Erik Gudbranson signs multi-year deal with Vancouver Canucks (via @Canucks/Twitter)

COLUMN: Benning stands firm on Gudbranson, will keep him with Canucks until 2021

Canucks opt to not trade the 26-year-old defenseman, but sign him to multi-year deal

As the National Hockey League’s February 26 trade deadline approaches, the Vancouver Canucks have made their decision on defenseman Erik Gudbranson’s future.

Vancouver announced Tuesday that they had signed him to a three-year contract extension worth approximately $4 million a year through the end of the 2020-21 NHL season.

“Erik is an important part of our team and provides a physical element to our blueline,” general manager Jim Benning said in a statement. “His leadership qualities help us as we continue to integrate younger players in our lineup.”

It is safe to say Gudbranson, a former third overall pick in the 2010 NHL entry draft, has not lived up to his full potential.

Vancouver didn’t re-sign the 26-year-old for his offensive upside, as he’s only had two goals and two assists in 41 games this season.

After the New York Rangers traded defenseman Nick Holden to the Boston Bruins for a third-round pick in 2018 on the same, it was obvious that Vancouver would have been able to trade Gudbranson to a number of playoff-contending teams looking for a big and physical presence during long playoff runs.

One would have to be crazy to offer a third-pairing defenseman a $4-million average annual value for the next three years. Gudbranson is now set to earn more than the likes of Nashville’s Roman Josi, Anaheim’s Cam Fowler and Pittsburgh’s Olli Maatta.

Benning is aiming to define two aspects of this extension.

First, Vancouver is re-signing Gudbranson to be the player that they want him to be. Since arriving in Vancouver, he hasn’t showed his full potential on a team that is in the midst of a rebuild. He is young, which allows for improvement in the coming years.

Secondly, this shows Benning is standing firm on his move two years ago to trade Jared McCann and a pair of 2016 NHL entry draft picks for Gudbranson. Had he traded the Ontario player before the deadline, he would have admitted to a mistake.

It is unclear as to whether Gudbranson would have earned the same contract entering free agency following July 1, or he would be left picking from the few offers he receives.

How do the Canucks benefit from the extension? According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the deal does not include a no-trade clause.

In the long run, it is possible the Canucks could flip Gudbranson onto another team, as the prospect of adding a 6-foot-6, 220-pound defenseman would provide a great amount of interest from GMs.

For now, Gudbranson will be sticking with Vancouver’s rebuild plan over the next three years in the hopes of returning to playoff hockey.

– with a file from The Canadian Press

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