Restricted free-agent defenceman joins Granlund, Pouliot, Gaunce, Laplante as unrestricted free agentsBen Hutton did the work last summer, but it didn’t result in career security here this summer.The Vancouver Canucks did not tender a qualifying offer to the restricted free agent by the 2 p.m. Tuesday deadline and the 26-year-old defenceman is now a free agent.The Canucks also didn’t extend offers to Markus Granlund, Derrick Pouliot, Brendan Gaunce and Yan-Pavel Laplante. They did qualify Brock Boeser, Nikolay Goldobin, Josh Leivo, Tyler Motte, Reid Boucher, Francis Perron, Brogan Rafferty and Josh Teves.As for Hutton, several layers of concern contributed to the decision to part ways.The best result for all parties would have been getting an asset and giving Hutton a fresh start by moving him in a trade. But why would any club part with a draft pick when the buzz kept building that Hutton wouldn’t be qualified and could be acquired in free agency?Normally, a qualifying offer would provide the Canucks with more time to seek a suitor and fair compensation — or even a sign-and-trade scenario — but there was more at play in allowing him to walk away.
Ben Hutton (L) and Jake Virtanen play basketball before their NHL game against the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Arena in December, 2017.
Jeff Vinnick /
Allowing any roster player to leave without compensation won’t play out well in this market from an optics perspective. But for the Canucks, the Hutton decision was about dollars and sense. There was a sense that Hutton had plateaued and that dollars were going to be a problem on an expiring contract that carried a US$2.8 million salary cap hit this season.Hutton has arbitration rights and the NHL club was wary of what an independent arbiter would award an improvement over the last two seasons in points from six to 20, and in ice time from 18:25 to 22:21.There are intangibles that don’t show up on the stats sheet, but an ice-time comparable has merit. And the argument of Hutton’s value when Alex Edler and Chris Tanev were sidelined by injuries would certainly help his case. It’s not a stretch suggest he could pocket at least $4 million annually in a ruling.And there’s more.Hutton wouldn’t have even projected as a third-pairing, left-shot fit next season. He would probably be behind Edler, Quinn Hughes and Olli Juolevi — if he fully recovers from December knee surgery — and there’s also Guillaume Brisebois, Ashton Sautner and Josh Teves to fill out the left side.Hutton was buoyed by munching more minutes to hopefully gain the total trust of coach Travis Green, especially after a disconnect with the coach in 2017-18.However, while Hutton moved the puck better and made better decisions, his lateral movement while defending and his physical presence were waning. His was eighth among club defencemen in hits, but third in blocked shots, second in take-aways and fifth in give-aways.
Ben Hutton tries to clear the Oilers’ Kailer Yamamoto from in front of the Canucks’ net.
JONATHAN HAYWARD /
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Hutton logged a season-high 29:25 when Edler and Tanev were lost to injury in Las Vegas on Oct. 24 — and he then racked up 28:25 when Edler was lost again to injury in Philadelphia on Feb. 4 — but revealed following the Philadelphia outing that he wasn’t even certain he’d be on the roster last season.“To be honest, no, I didn’t think so but I knew I had the capability,” said Hutton. “I’ve grown as a player and pro and matured a bit.“It was tough being scratched, but I had to suck it up and learn from it. It’s made me become a better person and a stronger person.”Hutton sat seven times in a 15-game stretch during his tumultuous 2017-18 season — including four-straight occasions in February — and managed but six assists in 61 games. Mentally, he was a wreck and physically his conditioning was questioned and was the subject of trade speculation. To his credit, he kept a promise and did the offf-season work. But in the end, it didn’t seem to matter.Meanwhile, the Canucks chose to qualify Motte ahead of Granlund, who managed 12 goals in 77 games while playing every forward position on 24 different line combinations.With rookie Elias Pettersson missing six games because of a concussion in early October, and Brandon Sutter suffering a shoulder separation at the end of the month, Granlund stayed in the middle until Jay Beagle returned in early December.He would then move constantly between left and right wings and finished on the right side down the stretch. He worked effectively in a penalty kill tandem with Beagle and one of the good-news stories this past season was the PK eventually finding its way to finish 11th at 81.1 per cent efficiency.Pouliot’s season started with promise. However, it went off the rails with a penchant for bad pass decisions in his own zone, being easily ridden off pucks and shattered confidence.At camp, he was learner and quicker and made smart decisions.However, by late November, he became a frequent scratch and sat 20 times. His 12 points (3-9) were a 10-point drop from the previous season and he also had the most turnovers on the club.Gaunce had three points (1-2) in three NHL games last season and never played more than four over four seasons. The converted centre never took his game to another level on the wing and the 2012 first-round pick had just 15 points (6-9) in 117 career firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter.com/benkuzmaCLICK HERE to report a typo.Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email email@example.com