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Sports organizations try to remain as agnostic as possible, for obvious reasons. But the Vancouver Canucks are atheists today—the Hockey Gaud is gone.
After 153 games with the Canucks, forward Adam Gaudette was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks. The news both was and wasn’t a surprise.
General manager Jim Benning had become accustomed to pumping Gaudette’s tires and constantly bragging about finding a gem in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. But Gaudette seemingly fell out of favour in the postseason last year after scoring 33 points in 59 games as a third-line centre.
He was a healthy scratch for the Canucks at times this year on his way to a disappointing seven points in 33 games. Even in a shortened season, when you have to write out a player’s point totals instead of using numbers, you know it didn’t go very well.
The 24-year-old was also, of course, the first Canuck to contract COVID-19 before the virus tore through the organization.
The surprise comes both in the seemingly underwhelming return and in the fact that Benning made a move at all, given that he said the Canucks would be quiet at the deadline due to the fact that many players on the team were dealing with the fallout from the virus.
Coming back to the Canucks is 25-year-old winger Matthew Highmore, who has struggled to maintain in the Blackhawks’ lineup this year and has two points in 24 games. The Canucks likely think that Highmore’s gritty play (and his uncharacteristic four points in nine games in last year’s playoffs) can help Vancouver’s bottom six.
And even though Benning has laughably maintained that the Canucks don’t have cap issues, Highmore does make a little more than $200,000 less than Gaudette against the cap, according to Cap Friendly.
Yeah, sorry, we just do not get this one.
Even though it’s incredibly unlikely, it really does feel as if the Canucks shipped out Gaudette because they were mad he brought COVID into the organization. Of course, that would be not only ridiculously unfair to the player, but absolutely horrid asset management.
Sure, there’s a chance that Highmore becomes some version of Tyler Motte, a gritty, hard-working and fast player that becomes decently valuable at the bottom of the lineup. And many (us included) didn’t like the trade that brought Motte to the Canucks for pending UFA Thomas Vanek.
But though Chicago has been better than the Canucks this year, the Blackhawks haven’t exactly been world-beaters. So it says something that Highmore hasn’t been able to get into the lineup on a consistent basis. He wasn’t able to pull it off last year either, playing 36 games for the club (and putting up six points).
So yeah, it’s a confusing move by the Canucks. Gaudette wasn’t an amazing player by any stretch, but he did prove himself capable of playing in the NHL and there was a sense he hadn’t reached his ceiling as a player quite yet. The same things can’t be said for Highmore.
The trade does clear one thing up though: Benning can no longer use the “we didn’t think it was fair to trade players” excuse.
He already signed his biggest trade chip in Tanner Pearson to an extension in a move that was routinely panned by fans and media alike, but there’s no reason that Benning shouldn’t do everything he can to move out other players who don’t have much of a future with the team like Brandon Sutter.
If he can’t or won’t do that by today’s noon deadline, expect Canucks fans to be left scratching their heads once again.