The Vancouver Canucks traded center Nick Bonino, defenseman Adam Clendening and a second-round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for center Brandon Sutter and a third-round pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks have certainly bolstered their forward depth with Sutter, who should be a better fit as their second-line center. While Bonino had better offensive stats the past two seasons, the 26-year-old Sutter plays a better defensive game. The issue for the Canucks, however, is retaining him beyond 2015-16. Given his UFA status next July, he’ll attract considerable suitors on the open market. It could cost $5.5 million to retain him. The Canucks will have the cap space, but can they meet his asking price? Time will tell.
Bonino was acquired by the Canucks last summer from Anaheim in the Ryan Kesler trade. While the 27-year-old posted decent numbers last season (15 goals, 39 points), they were well below his career-best 22 goals and 49 points of the previous year. There was a feeling he was a disappointment as their second-line center. Given he had big skates to fill in replacing Kesler, that didn’t help matters. Bonino’s certain to fill the third-line center role with the Penguins, where he won’t face as much pressure as he did in Vancouver.
It’s curious that the Canucks gave up Clendening, considered a promising rearguard but with limited NHL action (21 games) thus far. Having dealt away Kevin Bieksa, it was thought the Canucks would give the 22-year-old Clendening a shot at a roster spot this season. He will add more depth to the Penguins’ pipeline of young blueliners, but could find it difficult making their roster in 2015-16. He’s on a two-way contract, which also provides them with a measure of cap relief if he is demoted.
An interesting move by both teams. It’s definitely a cost-cutting one for the Penguins, shipping Sutter’s $3.3 million cap hit to Vancouver while adding two players whose salaries combined are worth a little over $2.5 million. Bonino’s also under contract for two more seasons, whereas Sutter is eligible next summer for UFA status. While getting Sutter for Bonino is an improvement for the Canucks, tossing in Clendening while giving up a second-round pick for a third-rounder seems like an overpayment.