The first time Erik Gudbranson was traded, he was the last to find out.
“I was on a safari in Africa, the middle of nowhere, in the middle of Botswana on a riverboat cruise. There’s no cell service there,” the Vancouver Canucks defenceman explains.
“I made a transfer through three countries, finally made it to my hotel in Zimbabwe, got some Internet, and my phone just blew up. My girlfriend had taken care of talking to my agents and setting everything up.”
It was May of 2016. Seventy-two hours after the Florida Panthers had shipped their third-overall pick in the 2010 draft northwest for Jared McCann and a couple of picks, Gudbranson sat down for lunch at a Zimbabwe hotel with friend and former teammate Shawn Matthias, who broke the news after scrolling Twitter.
“It was pretty funny,” Gudbranson recalls. “I went to sit down at the table, and he was dying laughing: ‘Dude, you just got traded.’ I said, ‘C’mon, no chance.’ He said, ‘Yep. You’re gonna be a Canuck now.’
“I hit the panic button quick a couple minutes after that, but it was good.”
As an impending unrestricted free agent, the Ottawa native is nearing the end of his second consecutive one-year contract and is well aware his name has been popping up in trade rumours.
If it happens again, he won’t be blindsided.
The most recent scuttlebutt involves the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are looking to improve their D core, and the speculation picked up steam when Don Cherry gave a potential Gudbranson-to-Toronto deal his thumbs-up during the first intermission of Saturday’s Leafs-Canucks tilt.
“[Rumours] are part of it. I’ve been traded once, so if it was to happen again, I think I’d know how to deal with it,” Gudbranson told Sportsnet Saturday, motioning to the nameplates around the Vancouver dressing room.
“We’re together every single day. There’s a much bigger picture I’m worried about, and that’s winning hockey games. I’m able to compartmentalize it.”
As of Jan. 1, Gudbranson has been able to re-sign with Vancouver, but with the injury-riddled Canucks tumbling down the Pacific Division standings and Gudbranson’s potential rental a smart bet to fetch picks and/or prospects, there has been little urgency to re-up.
Ironically, Gudbranson’s most stable NHL contract was his three-year entry-level pact. Since then, it’s been a string of one- or two-year …read more