Fresh off the throes of trading for goaltender Matt Murray Wednesday, Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion pulled off another swap Thursday afternoon, acquiring defenseman Erik Gudbranson from the Ducks in exchange for their 2021 fifth-round pick. This was the pick originally received from the Oilers at the trade deadline in the Tyler Ennis deal.
While Gudbranson isn’t an analytics darling, the 28-year old will fill the veteran role on a young Senators’ blue line. It was thought Dorion would circle back to pending UFA Ron Hainsey or seek another d-man via free agency, but he chose the trade route.
The 2010 third overall selection by the Panthers is entering his 10th NHL season. Gudbranson is a hard-nosed player who brings physicality to his game – can play a shut-down role. The d-man won’t wow anyone with his offense, but does possess a heavy shot when given an opportunity. He’ll basically fill Mark Borowiecki’s role who’s heading to unrestricted free agency, but lining up on the right side.
The Senators will be Gudbranson’s fourth team since the start of the 2018-19 season. He played 51 games last season, seven with the Penguins and another 44 with the Ducks – garnering four goals, five assists, while tacking on 95 penalty minutes.
Gudbranson has a little familiarity with newcomer Murray, 30 games played with Pittsburgh.
“I played with “Muzz.” He’s an excellent goaltender, very excited. We actually spoke last night. We had a conversation about it. We came became very close friends. I’ve known “Muzz” for a little because he played junior with my brother, Alex in Sault Ste. Marie beforehand. “Muzz” is a great player. He comes from a great family. he has playoff attributes to go with it. He’s someone you can stand comfortably in front of.”
Currently residing north of Toronto, raised in Orleans, a suburb of Ottawa, it’s an opportunity for Gudbranson to come home. His family is well-divested in the local community. Erik is a supporter of the Canadian Blood Services and holds a golf tournament in his brother, Alex’s honour. The youngest Gudbranson is a leukemia survivor. Erik’s mother, Donna ran for Ottawa Municipal Council in 2018.
“It’s one of those things you think, oh wow, maybe this could happen? How cool it could be? Playing in different cities and actually coming back home and getting that opportunity. It happened so quickly. It came out of left field for me, but I couldn’t be more ecstatic, and more excited to come home and play….My family was so excited. My mom called me, she was in borderline tears.” said an elated Gudbranson.
Dorion said of his acquisition of Gudbranson, “Erik Gudbranson provides another sizable presence to our defence corps. He’s a reliable veteran who plays an intimidating style of game and someone who will add a combination of grit, energy and, most importantly, leadership to our group.”
Having two six-foot-five d-men in Josh Brown and Gudbranson on the back end will keep the opposing forwards’ heads on a swivel.
The former Ottawa Junior 67 possesses a $4 million cap hit with $3M due in actual salary in the final year of his contract. Gudbranson’s cap hit guarantees the Senators will be above the cap floor of $60.2M.
The moves for Brown, Gudbranson, and Murray, combined with the expectation no.3 overall pick Tim Stueztle will earn a roster spot, likely means Dorion won’t add a significant free agent Friday. If the Senators’ GM finds a veteran forward willing to sign in Ottawa on a friendly deal, that could happen. But the expectation is things will be quiet surrounding the club. We may see a few minor league adds as we do every season.
One player who may sign Friday or in the coming days is Matt Murray. The netminder made it clear he wants to be a Senator long term. The two-time Stanley Cup champion resides in Southern Ontario and would like nothing more than remaining close to home.
“Ottawa is a place I’m familiar with. I live a few hour drive away now. I played in the Ontario Hockey League (with Sault Ste, Marie) in Ottawa lots growing up. I’m from Thunder Bay, so I’m an Ontario kid. It presents a good opportunity for me and my family too. I see a very good fit there,” said the 26-year old in a Zoom call Thursday morning.
“I see a team that’s headed in the right direction pretty quickly. I played a little bit of attention at the Draft a couple of nights ago and yesterday. This is a young team stacked with talent, headed absolutely in the right direction, a team that I think anybody would like to be part of, a team that has a really bright future. I see a really good fit for me there.”