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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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