Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Canucks trade Nick Bonino for Brandon Sutter, throw in Adam Clendening for kicks

Canucks fans have had to cope with the loss of several fan favourites this season, so it was nice change of pace when the team announced on Tuesday that they had traded Nick Bonino instead.

Save for two weeks in late October, when we entertained the idea that he was better than Ryan Kesler, the man he replaced, Nick Bonino didn't accomplish much in his time in Vancouver. And in the playoffs, he was arguably Vancouver's least effective player. It was enough to wish that Jim Benning had a do-over on the deal.

Benning must have felt the same way, which is why Bonino is outbound, and centre Brandon Sutter, now formerly of the Pittsburgh Crosbies, is the newest Canuck. Sutter was, you may recall, the centrepiece of a collapsed trade deadline deal that would have sent Ryan Kesler to the Penguins.

But, alas, time travel comes at a cost. Doc Brown warned us about paradoxes; Trader Jim didn't listen. The full deal sends Nick Bonino, Adam Clendening and a second-round draft pick to Pittsburgh for Sutter and a third-round pick.

Great going, Jim. You went back and changed the future, giving the Canucks Sutter instead of Bonino. That's an improvement, since Bo Horvat already stole Bonino's second line job, and Bonino doesn't have the defensive chops to handle the demotion; Sutter, a bigger, faster player that's better on draws and takes them right-handed, is a better fit. But in changing the past, Jim, you've returned to a future in which you don't have the promising Adam Clendening.

That's good news for Frank Corrado, who just won his September training camp battle without having to make a single outlet pass. But it's bad news for Canucks fans, many of whom are beginning to suspect that Benning is a brilliant scout in a job that calls for a brilliant GM.

Like just about every move he's made so far, we find ourselves intrigued by what's coming in and simultaneously bewildered, or annoyed, by what's going out. After sweetening the pot with the second-for-third draft pick swap, which itself seems somewhat unnecessary since the Penguins are gleefully shedding $1.4 million in salary here and jettisoning a player that never quite fit for them, did Benning have to fork over Clendening, a player that just last year he told us was a future top-four blueliner?

(My only hope is that Benning is playing his reputation against us all, that he oversold Clendening knowing that he'd be believed, then happily tossed an overhyped player into this deal to get the guy he really wanted. Clendening was jettisoned by the savvy Blackhawks, then blithely discarded by a so-called scout savant after 17 NHL games. It's possible Benning is smarter than all of us. Considering where his desk is, he should be. I'd really like him to be.)

Still, and I feel like I'm saying this a lot lately (albeit privately, since I've been in semi-retirement all summer), this might not be a total disaster. For the Canucks' purposes, Sutter is an upgrade on Nick Bonino. He's a year younger, and he's scored twice as many career goals. He has two 20-goal seasons to Bonino's one. (That, too, may have signalled the end for Bonino. Benning said at the beginning of the year that Bonino was good for 20 goals. He stalled at fifteen, and no one makes Jim Benning look foolish -- except for Luca Sbisa.)

Production aside, Sutter should help speed up the Canucks' attack through centre ice, one that simply can't be that swift when Henrik Sedin gives way to Nick Bonino for much of the night. (Henrik doesn't need to be faster. Watching Bonino against Calgary made it painfully clear that he does.) Jim Benning said as much. "[Sutter] brings us speed to the middle of the ice and I think it solidifies our centre ice [position]," he said on a conference call.

Sure does. Now the Canucks are rolling Henrik, followed by Horvat, who appeared to have installed a nitrous oxide tank in his calves midway through the season, then Sutter. That's a group with a much higher average cruising speed, and more defensive ability. The Canucks are better up front, especially if you can still picture Nick Bonino's playoff contributions versus Calgary. (If you can't, that's because there were none.)

I don't feel entirely comfortable with Jim Benning's work here, or even in general so far. Every deal he makes, be it a signing or transaction, he seems to get fleeced a little. But he's also not letting his ego hold up transactions, and wasn't that one of the most frustration things about Mike Gillis? I've said before that Benning seems willing to ostensibly lose a deal in order to win it on his own terms. That may be what happened here.

All of this isn't to say I'm fully happy with the deal. I have, as they say in the hockey world, a cautious optimism. And I worked pretty hard on "I Need Bonino" and now he's not even a Canuck. So I'm taking this one personally.


