Brandon Sutter wasn't caught off guard this time.
When general manager Jim Rutherford traded him from the Hurricanes to the Penguins in 2012, Sutter was caught off guard by the deal and needed a day or two to shake off the shock of it.
When Rutherford, now the Penguins' general manager, traded Sutter to the Canucks last week, he was expecting the deal.
Sutter and a 2016 third-round pick were moved to the Canucks last Tuesday in a deal which brought forward Nick Bonino, defenseman Adam Clendening and a 2016 third-round pick to the Penguins. With Sutter entering the final year of a two-year contract with a salary cap hit of $3.3 million, the Canucks signed him to a five-year contract extension with a salary cap hit of $4.375 million earlier this week.
Following the trade, Canucks general manager Jim Benning referred to Sutter as a "foundation piece" for his team.
Last night, Sutter spoke by phone about the trade, his future with the Canucks, his past with the Penguins.
You were in Europe when you heard about the trade?
"I was in the Netherlands. I was visiting some of my fiance's family over there. It was kind of a funny time."
If Jim Rutherford ever calls you in the future, do you just let the call go to voice mail?
"[Laughs] I've had that question quite a few times in the last few weeks here. It's obviously quite a coincidence that he's had to trade to me twice and I think both times were kind of a situation where his hands were tied a bit and that's just the way it goes. It is a business and unfortunately he's had to do it twice to me but I don't really hold anything against him for it."
When you were traded from Carolina in 2012, you were shocked by the trade. What was the reaction to this trade?
"I think it was a little different than the last time. When I came to Pittsburgh, like you said, I was very surprised and shocked by it. I didn't see it coming at all. This [trade last week], just kind of throughout the summer, you could get a feeling that something might happen. I kind of had that feeling for a while. It was just a matter of time. A little bit different. I was definitely more ready for it and a different feel than last time."
You say you sensed a trade would happen. Was it just a matter of the math with the Penguins carrying so many other long-term contracts with limited movement clauses or was there just a sense of something coming after the way last season ended?
"I think it was definitely a combination of things. Obviously, it is a business and in the salary cap world, in order to fill your team, you have to be careful with what is going to happen. Starting at the draft [in late June] and from there on, talking to my agent, he said there's a chance that something might happen. 'They don't think they're going to re-sign you.' Obviously, they brought in [right winger Phil] Kessel too who is another big contract. You look at some of the guys on the team, there's a lot of big contracts, a lot of good players. Unfortunately, there's only room for so many. I really enjoyed my time there and I wish it would have gone longer. But again, it's business and I was kind of waiting for something to happen."
You were traded in 2012 and there were a number of trade rumors involving your name the last two years. Is it nice to have some long-term stability with regards to the contract you signed with the Canucks?
"Yeah, for sure. It's not a lot of fun being traded and I've been through it a couple times the last three years or so. I kind of said to myself once I hit this age or hit unrestricted free agency I kind of decided to myself the next contract I wasn't going to really accept anything that didn't have a no-trade clause or something to give you a little bit of security. That's something I really wanted and Vancouver is very accepting of that. Like I said, It's tough getting traded. No one wants to go through it. Unfortunately I have to go through it now but hopefully it's the last time."
You did get a no-trade clause in your new contract?
"Yeah, I guess the first three years of it and the last two [years] are modified."
How important was it to find that stability in Western Canada? You grew up in Alberta.
"I don't think in this league or this business ... I don't think there's any bad places to go. I think there's a lot of nice cities and places to live and a lot of good people. I don't think you're really too picky about where you go. But it is nice to be a little closer to home. A little easier of a drive and easier for family and friends to come visit. It's always nice but at the end of the day, you're in that city to play hockey and you're there to work. You can't really think too much about the recreation but it is nicer to be closer for sure."
Benning talked about you potentially being used as a second-line center. Training camp is still more than a month away but do you have any sense of how you'll be used by the Canucks?
