Thursday, July 5, 2012

What's next for the Penguins: How about trading for a winger?

By GTOG Staff

In the wake of pulling a losing draw in the great Zach Parise Sweepstakes of 2012 - which frankly isn't so bad unless you believe in giving $100 million contracts to players who probably won't sniff the Hall of Fame - the Pittsburgh Penguins are left with five legitimate Top-6 forwards.  Ray Shero may choose to try to fill out the Top 6 with Tyler Kennedy.  Alternatively, he could make a deal for one of like 170 other guys.

"Let's take a look at some of those 170 other guys."
Bobby Ryan, Rick Nash, and Alex Semin are all available, but they are over-priced, really over-priced, and Alex Semin, respectively.  If the Pens get any of those guys, our excitement will surely be tempered by the fact that we had to part with the assets and/or cap space necessary to get one of those guys.  So let's not talk about them.  Instead, we're going on a little bit deeper dive, past the shallow water where Glen Sather and Paul Holmgren fish and into Shero Trench.  5 potential targets, after the jump...

Given that the entire universe outside of GTOG has simultaneously reached unanimous agreement that the 11th commandment is "thou shalt never take Chris Kunitz off of a line with Malkin and Neal," we're looking for a winger for Sid, and we're working on a deadline - the 2013 trade deadline.  No rush, because this is for keeps.  Here's the game:  1) the price has to be right, i.e. we're not giving up multiple roster players and a top prospect for a 27-year-old who'll still be making $7.8M when he 35; and 2) we'll need a viable top-line wing on a team that may have some incentive to make a deal.  Let's play.

1) Ryan Clowe, San Jose Sharks

Clowe has averaged 54 points per season over the last 4 years on a successful team that's played in a lot of big games (mostly lost them, but still).  We have no idea whether Clowe would be available, but here's what we do know -- the Sharks are one of the highest spending teams in the league and Clowe is a UFA at the end of the season.  Ray Shero and his scouting staff have accumulated a plethora of exciting defensive prospects, or at least have convinced the media to push the notion that all of them are going to make the hall of fame.  But here's the thing about having 10 stellar defensive prospects: you can only dress 6.  If at some point it becomes clear that the Sharks can't or won't re-sign him...well, 8 or 9 stellar defensive prospects should be enough.  His cap hit this year is a very reasonable $3.625 million.

2) Chris Stewart, St. Louis Blues

This guy isn't under the radar anymore, thanks to this insightful analysis.  If you don't follow Mike Colligan on Twitter, you're missing out.

3) Nathan Horton, Boston Bruins

He had a concussion. And this is crazy.  But he's a beast.  So trade for him maybe?  Nathan Horton is a guy we've had our eye on for a long time.  A bull of a right wing with silky hands and a knack for finding the net in big moments, he has a chance to be Crosby's Kevin Stevens.  The Bruins have less cap space than any team in the NHL, and they need to take care of Seguin, Lucic, and Marchand, three core players who will all be RFAs next summer.  Horton has one year remaining on a $4M a year deal. What's that you say?  You're wary of making a play for a guy with a concussion history who just sat out the latter half of an entire season?  Ummmm....WE JUST GAVE SIDNEY CROSBY $100 MILLION.  Maybe we double down on Nathan Horton.

Soft tissue injury, maybe?
4) Alex Burrows, Vancouver Canucks

Burrows is a fan favorite in Vancouver (no idea if that's true but it sounds right) and the Canucks are perennial contenders so it may be hard to pry him away.  But if we just trade one of our great forward prospects ... oh, nevermind.

5) Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames

The Flames have expertly maneuvered themselves into a position where they have one of the highest payrolls in the league with almost no chance of winning the Stanley Cup.  They also have a general manager who gave Dennis Wideman a $26 million contract despite the fact that even Washington Capitals' fans knew enough last year to know that Wideman was terrible.  Iginla has a huge cap hit at $7 million, but if the Pens get him mid season that number is prorated.  An unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, Iginla has been the subject of trade rumors for years.  He may be 35 and his numbers may be on the (modest) decline, but we'd at least know he'd have chemistry with Sid.

Sure, you'd have to give up a lot of "prospects" to get him, but prospects are prospects for a reason -- they haven't done anything yet.  People fretted over losing Angelo Esposito in the Hossa trade.  We're not even sure he's ever played an NHL game.  Banners were pre-ordered to commemorate all of the 40-goal seasons Eric Tangradi was supposed to have.  We're not even sure he's ever scored a goal.  The Pens have two of the most valuable assets in the NHL -- guys with potential, and a lot of cap space.  And the Pens have THE two most valuable assets in the NHL -- Crosby and Malkin.  Time is now.