  1. I think Sutter will be a better player to have than Bonino. He's faster, has more grit and hits, is better on the PK, better at faceoffs, which he takes RH (and let's not forget how dismal Van was overall on faceoffs last year). He scored 20 behind Crosby and Malkin, and as stated above, apart from a few weeks early in the season, Bonino disappeared from the score sheet. And he hopefully won't be prone to making slow line changes at terrible times. If Benning seems to be prone to trading for players on expiring contracts, and Sutter doesn't re-sign or what ever, he should bring a fairly high pick at the trade deadline.

  2. Younger, faster, stronger. What's not to like? It was possible the Canucks would lose one of Corrado/Clendening on waivers if either couldn't make the team. My guess is Benning & co have assessed Corrado as the better of the two, have him pencilled in, and that made Clendening trade bait.

  3. I'm just really happy you are still writing! I've been hoping for some PITB analysis ever since I heard about this trade.


  4. i'm not sure how to feel about this trade. ok i guess. Nick Bonino was always the kind of 'meh' we got cos Kesler was an ass about getting out of Lotusland.

    But Brandon Sutter is hardly Connor McDavid.

    ho hum, another 'meh' trade. I'm still hoping Trader Jim has some kind of long-term plan here.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Adding Brandon Sutter makes this Canucks line-up legitimate instantly.

    Higgins - Sutter - Hansen


    Higgins - Bonino - Hansen
    Git- er - Done

  7. ahem...well, benning is like one of those proverbial rich texans in comic books. he walks onto scene and wants what he wants and doesn't care how much he has to pay. the team is looking better though...gotta say. each little deal might not be a winner when isolated. but altogether...it could be interesting....

    did i mention how canucks army is on glue?(they were somehow lamenting bonino's 5 on 5 pts/60 over there among other martin-sheen-like 'freakouts in the jungle' over the past few weeks.) i think the fancy stat community needs to hold an intervention. CA is ruining it for all you guys..... try to make any sense whatsoever of rhys' latest info eruption. say it in 30 secs or less, rhys. i dare you.

    but in contrast, a very level-headed post by pitb indeed. nice to have you back. cause for awhile their the alternative canuck press went to the dark side...the dark, cultish, insane group-think tirading 'bring the torches and the mob and march on bennings's castle' side.

  8. The peripheral parts to this trade are what is disturbing. The pick swap, I get. Sutter is ostensibly a bit better than Bonino as a 3rd C. But tossing in an NHL-ready, young player seems unnecessary. Hard to say but we all better hope Corrado is ready to start earning a living in the NHL because Clendening surely is.

    1. Clendening was picked up for that Swedish prospect and after a hand full of games specially at end of season filling in veteran injuries, he was sent down to Utica for playoffs. Apparently he didn't impress management. Though he had played well for Utica playoffs. He could still turn out to be a good dman but being waiver elegance this year Benning had to make the choice of the two(Corrado) now. I'm sure Benning would of liked to see more of a sample if given more time. What I'd don't get is why Pens wanted another verge of NHL ready dman when he refused to let go of Pouliet on several trades. So Clendening is now a choice between Pouliet instead of between Corrado.

  9. I like the Sutter for Bonino switch, though you know that Benning is going to turn around and overpay Sutter to make sure he doesn't lose him for nothing after the year. However, why you'd need to throw in a very solid defensive prospect AND a draft pick trade-up, when the Penguins are clearly shedding salary and a player they didn't particularly want to keep anyways...that's what bugs me. There's obviously some vision here, but not the ability to get full value in executing it. Like you said, a scout where you need a GM.

    What's more depressing to me is to see Cody Franson languishing on the free agent pile, while we pay Sbisa and Bartkowski a combined 5.1 million next year, ie: about what Franson would've cost. How much would you like to dump those two contracts for a nice, shiny Cody Franson in your top 4?

    1. I don't know, is Franson such a great deal? He's still out there. I'm not happy about Sbisa either but Franson has turned into buyer beware.

  10. If they extend him , his cap hit will kick in after some UFA forwards have left . Glendennng was not going to play and if they didn't pay him .75 mil they would have lost him on waivers. Sutter was 11 overall out of WHL. 7 years in NHL , good two way player, good skater , good genes , just coming into his prime. He has good upside still. His offensive stats are skewed as he played behind Malkin and Crosby, so no power play and no top 6 wingers. Pitt had cap issues. Old time analysis always started with " who got the best player ? " Fancy stats are fine but this deal is a big winner for the Canucks.

