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Photo Credit: Dom Gagne - USA TODAY Sports

Top 3 Trade Destinations for Ben Hutton

It would be difficult to discern why the Canucks would consider parting with Ben Hutton from afar. The affable blue-liner is but 24-years-old, has another year on his contract, and all his underlying metrics pass the smell test.

So, what gives? By the sounds of it, it’s Hutton’s off-ice antics and commitment level that have drawn the ire of first-year head coach Travis Green. I’ve heard from countless secondary sources (take that for whatever it’s worth) that those concerns are warranted, and that Hutton does indeed need to step up his professionalism if he’s to get back in Green’s good graces.

Yesterday’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights marks the 11th time the Canucks have sat Hutton in the last 25 games. Speaking to TSN’s Jeff Paterson today, Green said of Hutton’s chances of getting into the lineup “there are certain things I want out of Hutton, and he knows exactly what is expected of him. And when that happens, he will play.” So he’s not there yet, and that’s why his name is out there as a potential trade candidate.

By the sounds of it, Hutton is starting to get frustrated with this situation too. Speaking to TSN’s Farhan Lalji, Hutton expressed as much and didn’t seem all that put-off by the notion of a change of scenery. That’s far from requesting a trade, but it’s fair to wonder how much longer this situation lingers until we get to that point.

From the Canucks perspective, a Hutton deal could make sense. Their left side is loaded with depth players, and each of them is signed into next season. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for Olli Juolevi if he’s ready to make the jump, or Philip Holm, who has earned the chance to sink or swim at the NHL level. Obviously, it seems more sensible that they move on from someone like Michael Del Zotto to make room, but that just seems incredibly unlikely at this stage.

The only problem is that Hutton is playing on a deal that most feel is a bit rich for his production. Last season, the Canucks jumped ahead of restricted free agency to sign Hutton to a two-year extension at $2.8-million annually. Whichever team trades for Hutton will then have to grapple with whether to qualify Hutton at that number at the end of next season, which could negate some of the value that usually comes with cost-controlled players like Hutton.

If Thomas Vanek is the Canucks most obvious trade chip in play, then I think it’s fair to suggest Hutton isn’t that far behind. With that, let’s check out three teams that have distinguished themselves as potential landing spots for his services.

Boston Bruins

The first team to explore the possibility of adding Hutton via trade was the Boston Bruins. They’re as legitimate a Stanley Cup contender as you’ll find, but if there’s one area where there is room for improvement, it’s on the left side of their blue line — it makes sense that they’d want to add a player like Hutton.

Thus far in the deadline, the Bruins have been one of the more active teams, adding Nick Holden and parting with Frank Vatrano just days apart. Still, they have a pick in each round but the fifth of this year’s entry draft, a good bounty of prospects and ample cap space for Hutton with room to spare. Of course, all that is subject to change on a moment’s notice if we’re to believe the multiple insiders linking them to Rick Nash… but as of writing this, that’s yet to materialize.

There’s also the possibility of the Canucks looking to acquire a full-time NHL’er. Canucks general manager Jim Benning was a member of the Bruins staff when they drafted Ryan Spooner, and he’s been rumoured to have interest in the middle-six forward going back two or three years now. The Bruins are low on cap space, but a Spooner-for-Hutton swap is essentially cap neutral.

Buffalo Sabres

Under normal circumstances, the Buffalo Sabres probably wouldn’t be looking to add anyone at the trade deadline. They’re last in Eastern Conference with 47 points, and by all accounts ready to sell veterans for futures. Hutton isn’t a rental, and he’s relatively young, so he’s not what you’d call a rental — he could, in theory, be a part of their resurgence.

One potential roadblock is that the Sabres have a tonne of left-side defencemen already on the roster. According to CapFriendly, the Sabres have five left-side defencemen on their active roster (one on injured reserve, too). One has to think that the Sabres interest in Hutton at this deadline is predicated on their ability to move Josh Gorges and Victor Antipin.

