Bob McKenzie on Jannik Hansen, Ben Hutton and the Trade Deadline

USATSI_9770053 (1)

Photo Credit: Sergei Belski – USA TODAY Sports

The trade deadline may be less than a week away, but the Canucks still haven’t made public how exactly they aim to approach it. That’s where the league’s insiders come in. They’re supposed to fill in the gaps.

Today TSN 1040 AM brought in TSN’s Bob McKenzie to do just that. They went headlong into the Canucks overarching approach to the deadline before parsing specifics to see who may or may not be moving and why.

When the Bobfather talks, you listen. Intently. And in this case, I’ve collected his thoughts and aim to recall them to the best of my ability and dive into what exactly they all mean.

The interview starts with a discussion on Calder Trophy race, and whether Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine will emerge victorious when the dust settles. Laine just won the NHL’s First Star of the Week award, rekindling a debate that had shifted dramatically in Matthews favour.

Afterwards, they dive right into the Canucks. It’s fascinating because McKenzie’s lobbied for his opinion on one topic and goes on to deliver a soliloquy of epic proportions, wherein he covers each of the Canucks’ bases ahead of the deadline in intense detail. I’ve broken it into easily digestible portions, so let’s dive right in.

McKenzie starts by responding to a question about the Canucks position as sellers going into the March 1st trade deadline.

I think they’re going to see what the winds bring for Alex Burrows. I don’t know that there’s a goalie market — so I don’t know how that would affect Ryan Miller. I know everybody’s eager — in Vancouver, it’s sell this guy or sell that guy. I don’t know if they’re going to sell Hansen or not.

That isn’t really what Canucks fans want to hear. And rightfully so. Vancouver’s four points behind the Calgary Flames for eighth in the Western Conference and have an extra game to their credit. According to www.SportClubStats.com, they have a 2.5% chance of making the show. Barring a miracle of biblical proportions, the playoffs aren’t happening. Even if they do, it’s fair to wonder to what exact end. This team isn’t winning a series.

When McKenzie says that he doesn’t quite know if the Canucks are going to sell Hansen or not, that’s concerning. Short is the list of insiders better connected than McKenzie. If he doesn’t know whether the Canucks have any desire to trade Hansen or not, it’s probably because the Canucks don’t either.

Even if Vancouver is willing to deal Hansen, and they haven’t arrived at a conclusion one way or the other just a week removed from the deadline, it’s going to prove more difficult than most would likely anticipate. McKenzie goes on to list some of the reasons why that might be the case.

I don’t know if they’ll get offers on Hansen. Everybody in Vancouver is saying ‘trade Hansen right now, let’s get something for him. He’s got a year left on his contract; we might get a pretty good package coming back the other way. If we keep Hansen, we’re going to lose Baertschi or Granlund in the Expansion Draft.’ The same equation goes the other way. So let’s say there’s a team out there that likes Hansen. They say ‘okay, tell you what, we’ll give you a second-round pick and a pretty good prospect for Jannik Hansen’.

Do you do it if you’re the Canucks? Well, maybe you do. The team that’s giving up the second-round pick and the prospect for Jannik Hansen, now gets Hansen, and they have to protect him in the expansion draft. So now maybe they’re losing a real good player in the expansion draft who they otherwise might not have to expose. So now the acquisition price for Hansen isn’t just the second-round pick and the prospect, but the player you’re going to lose in the expansion draft as well. So, the price starts to go up. That clouds teams judgement whether they want to do it or not.

Now, this is where things get interesting. I’ve always erred on the side of assuming that the Expansion Draft would have little if any consequences on a team’s desire to trade for Jannik Hansen. More often than not, teams go into the deadline knowing full well the player they’re trading for is a rental, and they’re perfectly fine with that too.

The notion that trading for Hansen means a team would have to expose a quality forward they’d otherwise be unwilling to part with seems bizarre. For a surprisingly large amount of teams, that’s not even an issue — they can fit Hansen within their protection structure. If that isn’t the case, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team that trades for Hansen has to protect him. They could just use him as a traditional rental. That’s never cooled a team’s interest historically.

Beyond the apparent challenges with some of the more obvious candidates for a window spot in the Canucks’ deadline storefront, McKenzie goes on to explain the limitations for movement elsewhere.

So who else on Vancouver would you want to trade? Who else should be traded — [that] would be the question I ask — outside of the rentals; that means Burrows and, basically, Miller, and there’s no market for goalies right now. Then what do you do? They’re not trading the Sedins. Do you think they should trade Edler? Well, you might think they should, but I don’t think that’s the plan. 

That’s a fair question. Where exactly do the Canucks go beyond the names already out there? I can’t see an Alexander Edler trade happening mid-season, whether I’m warming up to the notion or otherwise. The Sedins could prove a difficult sell given the season they’re having and the $14-million cap charge they combine for; which says nothing of the fact that neither fans nor management have any appetite for that kind of a trade.

And while McKenzie was delivering on unpalatable deals, he raises the possibility of Ben Hutton as someone who the Canucks might consider trading. 

If they get the right deal for Ben Hutton, that brings them back a forward up front of similar age with a chance to play in your top six, then I think that’s the kind of longer ratio they’re looking at. That may or may not happen between now and the deadline — it doesn’t necessarily have to happen between now or the deadline, because it’s not going to significantly impact the playoff race I don’t think.

We’ve heard Hutton’s name bandied about as ammunition for a trade going back to November. He’s a marketable, young, offensive defenceman with room to grow and signed on the cheap for two seasons beyond this one at $2.8-million.

Hutton has 15 points in 49 games this season. He’s struggled at times defensively but seems to be improving as the season wears on. I certainly wouldn’t describe what Hutton’s going through as a sophomore slump by any means.