  11. Jim Benning not knowing about Pittsburgh's urgent need to do this deal (to sign Fehr) combined with the fact that JB, once again overpaid, says a lot.
    It reaffirms that JB is not a moneyball guy.
    It reaffirms that JB has no idea how to manage a salary cap.
    It reaffirms JB's ineptitude in sales and marketing.
    It reaffirms that this is going to be the case for the majority of transactions that JB personally carries out for our team.

    1. This deal started at the draft and took almost a month. I suspect the hold up was Clendening. So Pens were eagered to sign Fehr but knew about Clendening being waiver elegable this year. Both GMs played moneyball and Benning finally blinked and ending the stand off.

    2. There are 29 other teams to make a non-value destroying deal and Benning was under no temporal pressure to make the deal and Pittsburgh was.

      Benning is a long ways away from having to waive Clendenning and it was Pittsburgh that signed Fehr almost immediately after the Bonino trade was consummated and not the Canucks.

      JB was played again for the fool and there's no doubt in my mind that there are 29 other GMs lining up to make a deal with him because he's what they call in the business, easy money.

  12. Yay. A post on PITB! What were we talking about? I got too excited. Oh, yeah. Cautious optimism. I'm on a freak-out vacation right now. Mostly because I expect more to come and it's too dang hot to get so bothered. Flipping pools in this heat is not recommended. So, I'm gonna save up all my freakouts then cash 'em in in September.

    Having said that, I think I like Allan Graves's point, above. Just looking for the aloe and salves this scorching summer...

    1. Don't flip the pool! Under current water regulations it can't be refilled.

  13. I wasn't a big Bonino fan or a Clendening fan so I like the deal. I really haven't watched Sutter a whole lot but he's a better skater, better face off man and has a bigger body that maybe he doesn't crash and bang with but will be hard to play against. Throw in a scoring touch that appears more consistent than that of Bonino and I like it. I don't know why the picks were even included in the deal and don't really care either. More picks will be coming later I'm sure.
    I like what Benning has done, he's brought in some hard working soldiers and will have lots of cap space freed up in the next year. All the handwringing and negativity with every move he makes has become laughable imo.

  14. ok you guys are selling me on Sutter. I won't miss Bonino, and who knows what Clendening will become. maybe this deal ain't so bad after all.

  15. CanucksArmy's pessimism is more than justified. Virtually every move Benning makes, he downgrades while paying a premium to do so.

    Clendening wasn't actually all that promising, even in Utica, which just shows that trading Forsling for him was a mistake.

    Other than signing Sven Bärtschi for a reasonable price, pretty much everything Benning has done this summer has been unjustifiable. He is finding "types" of players he likes (in this case, because of the guy's last name) rather than simply trying to build a club that scores more goals than it allows -- i.e. the only way to win hockey games.

    And now talk is of a 5-year extension at $4.4 million. Jason Garrison -- a far more important cog -- was deemed too expensive. Instead Benning is going to give that money to Brandon Sutter while also having unnecessarily re-signed fringe players Dorsett and Sbisa to ridiculous deals.

    There is little to like here, except the hope that Aquilini's famous intolerance for missing the playoffs surfaces again this year and Benning -- for whom there actually isn't much evidence of any particular scouting talent, let alone anything else -- gets turfed. He is definitely not "brilliant" in any traditional sense of that word.

  16. Regarding Sbisa and Dorsett for a minute...
    Yes I know there were many, many nights when I shouted at the tv NO NO NO when Sbisa was on the ice there were also enough positives to wonder what could be done with him IF you could eliminate the errors. It is obvious that Benning is betting big that the errors in Sbisa's game can be corrected. If he turns out to be wrong on that, we can all jump on him. But if his judgement turns out to be correct and Sbisa turns into a reliable top 4 with offensive upside he will be worth his contract and then some.
    Now is Dorsette worth what he is going to get? He looks expensive but he is more than just another grinder. Again, time will tell whether Benning overpaid.
    It is summer, the weather is fine, and I am willing to give JB the benefit of the doubt.

  17. Need






  18. Guys, I know you are writing for free now but is this blog on an extended vacation or what?

  19. Please guys it's the young stars tourney with C McD vs Cole tonight!

  20. Pass it to Bulis is now in the Vancouver Courier. I am not sure why they did not post it here. You can see links to it from their Twitter account, or follow this


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