The Vancouver Canucks are keeping a close eye on the calendar and the trade deadline, especially that more and more rival teams appear interested in making a pitch for defenseman Erik Gudbranson.
For the past weeks, the quality defender has been discussed in trade chatter, and Mike Halford of The Athletic is giving us a heads up on where Gudbranson might end up after the Feb. 26 deadline. And Canucks fans will want to follow the action closely, as GM Jim Benning spent quite a bit to acquire Gudbranson and once called him a “foundational piece.”
Not anymore it seems...
Halford lists the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins as possible trade destinations for Gudbranson, and heavy competition on the market could turn into the Canucks' favor.
Benning could end up landing more than he first thought possible for the pending unrestricted free agent.
The Lightning on the hunt?
Halford notes the Lightning reportedly seek a top-four, right-handed defenseman. The team is deep in prospects and have all their picks in each of the next three drafts, which is definelty an asset to sell to a rebuilding club like Vancouver.
However, they have been reluctant in the past to part with their prospects. But the need is still there...
"It seems almost a given Tampa will make some kind of blueline upgrade," writes Halford.
The Bruins seek a time-eating D-man
The Bruins were reportedly looking for a minute-munching blue liner, trying to protect veteran captain Zdeno Chara and young rookie sensation Charlie McAvoy.
“We’ve talked about if we could ever find a guy that could eat up some minutes,” president Cam Neely recently said, per the Boston Globe. “Move the puck well, skate well, but not necessarily have to be that offensive defenseman.”
The problem with Gudbranson, and fighting in a bidding war for him, is that they’re already deep in right-handed rearguards.
"The Bruins' back end is unique, in that it's right-hand heavy with Carlo, McAvoy, Miller and McQuaid. Adding another might not fit into their plans, unless they believe someone can routinely play their off side," explains Halford.
How about the Leafs?
It is a known fact: the Leafs need an experienced defenseman for a long playoff run. However, it depends upon how management views Gudbranson for the Leafs to make a move before the deadline.
The Leafs might also want to wait and see where Travis Dermott can lead them. The trade deadline is still a few weeks away...
"The Leafs are weak on the blueline, but they're particularly weak on the right side, right down through to their minor-league system. There are key minutes to be had there," recently wrote James Mirtle.
Where else in the league...
The Panthers could still be interested in bringing back Gudbranson, while the Capitals could be in the market for a veteran defenseman.
Let's not forget that Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford and Benning have a trade history, but the Pens might be done for now with moves on the blueline. Their recent acquisition of Jamie Oleksiak could take the Pens out of the bidding for Gudbranson.