The Vancouver Canucks do not know if Matthew Highmore will turn into a player who can help them. But Monday’s trade was proof the National Hockey League team is confident Adam Gaudette will never be the player they wanted him to be.
On a surprisingly active trade deadline day for Vancouver, Canucks general manager Jim Benning started to position the team for next season with three minor deals, including a giveaway of Gaudette to the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Hawks acquired the former Hobey Baker Trophy winner and last season’s 33-point forward for spare forward Highmore, an undrafted free agent out of junior hockey who had a good playoff in the Edmonton bubble last summer but was a healthy scratch in nine of his final 12 games in Chicago. He has two assists in 24 games this season.
A year younger than Highmore and more established at the NHL level, Gaudette, 24, has just four goals and seven points in 33 games, a season after the forward from Braintree, Mass., had 12 goals and 33 points in 59 games.
But his “breakthrough season” ended with 10 pointless games in the playoffs, where Gaudette became a healthy scratch. The Canucks were convinced the defensive holes in his game were not going to allow him to be a reliable bottom-six contributor.
“To be quite honest, we expected him to take another step this year,” Benning told reporters during an online press conference. “He has played alright for us, but we were expecting after the season he had last year, we were expecting him to come in and take another step (and) we didn't really feel like he did that. Now, maybe a change of scenery, he can get that back.
“He's a guy that we drafted, we spent a lot of time with him in development, we gave him a chance (and) he scored some big goals for us. The thing, you know, that I think we may miss from him is he's got a good release on his shot and he can score from the outside. But I think overall, looking at his two-way game and stuff, we just felt like Matthew Highmore plays a more complete two-way game. Both players get a fresh start, and we'll see where it goes.”
The trade looked lopsided enough that conspiracists on social media linked the deal to Gaudette’s status as Patient Zero in the COVID-19 outbreak that has decimated the Canucks, who are scheduled to end three weeks of inactivity Friday against the Edmonton Oilers.