Photo Credit: Mat Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

First Look: Canucks Send Erik Gudbranson to Penguins In Exchange For Tanner Pearson

It is truly the end of an era. In the closest thing to a blockbuster trade as we get in Vancouver, the Canucks finally ended the Erik Gudbranson experiment by trading him to the Pittsburgh Penguins. In exchange, they received Tanner Pearson, a once-highly-respected winger whose value completely eroded after an absolutely horrific start to his season with the Los Angeles Kings and an underwhelming stint in Pittsburgh.

When analyzing what this means for the Canucks, it seems only fair to start at the beginning with the player going out.

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There’s just no nice way to say it. By just about every analytical tool available, Erik Gudbranson was one of, if not the worst defenseman in the National Hockey League. You’d have a tough time finding a defender who was more keen to take the glass-and-out approach, and it cost his team in the long run. This season, Gudbranson ranks in the bottom-ten among defenders with at least 300 minutes played in even-strength shot-share, shots conceded per hour, and goal-differential. Setting aside all the fancy stuff, over the course of Gudbranson’s time in Vancouver, no regular defenseman in the league carried a worse even-strength on-ice goals-for percentage than he did. There’s a lot of talk about all the things that analytics or statistics can’t measure, but how much your team scores versus how much they get scored on when you’re on the ice would seem to be the ballgame for me. For the better part of three seasons, the Canucks couldn’t generate offense or keep the puck out of the net when he was on the ice.

Everyone with close ties to the organization, from players to execs to the media that covers the team seemed to agree that Erik Gudbranson was a great teammate and person. Unfortunately, his on-ice contributions just never lined up with the off-ice ones during his time in Vancouver.

In return for Gudbranson, the Canucks received Tanner Pearson, another player who’s struggled this season and has fallen out of favour with two straight clubs. In Pearson, it would appear as though the Canucks have acquired a player with as wide a spectrum of possible outcomes as you’re likely to find on the trade market.

Since entering the league, Pearson’s been a solid middle-six contributor, usually as complementary piece on what was at one time a dominant second line for the LA Kings with Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli. While it should be pretty obvious that Pearson wasn’t the one driving the bus on that line, he held his own just fine, putting up 36+ points in three straight seasons while also boasting an impressive profile in terms of the underlying shot-based metrics.

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Unfortunately, things went a little off the rails this season. Pearson was held to just one point over 17 games in LA before being flipped to Pittsburgh for Carl Hagelin. Things got slightly better from then on, but Pearson never really found a comfortable spot in Pittsburgh and improved to just 14 points in the 44 games he played for the Penguins.

It would be easy to dismiss it as bad luck, but Pearson’s underlying numbers have taken a significant dip, too.

It’s very possible this is a sign that Pearson is already in decline and his best days may be behind him. Having said that, it seems unlikely to me that a player with Pearson’s track record would completely fall off the map at the age of 26. At the very least, he’s another third-line winger who gives the Canucks the luxury of trading or moving on from one of their wingers who hasn’t worked out. He should also help the Canucks on the breakout, where Pearson ranked in the 89th percentile of players in terms of percentage of zone exits with control of the puck.

Overall, it’s hard to see this as anything but a massive win for the Canucks. In a vacuum, the Canucks getting rid of Gudbranson without retaining salary is a win in and of itself, and adding a semi-useful player in Tanner Pearson is just gravy. When you zoom out, there’s some room for criticism, though. Making the trade to acquire Gudbranson in the first place was a bad call, and you can say the same for extending him and reportedly turning down offers at last year’s deadline that would have yielded Miles Wood from the Devils or a 2nd and 4th-round pick from a mystery team.

There’s really something to be said for the fact that the Canucks can’t make a proactive trade. In this instance, though, they got out while they could and avoided having to make move that would have been purely reactive. Erik Gudbranson was only going to get harder to move with time, so kudos to Jim Benning and co. for pulling the trigger now instead of waiting for offers to improve. Who knows, maybe Tanner Pearson will recapture his old glory on a line with Bo Horvat and make the Canucks’ front office look like geniuses for holding out. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one, but it’s not like there’s anyone on the team who has really run away with that opportunity. It’s Pearson’s job to lose.

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  • Based on the TOI numbers, it seems like Pearson was given bottom-6 TOI (and accordingly linemates) this year. That may account for less scoring production. Look at Dobber’s line combinations, he was paired quite a bit with bottom-6 guys, albeit he did get some time with good players like Carter, Toffoli, Kessel, and Malkin.

    In the end, Pearson may be a better fit with Pettersson/Boeser than Goldobin. Pearson can play more physical while still providing some balanced goal scoring and playmaking.

  • MM

    I’d like to see Goldy stay on the petey line. thought he’s been real good lately, and why not reward that. Also, i think Pearson is more of a defensive winger with some scoring that might mesh better with Bo to play tough minutes and free up Petey’s line to score even more. Who knows, but i’d like to see goldy stay on that line while he remains hot.