Still, the Canucks hoped he would find another gear when partnered with Erik Gudbranson, and frankly, that’s when Hutton’s looked at his worst. If that pair can’t work, perhaps the Canucks aim to find a left-shot defenceman that can find chemistry with Gudbranson.

Whatever the case, I wouldn’t write this off as idle speculation. If the Bobfather is raising the possibility of a Hutton trade, there’s probably a reason for that. Besides, this isn’t the first time his name has come up. 

  • east_van_joe

    One factor that will make a huge difference in what happens between now and the trade deadline, which is notably absent from this post, is the issue of no-trade clauses.

    All of the players mentioned have at least partial no-trade clauses in their contracts. Hansen has repeatedly intimated or said outright that he loves it here in Vancouver and wants to stay.

    • Fred-65

      Now that’s the sort of deal JB is capable of. Duclair in 41 games this season he has 3 goals plus 6 helpers. The previous season is the blip in this guys game, never to achieve any thing like it again. He’s a 3rd round pick that’s playing like a 7th rounder 🙂

  • TrueBlue

    Not that it’s a source of insider info, but there’s a buzz on reddit for Hutton. Apparently there is an appetite for a left-handed defenseman, which seems weird to me since the right hand shot is traditionally the rare one.

    Anyways, a Hutton trade right now would have huge outgoing value:

    – 23yrs old and a bit of a late bloomer, so can expect more upside

    – huge amount of control: two more years @ $2.5 as mentioned in the article and still RFA after the contract expires

    – And the big kicker this year: does not have to be protected in the expansion draft

    I love Hutton, but it might be a great time to take advantage of the market.

  • Vanoxy

    Benning should absolutely explore offers for Hutton.

    He’s exempt from the waiver draft and on a cap friendly deal. There aren’t going to be many players on the market who check both those boxes.

    He’s a good young player that I would normally want to keep, but his trade value will never be higher.

    I’d listen to offers on Tanev as well.

  • andyg

    The plus for the team that picks up Hutton is that he is exempt from expansion. It might mean that they can maximise their return for him.
    I am thinking that Hansen has a lot of good years left in him. If they move him they will need to get a top level return or you can see that coming back to haunt them. He goes on to play well for the next five years and we get nothing of note.

    With Baer being concussed again why not just leave him unprotected and keep Hansen.

    If they can move Burrows for a pick why not just sign him again for next year.

    I just want to see something done that gets a little for the future. It doesn’t need to be a block buster deal.

  • JuiceBox

    Still, the Canucks hoped he would find another gear when partnered with Erik Gudbranson, and frankly, that’s when Hutton’s looked at his worst. If that pair can’t work, perhaps the Canucks aim to find a left-shot defenceman that can find chemistry with Gudbranson.

    So trade the young offensive defenseman and keep the anchor (arguably the worst top 6 dman in the NHL)? Isn’t that a little backwards? How about trade (or otherwise get rid of) the anchor and find a responsible dman to play with Hutton. For a team that is rebuilding and desperately short of offense from the blue line doesn’t the latter make more sense than the former?

    • DJ_44

      Right… the ole “it was Gudbranson’s fault” meme.

      He was terrible with Tanev as well, and not a lot better with Tryamkin, althoug moving him down to the bottom pairing took Ben less out of his depth. He is not good moving the puck out of his own zone. He IS good at the offensive blue line, but that is about it.

      Trade him now (or either side of the expansion draft). He should not be a part of the left side of defence moving forward.

  • Charlie Allnut

    Beware of the home town myopia, where fans and pudits and the like assume that tradable players have a much higher value than they actually have. Remember basic microeconomics concerning price level and how it is determined, and never by the seller, always by the buyer. Kind of like election results vs poll numbers. I believe that all the kvetching about last year is based on the same faulty assumptions about the value of Hamhuis, for example. Knowing what we know now about his ability and value on his new team, do we really insist that he had that amount of vaiue that everybody assumed he had and then complained about squandering when nobody wanted to pay a price the team was asking. He just was not valued by other teams as much as these pundits and so called experts insist that he was. His value is solely a function of the thinking process within the mindset of the other NHL GMs last year at the deadline, zero.

    • TheRealRusty

      Don’t forget the value is also a function of time. One could argue that there was a positive value for Hamhius 2 weeks prior to the trade deadline (maximum demand), that it slowly decreased as contenders filled out their rosters and traded away their picks. Could it be that this inexperienced management team overplayed their hand and found themselves without a partner on the dance floor?

  • TD

    I guess a Hutton trade would be okay if the return was substantial. I love the way he and Tryamkin were playing and think he could become a core part of the team for years to come. I would prefer they look to trade any of the older D and keep the kids, but I guess it would depend on the return.

    Juolevi Stetcher
    Hutton Tryamkin

    To me that looks like it could be the core of a great defence for years to come if they leave it alone. It would have to be a pretty great trade to keep me from being sad…

  • If Benning rolls the dice that Horvat is a 1C and Gaudette is a 2C, not sure what you’d be asking for with Hutton because trading him only leaves a dearth in offensive LD. Stecher on the right, Hutton on the left, on different pairings leaves the Canucks with some offensive threat from the back for 40 mins of each game.

    • Andy

      By the time we project Gaudette as a 2C, one of Juolevi, Brisebois, or Olsen should hopefully also breakthrough.

      Yes, it requires a lot of dominos to fall just right? It certainly isn’t impossible.

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    …or perhaps they should try to move Gudbranson to a team that has such a partner for him, and keep the younger, better, cheaper guy in Hutton.