The Sabres have all of their draft picks in the upcoming entry draft save for the third-round selection they parted with for Nathan Beaulieu last summer, and a decent prospect pool to boot. They also have Matt Moulson on the books for another season at $5-million. Perhaps the Canucks can pry something of value for their rebuild if they offer salary relief along with Hutton?

Winnipeg Jets

Full disclosure: this is a shot in the dark. I’ve yet to see anything connecting the Winnipeg Jets to the Canucks for any of their players, much less Hutton. It is clear, though, that they’re looking for depth on the left side of their blue line. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman made as much clear as he connected Winnipeg to the aforementioned Antipin.

The Jets are primed to make a serious run this post-season, and all reports indicate they’re ready to dig into their treasure chest of prospects if that’s what’s necessary to bring in help at the deadline.

The Jets left side isn’t necessarily a weak link, but it could be better certainly. In Josh Morrisey, Dmitry Kulikov and Tobias Enstrom, they have a capable trio of defenders. That’s probably why they’d have some level of interest in a depth defender like Antipin.

If they want to take a big picture approach, though, Hutton could be of some value. Enstrom is a pending unrestricted free agent, and the Jets aren’t expected to re-sign him. That leaves a hole on the left side that none of their prospects are quite ready to fill. The Jets have a notoriously difficult time attracting free agents, so perhaps they’d see this as an opportunity to get a step ahead of that situation in buying Hutton.

The Canucks could try and make such a move appealing by taking on the final months of Shawn Matthias’ contract, as the former Canuck has struggled to stay in the lineup for much of the season in Winnipeg. The Jets are an internal budget, so little things like that matter.

There are so many prospects in Winnipeg that are right on the cusp of breaking through. If not with Hutton, the Canucks should find a way to get in on at least one of them, if possible.

  • truthseeker

    I won’t completely dismiss the “character” rumors. I’m sure it’s totally possible Hutton might be bringing issues on himself. Still though…I think the canucks would be stupid to give up on him. If he were just 5th round pick that had a first season like this season, then sure, you’re not losing anything. But the kid showed how good he can be in that rookie year. Surely a stern talking to combined with an opportunity to get himself back in the lineup would be preferable to trading him at a low point in his value. Some guys you sell low because their is nothing left to give (Kassian/Hodgson), but Hutton is not even close to a case like that. Every effort should be made to, at minimum, inflate his value, if you want him gone. Look at trading him next season if you really don’t like what he brings. Pump and dump.

    With the value of D in the league, and a little slight of hand, the canucks could create a pretty big value trade chip with him by next season’s deadline.

    • Giant-Nation

      Huttons issues have to be fairly serious, if your in a rebuild adding 3-4 rookies a year and guys are getting a taste the standard/culture of how they prepare for games/practices is going to be key, if one player sees a guy getting by cutting corners it can be contagious. Are they better with Hutton probably but with so much new blood coming in his scratches are a clear message to the JV’s of the world that want to be a Canuck.

      • truthseeker

        True, but in the end we just don’t know what to what extent it goes. Yeah you can’t reward a sloppy work ethic, but you also need to be able to communicate with young players logically and work with them to correct whatever might be wrong. And maybe they are doing that. But when I hear Green sing the praises of the “Al Arbour” method that he seems to like so much, I can’t help but think if this is a coach who thinks that scratching without dialog IS the method of trying to “motivate” a player. It’s not just that, that makes me think Green isn’t the best with communication. His stupid scratching of a rested Boeser for the first two games of the season and outward look of the way he handles Jake, make me think the guy doesn’t communicate very well. Total speculation I’ll admit. But when it comes to a young D who has shown he can play in the NHL…I really don’t think the canucks can afford to just be shipping guys like that off.

  • Rodeobill

    I have to admit, I’m really curious about what these issues are. Is he too goofy? Laid back? A little brevity can help as many situations as hurts, but I can’t imagine that’s it. Baerschi had to sit when his numbers were good this season and last, is it for the same reason? Different? What about JV, Goldobin? Examples being made? What’s Greener’s sneaky plan? Guess I gotta call jo-jo’s psychic hotline, I’ll get back to you guys when I know more.