  • Duke Hauser

    It seemed that everyone knew last year Gudbranson should of been traded when the return would of been far superior. How is it that Benning the GM the man paid a large salary can’t figure this out though the vast majority of us saw the writing on the wall. This to me is worthy of being a fired. Can we trust him in the future? How do the NY Rangers stock pile draft picks, when the guru of drafting GMJB can not do the same?

    • Green Bastard

      Great post. And let’s not forget Detroit and Buffalo have also acquried tons of extra picks. Vancouver have accrued no extras at their own draft party. Terrible management.

      • PQW is my Biotch

        Nice try PQW/ the new MattyT’s Mom/ Bud stalker/ rooster lollipop…. flip flop flip flop.

        PS, good trade by Jim. Totally fleeced PQW’s heroic Pens management

        • Duke Hauser

          Who got fleeced? The Canucks gave up Jared McCann a 2nd and a 4th round pick. They could received more last year but double downed on a 3 year $12 million contract.

          • Green Bastard

            Yah, true, but then don’t Canucks fans still believe they robbed the Pens with Sutter over Bonino lol. Two cups later…. and Sutter is a permanent sicknote they now want to offload quicker than illegal drugs out of the Port of Vancouver.

          • PQW is my Biotch

            Only you PQW and maybe Freud would be fooled by your fake Green Bastard post. All the other posters here know you’re a multi troll flip flop’r.

            Remember, Green Bastard accepted your apology as long as you continued to call him sir. Lets not forget that.

  • Kanuckhotep

    Gudbranson is history. Get over it. Yeah, maybe Napoleon and Hitler should not have attacked Russia that ended their imperialist regimes too. Can’t change it and crying about it after the fact does nothing.

        • PotKettleBlack

          Umm… weren’t you gloating about other users getting their accounts ‘screwed over’ and ‘hacked’ just yesterday?

          Be careful what you wish for and quit trolling and running your mouth then, yeah… what goes around comes around. Remember that.

          • Bud Poile

            Like I said before I’m not your friend and I’m not your Mommy.
            I could care less about maintaining any shred of dignity on this blog with a banned troll posting in other people’s names and regular users here attempting to monitor you as they are.Jackson doesn’t have a clue,could care less and Ryan has moved on.
            So,there is all the posters that are regular hockey posters and then there is you,a multi-banned ,mentally deranged individual that has turned a hockey blog into a circus.
            So bend over,PWQ ,because until this blog honors their contributors and Canucks hockey fans with moderation the decorum on this site is heading south .

        • Braindead Benning

          Hey Bud i have a suggestion. Maybe once you STOP putting down the editors and writers of this FREE site (in which you so frequently participate in) And show you may even have some some remotely objective views (instead of your creepy love of JB and his Jock Aroma) then maybe they might listen to you instead of allways running your yap off and crying like b_itch…

          • Bud Poile

            How enlightening.When the multiple banned troll is moderated out the site will BEGIN to gain some credibility.Stealing and posting in the user names of members that frequent here to further agendas of hate and dissention is incredulous enough and now it is common place with zero site moderation. The editors don’t know or don’t care.
            So get your hands off PQW’s zipper and put it back where it is required.

        • PotKettleBlack

          LOL bang on Rusty. These hypocrite whiners like Bud soon start crying when they get a taste of their own medicine eh.

          This loser troll ‘Bud’ was gloating about hackers and hijackers yesterday, now he’s the victim he’s not laughing anymore… he’s crying like the pu$$y he is… msg to all you keyboard cowards – if you can’t take it, don’t give it, because you will lose. Book it.

          • PotKettleBlack

            Oh dear.. Dud meltdown,it’s been a while. Hahaha Priceless!

            Stop playing the victim concussed fool. Everyone KNOWS you are the biggest troll here, Jackson Mc asked you to leave… so why are YOU still here? Beat it!!!!!! Your act is as stale as the crackers in your soup, punk.

            Like you said about Dahlin… you are “expendable and terminated”. Get lost, creep.

          • Bud Poile

            Like I said,the gloves are off ,multi-banned troll.
            Long past time the editors did their job or allowed moderation to rid the site of social parasites and psychopaths like yourself.
            Take it like a man and bend over.

          • Bucket

            Keyboard coward? Interesting choice of words as one of the most cowardly things a human could do is sit behind the safety and anonymity of his computer mouthing people off.

  • Kootenaydude

    Gudbranson was injured at last years deadline. So why bring it up. Benning resigned him and instead of getting nothing. They got Pearson. As for the Florida trade. Sometimes you take a chance. An unproven 3rd line centre for a big, high draft pick RHD. You make that move every day of the week. Unfortunately Gudbranson just didn’t bring what we all hoped he could bring. Time to move on and figure out who’s going to be our next RHD

  • Braindead Benning

    Whatever its done…Pearson is better then Gudbranson was anyway at this point besides like i said so many times, guys like Gudbranson are easily replaced through cheap FA signing’s in the off season or trade throw in’s such as Schenn was with MDZ