Canucks see value in for­mer Fron­tenac Gud­bran­son

Kingston Whig-Standard - - SPORTS - BEN KUZMA

MA­RINA DEL REY, Calif. — Erik Gud­bran­son has not heard the noise.

The con­sis­tent clam­our is that the Van­cou­ver Canucks de­fence­man should have been dealt last sum­mer or be­fore the next trade dead­line. And def­i­nitely be­fore he en­ters the lu­cra­tive world of Blue­liner Bingo — bet­ter known as un­re­stricted free agency.

For many who view the Na­tional Hockey League club from afar, he’s a po­lar­iz­ing player.

Whether it’s crunch­ing salary cap fig­ures or an­a­lytic num­bers, many will tell you Gud­bran­son is not a long-term fit for the Canucks.

He’s far from a Corsi king and the very na­ture of the mar­ket for big back-end play­ers in their prime means he’s go­ing to leap from $3.5 mil­lion US a sea­son and sign for be­tween $4-$5 mil­lion US an­nu­ally. He’s also go­ing to get term.

De­fen­sive de­fence­man Karl Alzner, 28, got a five-year deal in free agency from the Mon­treal Cana­di­en­sonJu­ly1witha$4.65-mil­lion US cap hit.

The mi­cro­scope is fo­cus­ing on Gud­bran­son be­cause from an as­set­man­age­ment per­spec­tive, there are two things at play.

If you don’t be­lieve Gud­bran­son war­rants a con­tract ex­ten­sion then you can’t af­ford to lose him for noth­ing via free agency. A re­turn could be max­i­mized at the trade dead­line.

If you be­lieve the skinny last sum­mer of a deal with the Florida Pan­thers fall­ing through — Ja­son De­mers re­port­edly ve­toed a trade to the Canucks in ex­change for Gud­bran­son — then maybe the clock is re­ally tick­ing on a 25-yearold de­fence­man.

How­ever, he has em­braced the city, a new up­tempo sys­tem and wants to re­main in Van­cou­ver. What’s that worth?

Gud­bran­son can be signed to an ex­ten­sion Jan. 1, but this tough travel month will go a long way to so­lid­i­fy­ing his sta­tus as a keeper or trade bait.

If Gud­bran­son doesn’t project as a top-four blue­liner next sea­son — Chris Tanev, Alex Edler, Michael Del Zotto, Troy Stecher and Der­rick Pouliot are all in that mix and Olli Juolevi may make the leap to the NHL — then the Canucks will be pay­ing a lot for third-pair­ing in­tan­gi­bles.

It’s enough to make your head spin if you won­der where you project po­si­tion­ally and fi­nan­cially.

“I don’t pay at­ten­tion to it — everybody has an opin­ion,” Gud­bran­son said of on­go­ing spec­u­la­tion. “I think I have a place on this team and I think what I bring is valu­able and I have to con­tinue to get bet­ter.

“You play to your abil­ity and things are go­ing to take care of them­selves. I like the sys­tem. It’s ag­gres­sive and you’re mov­ing your feet and it makes the game fun.

“I don’t want to go any­where.” What Gud­bran­son wanted was to estab­lish him­self with a new coach and a sys­tem that plays to his strengths. And play­ing on in­stincts has al­lowed him to be more no­tice­able along the walls and in front of the net with a needed phys­i­cal pres­ence.

Gud­bran­son has just 12 goals in 355 ca­reer games, but skates well enough to move the puck be­cause there’s a premium to push the pace in Travis Green’s sys­tem.

“It’s a fast game and de­fence­men are part of the at­tack all the time,” said the Canucks coach. “You’ve got to be able to break the puck out and Guddy fits into our game.”

GERRY KAHRMANN/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Canucks de­fence­man Erik Gud­bran­son, a for­mer Kingston Fron­tenac, takes part in the pregame skate be­fore a pre­sea­son game against the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers in Van­cou­ver on Sept. 30.

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