sutter making $3.3 and Fehr signing for $2.0.

    Fehr also has a huge advantage over Sutter: he drives play and possession a heck of a lot better.

    Add in Nick Bonino (a solid NHL player) and Clendening (a good prospect who can skate and move the puck) PLUS an upgrade from a 3rd round pick to a 2nd round pick, and it’s all coming up roses.”

    Yup, we “negative” Canucks fans get the bigger picture: Benning was schooled.

    And anyone who thinks that Sutter is “gritty”, please provide some evidence.


  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.