Wednesday, 25 May 2016

A Rare Playoff Trade

It's not often that we see rostered players get traded during the playoffs, but that happened tonight. The Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers swapped players and draft picks in a surprising deal that begins the transition of the Panthers as analytics take over from Dale Tallon's instincts. Vancouver addresses a need in getting a solid defensive defenceman while Florida gets a couple of good picks and a relatively unproven young talent that they can mold into a solid NHL player.

Vancouver dealt rookie centerman Jared McCann, a 2016 second-round pick, and 2016 fourth-round pick to the Florida Panthers for defenceman Erik Gudbranson and a 2016 fifth-round draft pick. What makes this deal a little odd for the Panthers is that they had just agreed to an extension for Gudbranson on May 9 to the tune of one-year at $3.5 million, so dealing him some two weeks later comes as a bit of a surprise.

Gudbranson wasn't ever going to be a offensive dynamo, but he was a guy who stood out on the Panthers blue line due to his size: 6'5" and 220lbs. He blocks shots, he skates fairly well, and he plays a more rugged game than most did in Sunrise, but he was fourth in minutes-played for the Panthers' defencemen. He was also the youngest of the Panthers' rearguards, so he still had room to grow. Or so it was thought.

"He is an important part of our young core who has continued to develop into a reliable, physical presence on our blue line and a strong leader in our locker room," former GM Dale Tallon said after Gudbranson has re-signed. Now, all that lip service is hot air as Gudbranson moves to the west coast.

The Canucks were looking to upgrade their blue line, and they can do so by trading a second-round pick for an NHL-experienced, young defenceman who towers over his opposition. There is some work to do to make Gudbranson a top-pairing defenceman, but his size and rugged play will be put to good use. You have to wonder if the Canucks will pair him with 6'7" Nikita Tryamkin at some point to have the twin towers on the blue line, but he should fit in nicely with the youthful Canucks defencemen.

Jared McCann was the 24th-overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, and he played 69 games in his rookie season this past year as he posted nine goals and nine assist. His face-off winning percentage was only 30%, but that's a normal trend for rookies and a stat that will only go up from this past season. McCann was viewed as a future scoring centerman, but he'll take his talents to Sunrise where they'll work to make his sophomore season a success.

McCann will have some work to do in grabbing a roster spot with the Panthers next season, though, as he'll need to slot in behind Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad next season. He'll battle Quinton Howden and Vincent Trocheck for a spot, but Trocheck's great season this past season may keep him on the Panthers' roster, making the last centerman spot a battle if Dave Bolland is healthy.

Having McCann start the season in Springfield shouldn't be seen as a setback or a demotion. He does ned to work on winning more face-offs with regularity, and finding his scoring touch will be vital in seeing McCann step into an already dynamic line-up that Florida ices. Getting some AHL experience against experienced teams and players in Toronto, Hershey, Providence, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton won't hurt McCann's growth as a player whatsoever.

With Florida getting the 33rd-overall and 93rd-overall picks added as part of the deal, they should be able to pick up additional talent on which to build. Restocking the cupboard is something all teams have to be on top of, and by grabbing a couple of decent picks with a solid prospect the Panthers have done a good job in adding some potential scoring with the possibility of adding more.

If analytics told the Panthers to deal Gudbranson, some one missed what can't be quantified in size and skating ability with Gudbranson. If we're talking about a winner in the trade, though, the immediate winner would have to be Vancouver as they get an NHL-experienced defenceman, but the Panthers may win this trade if we look five years down the road.

Do analytics allow one to predict the future in five years? We'll soon find out!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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