    • Locust

      It doesn’t matter.
      JD says his metrics justify anything.
      Just like JD says Sutter sucks because of his metrics but he has PROVEN he is as important as anyone in the line up.
      Metrics are a small tool in a big toolbox.

      • Freud

        How has he PROVEN he’s important?

        He’s been the ” foundational shutdown” centre of a team in 28th, 29th and 28th place since he got here. He’s led a team in shorthanded ice time for forwards that has finished 27th, 27th and 27th on the PK in the same period. Those aren’t the metrics you don’t seem to understand. They’re just facts.

        Give us some evidence instead of opinion.

        Opinion is nothing in a big toolbox.

        • Locust

          Sorry to offend you JD, thought you buried this fake troll name already…
          funny how people call you stupid and there is never a fake troll response but as soon as someone disagrees using metrics you spit out your pacifier and respond…
          Blah blah blah Canucks suck blah blah … we sure get our moneys worth on this free site.

        • Canuck4Life20

          “Opinion is nothing in a big toolbox.”

          What does that even mean?

          For someone who fancies himself the smartest man on Canucks Army you sure don’t have much intelligent to say. You’ll always be the guy that compared Benning to a deadbeat dad. How many university degrees does it take to come up with such a brilliant and fact based analogy like that one fraud?

  • sonnytwo

    So, which is it: Do the Bruins have “ample cap space for Hutton with room to spare” or are they “low on cap space, but a Spooner-for-Hutton swap is essentially cap neutral.”?

    • J.D. Burke

      I can definitely see where the confusion might arise. I suppose I should have been more clear. While the Bruins had ample space to take on Hutton’s salary, they’re also a team looking to make big moves (like acquiring Rick Nash this morning) and don’t have a lot of cap space, as evidenced by their need to move Matt Beleskey and Ryan Spooner as part of that deal. Bad wording on my part. Sorry for the confusion

  • Ca-nuckle head

    What about a young players for young players swap. Hutton for Domi. Both need a change, reunite Domi and Horvat from there junior days. Would probably take more than just Hutton but those kinds of trades I would be okay with

  • wojohowitz

    This management group is so pathetic and predictable. Does a hatchet job on Hutton deflect attention away from the other issues? Management hopes so. Start with innuendo like; Is that him sitting in the bar every night until closing time? Then some rumours; Is that who lost his license for 90 days? and then top it off with some character asassination; Conditioning is poor, party animal, bad attitude, wants out. It`s pathetic.

    • canuckfan

      Hutton has been doing a good enough hatchet job on himself last season and this year. He has talent but doesn’t take the next step to up his game through hard work and effort. He has grown up on a crappy team and just seems happy to play in the NHL. Lives the life in the fast lane doesn’t think he needs to work any harder as he has made it, but now that has bit him in the butt as others less talented are passing him soon it will be the end of his contract and he will need to work harder to earn a new one but no one will want to give him the chance.
      I hope they don’t trade him and he listens to Green. Green wants to build a team that works hard without hard work you are happy to be at the bottom and that ends up being a culture hard to break.

  • I am Ted

    I’m hoping Benning makes a hockey trade happen. It amazes me how the bottom dwelling teams are so stubborn and don’t get more creative.

    Hutton has a lot of upside but doesn’t want to put in the work. If he gets his head on straight and does what it takes to become a true NHL professional then he could be a #3 or #4 D-man and maybe even higher. You see his skill, has good size, good skater and good analytics. This guy could really turn into something. Benning should not be handing him over for next to nothing.

    Dealing him to the Coyotes for something also makes sense. Maybe a multi-player deal where Hutton and Domi are the primary players. Lots of options out there.

    Let’s also remember the Canucks are not a good team. If Hutton was surrounded by good players, then I could really see him doing better and soon.

    • Cageyvet

      Happy to keep him, but happy to move him……..for the right price. A 5th rounder you turned into a player, even if it’s currently a depth NHL’er is getting good value.

      I agree with the takes of move him for a Domi-type, that’s great return, or hit him hard as they are now and see what he’s made of, people need to remember there is no rush with this team. Make the right decision on your young players with potential, it doesn’t have to happen by tomorrow.