Brandon Sutter traded to Canucks for Nick Bonino, Adam Clendening
Canucks also resign Sven Baertschi for one
Willie Desjardins was part of the reason Brandon Sutter never made it to the second round of the Western Hockey League playoffs.
Now the pair will be working together to get the Vancouver Canucks back to the NHL post-season.
The club acquired Sutter and a third-round pick in 2016 from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday in a deal that sent fellow centre Nick Bonino, minor-league defenceman Adam Clendening and a second-round selection next year the other way.
The most recent member of the Sutter family to play in the NHL, Brandon Sutter was with the Red Deer Rebels when Desjardins, now Vancouver's head coach, was behind the bench with the Medicine Hat Tigers.
To me he's a foundation piece for our group. He's a playoff player. When the games mean something, that's when he's at his best.- Canucks GM Jim Benning on the newly acquired Brandon Sutter
"He beat us while I was there twice in the first round of the playoffs," Sutter said with a chuckle on a conference call. "We definitely had a bit of a rivalry in junior with both him and [Canucks forward] Derek Dorsett. It'll be fun to be on the other side of it now."
Canucks general manager Jim Benning said the trade for the 26-year-old Sutter solidifies things down the middle for his club and will help both now and in the future as he continues with his plan of rebuilding on the fly.
"To me he's a foundation piece for our group," said Benning. "He's a playoff player. When the games mean something, that's when he's at his best."
Benning said he hopes to get a new contract done with Sutter in the next few days and is eager to see how he meshes with the group.
"He's got high-end intangibles," said Benning. "We have some young players that are going to make our team in the next few years. Along with the Bo Horvats and some of our other young players, Brandon will be the leader of that younger group."
Born in Huntington, N.Y., while his father Brent was playing for the Islanders, Sutter recorded 21 goals and 12 assists in 80 games with Pittsburgh last season in mostly a third-line role. In 495 career games with the Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes, he has 98 goals and 87 assists.
'Good, young team'
"It's exciting playing in Canada in a great city with a lot of support there," said Sutter. "It's a good, young team and I'm looking forward to getting a fresh start and trying something new."
Sutter was also entering the final year of his contract and likely due a significant raise next summer. With a large portion of the salary cap eaten up by its star-laden core, Pittsburgh opted to move Sutter, who has a cap hit of $3.3 million in 2015-16, while it could still get some value from him.
A popular figure in the dressing room, Sutter was a steadying presence. He'll get a chance to do it now in Vancouver, which hasn't won a playoff series since reaching the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.
"He understands the game, understands how things work, understands things aren't always going to go right and adjust to that," Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said. "He accepted his role … I'm not sure that would have been the case a year from now when he's free to go."
Rutherford on Sutter: "Believe it or not, he's one of my favorite guys and I've traded him twice."—@emptynetters
Rutherford on Sutter: "He's a hockey guy. He's an easygoing guy."—@Mackey_Trib
Bonino, who is signed through the 2016-17 season, is coming off a 39-point season (15 goals, 24 assists) in his first campaign with Vancouver. The 27-year-old added three points in six playoff games.
But he appears fine to be joining the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel in Pittsburgh, given his tweet on Tuesday.
Bonino played his first four-plus seasons in Anaheim, where he helped the Ducks advance to the second round of the 2014 playoffs.
A native of Hartford, Conn.,Bonino had his most productive season in 2013-14, compiling career highs in games (77), goals (22), assists (27), points (49) and plus-minus (plus-14).
In May, he helped the United States win a bronze medal at the world championship, posting four points in 10 games.
Prior to turning pro, Bonino played three seasons at Boston University. In 2009, he had 50 points in 44 games and helped the Terriers win a national championship.
Clendening, 22, was acquired by Vancouver from Chicago on Jan. 29, 2015 in exchange for Gustav Forsling.
He picked up two assists in 17 regular-season games and added five points in 11 contests with the Canucks' American Hockey League affiliate in Utica, N.Y.
In 23 playoff games with the Comets, Clendening ranked second among Utica defencemen in scoring with eight points.
The Canucks have said goodbye to a number of familiar faces since their first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Calgary Flames, with goalie Eddie Lack, defenceman Kevin Bieska and forward Zack Kassian sent packing in trades.
Draft picks and gritty forward Brandon Prust came the other way in those deals, which opens up spots for some of Vancouver's younger players to crack the lineup.
The Western Conference, and specifically the Pacific Division, has gotten stronger this off-season, and the six-foot-three 193-pound Sutter should be given every opportunity to be the No. 2 centre in Vancouver behind Henrik Sedin.
"We looked at all the teams in our division and they all improved," said Benning. "I think doing this move, it makes our team deeper and it gives us a better chance to compete."
The Canucks also resigned forward Sven Baertschi to a one-year, one-way contract.
Baertschi, 22, was acquired from the Calgary Flames in March, and played for three regular season and two playoff games for Vancouver.
The native of Bern, Switzerland has 30 points in 69 career NHL games.
With files from CBCSports.ca