Trading Erik Gudbranson Was the Best Move the Penguins Could Make

After acquiring Erik Gudbranson in the middle of last season, the Penguins have shipped the defenseman back to the west coast for a prospect and a pick.

The Pittsburgh Penguins traded defenseman Erik Gudbranson to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday in exchange for minor league forward Andreas Martinsen and a seventh round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

Acquired last February from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for forward Tanner Pearson, Gudbranson suited up for 26 regular season games and four playoff games for the Penguins. He recorded two assists and was a plus 7 in the regular season, and he added a goal in the Penguins’ four game postseason exit.

At 6’5″ and 217 pounds, the 27-year-old Gudbranson plays a very physical brand of hockey, as evident by his 71 hits in his combined 30 games with Pittsburgh.

The issue with this style of play, is that, not only is it not the Penguins’ style of hockey, but it is not how winning teams play hockey. Look at the 2016 and 2017 championship teams in Pittsburgh. They won with speed and skill and no real enforcer.

To make the Erik Gudbranson experiment in Pittsburgh worse, he is making $4 million this season and next season.

As a team that has enjoyed recent success without an overly physical presence and that is always right below the salary cap, the trade for Gudbranson never made sense, and with the depth the Penguins have on defense, it was appropriate to move on from him.

Martinsen, a 29-year-old forward who clocks in at 6’3″ and 229 pounds, has a total of 152 games in his NHL career. He has 23 career points in total, and most recently recorded four points in 24 games last season for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Certainly, the return for Gudbranson is minimal, but I cannot stress enough how little sense it made to have him on this roster. Any return is a good return for a player that never fit with this organization.

The only disappointing part of this trade is that if you follow it back to the beginning, which starts with Carl Hagelin being traded for Pearson, the Penguins essentially traded a two-time champion for a minor leaguer and a seventh round pick. Not overly impressive.

Either way, the Penguins made a move that makes the team better, and also clears a significant amount of cap space. Fans will continue to call for a Jack Johnson trade, but I am confident that Gudbranson was the right blueliner to move.

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