Early last week, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman discussed on air and in print, among other items, a developing situation out of Florida involving 25-year-old right-shot defenceman Alex Petrovic.
Despite running a four forwards and four defencemen protection set for the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft just so they could protect Petrovic, it appears as though he could be on the outs already with the Panthers. As Friedman reports, Petrovic’s ice-time and role have decreased considerably under new head coach Bob Boughner.
One situation to keep an eye on: Florida and Alex Petrovic. Injuries limited him to 49 games last season, but when he dressed he played 18:09 per night. Under new coach Bob Boughner, Petrovic’s usage is down. He’s had three healthy scratches. The third one came Monday against Tampa Bay after Petrovic was benched for the third period of last Saturday’s overtime loss to Detroit. He’s also gone from 1:18 per night on the penalty kill to under 30 seconds.
These things can change, but defencemen are hard to find and other teams will be watching. Petrovic has one more year until unrestricted free agency.
Before we go much further, I should add the disclaimer that this doesn’t necessarily mean Petrovic is on his way out the door yet. Friedman’s language describing the Petrovic situation is more assertive in the video in his 31 Thoughts article, but it still doesn’t go any further than to suggest that other teams are likely to monitor the situation. There’s a big difference between that and the inference that Panthers general manager Dale Tallon is shopping Petrovic.
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Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t qualify as Canucks news. Petrovic is a high-end third pair defenceman who doesn’t add a tonne offensively but more than holds his own in the right circumstances. He’s an efficient puck-mover, and up to this season a reliable penalty killer, too.
There’s value in having a player like Petrovic near the bottom of your defensive depth chart. I just don’t see enough there that would make acquiring him worth the trouble for a team that’s in the stage of their developmental arc that the Canucks currently occupy.
Then again, we could have easily said much of the same for Jason Demers (though, he’s a better player than Petrovic, certainly) when the Canucks tried to trade Gudbranson back to the Panthers to acquire him this summer. You’ll remember, Demers used his no-trade veto to block that deal.
The Panthers came back as recently as September though according to this report from The Province’s Jason Botchford. That’s what makes this all so interesting.
Make no mistake about it, it’s a value-loss preposition in a wide-lens look, but the Canucks win a Petrovic-for-Gudbranson swap if we’re viewing that deal in a vacuum. Petrovic is a better player, signed for cheaper (Petrovic makes $1.85-million this season to Gudbranson’s $3.5-million) and has an extra year of team control.
I don’t think that’s where the conversation ends if talks reignite between the Canucks and Panthers. I’m also not entirely sure that door is still open to the Canucks, though. Will Tallon still want Gudbranson considering how poorly he’s performed this season?
As Botchford goes on to add in that edition of The Provies, even the old school, non-analytics types are incredulous at how bad Gudbranson has looked, which says nothing of how poor a picture of Gudbranson’s game that the underlying data paints.
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) November 5, 2017
It’s a complicated situation from every angle. Even if the Panthers still want Gudbranson — and that’s far from a certainty — and they’re willing to part with at least Petrovic to make it happen, the Canucks still have to give it the okay.
Are the Canucks willing to let this situation play out and see if Gudbranson can improve as the season carries on, with a long-term contract extension coming by season’s end? Or, at the very least, are they hopeful that the market will bear more for a player that teams were aggressively trying to pry from the Canucks as recently as last year’s draft?
If the Canucks walk through either of those doors, that ends any and all speculation about a Gudbranson-for-Petrovic swap.
Until that time, I’d think it’s fair to speculate about the possibility of a fit between these two teams centred on these two players. It just makes too much sense not to, especially if the Canucks can get the Panthers to sweeten the pot. We know the Canucks covet Jayce Hawryluk and Denis Malgin.
That’s all we can do though — speculate. Petrovic is a plug-and-play right-shot defenceman — the exact kind the Canucks almost acquired for Gudbranson a handful of months ago. If the Panthers still want Gudbranson, well, it’s not hard to draw a connection between the two. Time will tell if this was a signal or noise.