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Analyzing the Gudbranson Trade; What the Penguins Got & Gave Up



VANCOUVER, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 13: Erik Gudbranson #44 of the Vancouver Canucks poses for his official headshot for the 2018-2019 season on September 13, 2018 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Penguins got a 6-foot-5, 217-pound defenseman with terrible advanced statistics Monday afternoon. The Penguins dealt nearly invisible winger Tanner Pearson to Vancouver for hulking defenseman Erik Gudbranson and were pleased to do so.

The Penguins aren’t wrong to be pleased, or at very least curious.

The Twitterverse was less than pleased. Actually, for an afternoon, the Penguins received the royal Pirates treatment as every move GM Jim Rutherford has made over the past two years came under heavy scrutiny. Everything the Penguins have done or thought about doing was wrong, and there was no shortage of explanations.

Fortunately for Penguins fans, the Penguins management isn’t as bad as they’re being portrayed online (though that wouldn’t be possible).

PHN can now confirm the San Jose Sharks nearly dealt Erik Karlsson to the Penguins in exchange for Tanner Pearson but Rutherford insisted on the right-handed Gudbranson instead. Please note the dripping sarcasm.

Here’s how to put this trade in context: The Penguins gave up a non-impact player who deserved more press box time for a right-handed defenseman who may deserve press box time when the Penguins defense is fully healthy but in the meantime will provide NHL caliber defense, someone to pushback on the garbage which has recently been hurled at the Penguins superstars, and some blood and cuts character.

The contractual terms of Pearson and Gudbranson are nearly identical. Gudbranson is signed for two more years at $4 million per and Pearson has two more years at $3.75 million. Gudbranson is only 27-years-old and was the third overall pick in 2010, not that it matters in 2019.

According to our real Penguins source, the Penguins believe there is more to Gudbranson’s game and want to see how he performs in an uptempo, puck-moving environment.

Again, they lost only Tanner Pearson, which clears space for Teddy Blueger when everyone is healthy. And they get someone in the locker room who may be an emotional leader.

Gudbranson and Blueger for Pearson–are you saying no?

Beyond the near perpetual outrage which has gripped the Penguins fanbase, there is sound logic to this move. If the move doesn’t work, the Penguins will be able to recoup an asset for Gubranson this summer. In the meantime, the Penguins get sorely needed help on the blue line and–again–someone able to throw punches when a Wayne Simmonds type plows a Brian Dumoulin type. Or an Evander Kane wanders into the Penguins huddle.

Credit Jared McCann for recently going after the bad actors but does anyone want to see Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang injured again because they’re doing their own dirty work?

“Getting the type of player that Gudbranson is, is something we’ve talked about for a while. He wasn’t available, to my knowledge, until today,” Rutherford said. “In Erik’s case, he’s a real heart and soul guy, a good dressing room guy. He’s got good character. And he can protect our players.”

Gudbranson’s stats aren’t pretty. There’s no churching up how bad they are. They’re flat awful. He’s been on the ice for about 34 percent of goals-for. His Corsi rating is about 43 percent. And his scoring chance ratio is also in the 38 percent range.

That means he’s not driving any offense.

Did I miss the part when Tanner Pearson drove offense? The Penguins added some much-needed help in exchange for an unneeded body.

That’s how to read the trade.

“He puts us in a position to push back when we get into more physical games,” Rutherford said. “Somes teams play a skating, skill game and some teams play a more physical game. He’s going to bring that element to our team.”

The Penguins did nothing yesterday which cannot be undone in the summer if needed. However, they also believe they may have found a missing piece–there was some excitement internally over the deal for those very reasons. At very least, Gudbranson fills an immediate need.

Of course, Commissioner Gary Bettman may extend the trade deadline for the Penguins and San Jose may reconsider the offer of Pearson or Jack Johnson for Karlsson to Pittsburgh. While we wait for that decision, perhaps we’ll pause to see how Gudbranson fits and what effects he may have on the team.

In the worst case scenario, he has the same non-effect as Pearson. In other words, the Penguins can’t lose this trade, at least until San Jose comes to its senses.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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2 years ago

Thank you! Best article I’ve read all season.

2 years ago

The bottom line is that Rutherford valued having someone who could be an enforcer more then anything else. He is the GM and he gets to make that decision.

Gudbranson’s past performance is fact. We can “hope” he improves in the pens system.

No need to put lipstick on a pig and no need to beat a dead horse.

We have what we have!!!

Brian (@nuseusmc)
2 years ago
Reply to  dean

Gudbranson is better than Justin Shultz was when they got him from Edmonton. Shultz was considered to be a bust and on his way out of hockey. The Pens system and Coaching turned him into a top 2 D man in the league. They may be able to turn him from what would be a 6 or 7 on the Pens into a 5 or 6 and that alone is a win for the Pens

2 years ago

I agree
Scratch 73
I’ve more confidence in that defence then anything I’ve seen this year!
Watch 28 improve(even tho I think his done well since trade)and Phil will finally poke his head out of its shell and maybe horny will start using his stick instead of his head!

2 years ago

What a relief to read an article that is rational and contains substance. Aside from being at the top of his cap, having no draft picks he was willing or able to move and a short list of marginal on ice talent to offer in a trade He had clear sailing to add a Norris trophy winner or two to the group. His recent trade activity is worth no more than a gracious “C” grade. But he was nearly 100% hamstrung yesterday. I doubt that we will be seeing much of the two additions yesterday after the return of the… Read more »

Zane Gearhart
Zane Gearhart (@steelcityhockey)
2 years ago

The question should be why couldn’t we get anyone better? If the best we can do is someone who costs 4 million and may sit when were healthy , that’s pretty sad.

2 years ago

If you want to blame anyone start with Kessel and Malkin and Murray who have been lackluster all year.This team should be solidly in !st place.I am sick and tired hearing about how Kessel and Malkin are being dragged down by being tied to Jack Johnson, well the last i looked Jack was a minus 5 yet Malkin is a minus 19 and Kessel is minus 15.Johnson has not been on the ice for the 13 or 14 shorthanded goals that Malkin and Kessel are almost single handedly gulity of creating. The last i looked i can’t seem to find… Read more »

mkvons (@mkvons)
2 years ago
Reply to  BIG B

To hear Canucks fans tell it, this guy does not enforce unless he is the one being hit. They say he protected no one and have the injuries to prove it. I would rather we had kept Hagelin because that is what this is—Hags for this dude with Pearson in between.

2 years ago
Reply to  BIG B

You lost me as soon as you used plus/minus.

Matt Luda
Matt Luda
2 years ago

Here’s what ‘Burgh fans and media have missed about the trade — it could make Pettersson better and even save his life. Opponents have repeatedly targeted MP with cheap shots and blows to the head since he came here. But if Gud rides shotgun as I expect to be the case, they’ll be far less likely to take liberties against him. Of course, Gud has to prove he can handle the defensive chores to log consistent minutes. But if he does, he’ll have a valuable role with this team. Consider the low cost, and I like what GMJR did here.

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