"It is an opportunity for me to hopefully have an increased role. And whether that's more minutes in a game or the leadership part of it, they have a good group of older guys that have been there for a while. Hopefully I can join in on that. Then they have a group of really young players, probably five or six players that sound like they're going to be cracking the lineup the next year or two here. They're all good young forwards and I want to be a bit of a leader and I guess somewhat a mentor for some of those kids too. It's a bit of a different situation than in Pittsburgh where it's obviously an older team there and a lot more experience. So that's a big part of it for me. But like you said, it's maybe an opportunity to play more and have an increased role and be used more in match-up situations. I've always kind of thought I can be a good defensive player and have a chance to play against the team's better lines more often is something that I guess is pretty exciting for me."
You talk about match-ups. The Pacific Division is full of big power forwards like Ryan Getzlaf in Anaheim, Anze Kopitar in Los Angeles and Joe Thornton in San Jose. What do you anticipate life in the Pacific Division will be like?
"It's hard to say. Like you said, the size for sure. Anaheim and [Los Angeles] and San Jose, they've always been big [teams] probably for 10 years running now. They just play a heavy game. But I think about even in Pittsburgh playing in our division, we always have physical games with the Islanders and Philadelphia and Columbus. I think the physicality is pretty much spread throughout the league. But like you said, the size is what you notice out west with the big teams. Maybe a bit of a different game style and hopefully one that suits me more."
When you came to Pittsburgh, you expressed an eagerness to get more power-play time and get more offensive chances than you had with the Hurricanes. Did you get those chances to a satisfactory level?
"Yeah I think so. I did get a chance while I was there to play on the second power-play unit. I think it was a situation in Carolina where I was in a spot where they didn't give you any opportunity at all. I just wanted a taste of it. In Pittsburgh, you have five or six really high-end offensive forwards that have to have those minutes and have to do that. I was just happy to get a chance behind them to play a little bit. By no means am I a power-play specialist but it's fun to kind of see both parts of the game."
How easy or difficult is it being the third-line center for the Penguins behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin?
"Oh there's an expectation in Pittsburgh, that's for sure. Obviously, with the way Jordan Staal played while he was there, coming in there after that, I think everyone kind of expected you to score a lot of goals and be a superstar. Where when you really look at it, Jordan moved on to sign a 10-year $60 million contract [with the Hurricanes]. I don't think there's ever been a third-line center that has come up with something like that. It just shows that he did need an increased role and he is a top-three or top-six forward. Again, I really thought I played well and played my game while I was there but the expectation is pretty sky high there. Hopefully people enjoyed having me there."
You had 21 goals last season. It was your best season in terms of goal scoring with the Penguins and it matched a career-high. What clicked for you?
"It's hard to say. I always kind of have my goal set on scoring 20 goals each year. I've done that twice. You always hope for more I guess. You always hope you create more offense, not only for yourself but your teammates too. I didn't have a great season in terms of the assist amount (12). It's fun scoring goals. The one regret I have leaving is that we didn't win the [Stanley] Cup. Scoring goals is part of the game and everyone knows in Pittsburgh scoring goals isn't always the challenge. I thought last year we made some strides to get better defensively away from the puck. I thought we did that but unfortunately we still couldn't find a way to get it done in the playoffs."
Ever since Rutherford took over the Penguins, he has placed a greater emphasis on advanced statistics. Your advanced numbers which are available to the general public did not reflect well for you. Do you think that played any role in the Penguins dealing you?
"I have no idea. I guess those statistics didn't really exist three or four years ago so I really never came into the league worrying about that stuff or thinking about it. I don't really think players put much emphasis on it. It's hard to say. I don't really know. You don't really look at those statistics to judge how you're playing or how you were on the ice. You want to be solid in both ends of the rink and I guess sometimes those stats aren't very good but I can't really comment too much on why mine struggled or why they're not as good. I've heard about it a few times but I'm not really too concerned about it."
You were one of the Penguins' leading goal scorers in the last two playoff seasons. What worked for you in the playoffs and how much do you think that added to your value as a player?
"When I came to Pittsburgh, I didn't have any experience in the playoffs. That first year , going into it, that's a big change going from never playing in it to playing in it. The last two years, I thought I just played well. I really thought as the year went on, I managed to stay healthy. I thought I kept improving. Then come playoff time I thought I was playing well and ready to go. I was happy with how I played."
(Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)