There have been a number of rumors swirling around the Canucks blue line of late. Most centered around a possible trade of shutdown defenseman Chris Tanev. However, another name that has been floated around for awhile now is that of 24-year-old Ben Hutton. Hutton, drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, scored a very respectable 25 points in his rookie year (2015-16). This past year saw him fall off somewhat, as he managed just 19 on the season. That said, Hutton still has considerable upside as a player. He is someone Canucks management would do well to hold on to.
The Vancouver Canucks Should Not Trade Ben Hutton
The Canucks’ blue line, once described as “luxurious” by management, appears to be severely lacking in the puck movement department. Outside of Troy Stecher and the newly-signed Michael Del Zotto; Hutton is the only Canucks defender that is competent in getting the puck up the ice. While his point totals aren’t gaudy, he is an asset to their transition game.
In a league that continues to shift more and more towards a skating-based style, the team should not be looking to trade off a piece that fits that profile. His sophomore year was disappointing to be sure, however there is reason to believe he could bounce back. Hutton was certainly dragged down by Erik Gudbranson. Gudbranson is widely seen as a flawed defender in the eyes of analytics. Gudbranson, 25, hardly comes in the mold of a puck mover. This could have also contributed to a weaker campaign from Hutton.
One must also consider that Hutton could conceivably quarterback the team’s top power play unit. While hardly a spectacular unit, it would allow him to play alongside of the team’s more offensively gifted forwards, such as the Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Bo Horvat, and Brock Boeser. This could lead to higher point totals for Hutton, and a chance for him to properly showcase his offensive skill set.
In discussing Hutton’s less-than-perfect sophomore year, another important point is raised. That is one of what exactly the Canucks could fetch in return for Hutton. At this point in time, Hutton’s value is at an all-time low, likely below his actual worth. The team would be better off developing Hutton, and either keeping him for their own use, or increasing his value as a trade asset. There is almost no upside to trading Hutton for a piece that will, in all likelihood, not do much in terms of improving the roster.
The Canucks appear to be philosophically changing their direction. Through trades, the draft, and free agency, the organization has shifted course towards a more skill-based roster construction. This has been further reinforced by an apparent willingness to trade Erik Gudbranson, a less mobile member of the blue line. The NHL is moving away from grit, and towards mobility, and the Canucks are rightly taking note. Trading Hutton is a move with very limited upside, while there remains very little downside to keeping him around. If management wants to keep the team on the right track towards success in the modern-day league, trading Hutton would be a mistake.