One Year Later: The Erik Gudbranson Trade

Photo: NHL

By Thomas Harrington

One year ago today, the Anaheim Ducks traded winger Andreas Martinsen and a 2021 seventh-round draft pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenseman Erik Gudbranson. A year later, this is a trade that I can safely sayAnaheim came out on top of. However, if the Penguins can find a late-round gem with that seventh-round pick, then it’s possible they’ll end up getting the better end of this deal several years down the line.

Gudrbanson joined the Penguins towards the end of the 2018-2019 season. Pittsburgh traded Tanner Pearson to Vancouver for Gudbranson. Over the final 19 games of the season, he recorded two assists with his new team. Gudbranson had been brought in to help shore up Pittsburgh’s defense, as they were looking for their third cup in four years. However, they ran into the New York Islanders and were swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Gudbranson played in all four games and recorded one goal. Last season, Gudbranson appeared in seven games for the Penguins and went scoreless before the trade.

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The Ducks had signed Martinsen to a one-year, two-way contract on July 5, 2019. The hope was that he could be a solid fourth line presence on the team. If that didn’t work out, then hopefully he’d be a valuable addition to San Diego. The year before, Martinsen had played in 24 games for Chicago and scored one goal and four points and also recorded 11 points in 38 AHL games. During training camp, Martinsen made it through the first round of roster cuts but ended up getting waived and assigned to San Diego as the final roster was decided. With the Gulls, Martinsen played in only one game and went scoreless before the trade.

Gudbranson is a solid defenseman who fits in nicely on the bottom pair, but with a cap hit of $4 million, he’s overpaid and the Penguins were looking to clear cap space. Over the summer, the Ducks had tried to add a right-handed shooting defenseman to their roster. They tried to sign Kevin Shattenkirk, but he ended up signing in Tampa for less and was able to win the Stanley Cup. They tried to trade for Justin Faulk, but he ended up being moved to St. Louis.

Besides a right-handed shooting defenseman, the Ducks also just wanted more defensive depth in general, and even tried to bring back Luca Sbisa partway through the season. Unfortunately, after signing him, he had to go through waivers and Winnipeg claimed him. Early in the season, Josh Manson was injured against Dallas, so the need for a right-handed shooting defenseman went up and the Ducks acquired Gudbranson the very next day. Even without Manson’s injury, it’s likely this trade would have happened, but his injury made Anaheim’s need to get another defenseman increase significantly.

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Once acquired by Pittsburgh, Martinsen was assigned to their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. With his new team, Martinsen played in 24 games and scored one goal and three points. He left them as a free agent and is playing in Norway this year.

Gudbranson immediately stepped into Anaheim’s top four and stayed there for pretty much the rest of the season. He often played alongside Cam Fowler, and while the duo had their ups and downs, they worked pretty well together. Overall, he appeared in 44 games for the Ducks and scored four goals and nine points. However, at $4 million, he was still a little too highly-priced for the cap-strapped Ducks, who ended up trading him to Ottawa just before free agency opened in October. Anaheim used that new cap space to bring in Shattenkirk for $3.9 million.

Who Won The Trade?

A year later, and it’s clear that Anaheim came out the winner in this trade. Even though Gudbranson was in Anaheim for less than a year, the Ducks clearly got the better player in this deal; they received a fourth or fifth defenseman for a minor league player and a seventh-round draft pick. If the Penguins can draft a stud in the seventh round with their pick, then this deal will swing in their favor, but a year out and Anaheim has gotten the better end of this deal. And, to make it look even better when the Ducks traded Gudbranson, they were able to get a fifth-round pick for him.

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October 25th, 2020


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