  1. In my humble opinion we have enough offense to win in the playoffs. Put Kunitz and Dupuis with Crosby and keep Neal with Malkin. Our defense is about as stout as warm butter. We need 2 stay at home defensemen that don't get run over in front of the net.

  2. An interesting list. I would be totally on board with a Burrowes trade; I saw a picture of him when he was like 2 and you could already tell he was trouble. But why would Vancouver trade him? What do the Pens have that a contending team like that would want? They could probably use a defensive boost, but the Pens aren't in the position to give up a top-4 defenseman. Ditto with SJ.

    Chris Stewart intrigues me, but I imagine St. Louis would be looking for offense back, given that their strength is defense. Would that consider Bennett? The only prospect I wouldn't put on the block is Morrow, but I don't know that Bennett would be enough. And again - we need to add a top-6 winger and aren't in the position to be giving up any.

    The Pens will need to find the right trade partner - a young rebuilding team willing to trade for good defensive prospects. None of the above seem to fit that bill.

    I would also be keeping my eye on RFAs if I was Shero. I've heard Ryan O'Reilly's name batted around, although I suspect the Avs would have none of that. The RFA I'm most intrigued by: Evander Kane. I foresee some trouble for Winnipeg with this guy. He seems at least hesitant to sign a deal, and he seems to have aroused the ire of the fans there. Winnipeg might actually be able to swing a trade for a needed defensive prospect without the fans getting too upset, seeing as they won't be good any time soon.

  3. Brandy -- Burrows would be nearly impossible to get, so I agree.

    Kane would be interesting, but he's only 21 and coming off a 30 goal season. He'd have to make it really clear to WPG that he wanted to leave, and even if he did that, there'd be a line of about 25 teams trying to get him. Having said all that, I'd have not even slight hesitation about trading any of our defensive "prospects" for Kane. He's a beast.

  4. I get the strategy of loading up on defensive prospects to use as trade bait, but it makes sense more (only?) if your roster is sound. The Pens right now are kind of lean on D, with Letang the only sure top-pairing guy.

    If the situation is that guys like Dennis Wideman and Matt Carle are commanding upwards of 5mil a year, maybe the Pens should look to move their young potential on the blue line to Pittsburgh? If Joe Morrow and Simon Despres have an upside as good as people say, maybe the Pens are better off with them and their entry level contracts than paying with cap space and roster players for someone else?

    Right now the Pens have holes on offense and on defense. It's still too early to tell what they can get from their defensive prospects, but it is clear that they can't get much from their young forwards. And this is why I think Shero is (sounding like he's) making a bigger effort looking for a top-6 forward to sign.

  5. Kane is WPG's next franchise player. He ain't going no place.

  6. P.Co. - in spite of all of the ridiculous hand-wringing coming out of Pittsburgh, this team IS sound. The team would be improved by a top-4 d-man and a top-6 forward, but it's still a contender as is. To suggest otherwise with the current core is silly. I would be fine starting the season as is, with the potential for a trade or two later. I do agree that - perhaps - our own prospects are our best potential additions, and I wouldn't mind seeing them get a real shot.

    As far as Kane - my point was that WPG might not have a choice but to trade him. Ordinarily, with his age and numbers, I would consider him untouchable. But this doesn't strike me as ordinary circumstances. Kane seems(based on what I've heard in the media) unhappy in WPG - and the fans don't like him. Is that who you want as your franchise player? He isn't signed - a pretty good indication that this is a more strained relationship than behooves a "face of the franchise". I don't know that WPG wants a Turris-type situation on their hands, and this contract negotiation seems more likely than most to come to that. If they thought they were getting a future franchise defenseman in return - maybe they'd do it. You'd only be trading for rights, so the price would have to be lower. Would I expect this? No, not really. But given those circumstances, I would keep my eye on the negotiations if I was Shero - get in on the ground floor. All I'm saying.

  7. Brandy - Call me silly, but if the season started today, this Penguins team is not a contender in my opinion. With Staal, Michalek, Sullivan and Asham leaving and Sutter and Tanner Glass as replacements this team is significantly weaker. But it's silly to argue about it because the roster will surely look different come opening night.

    Thanks for the info on Kane. I hadn't realized he wasn't signed. Good point.

  8. P.Co- I can't help but think the Pens demise is greatly exaggerated.

    Glass for Asham is an upgrade. Period.

    Sully is a loss, but I don't consider him to be as big a loss as others do. He improved the PP - in the regular season. Having a forward at the point bit us in the behind regularly during the playoffs, though. Plus, with Sid back, the PP is going to look very different anyway: too many guys expecting first PP time for Sully to fit in easily. Plus, he wouldn't and shouldn't have been on the top 2 lines in 5-on-5 play. So in my mind, Sully is a good player but a bad fit.

    ZM was awful last year. Despres is a year older - and MAYBE will be an upgrade from Z of last year. We'll have to see, but it's more than possible for a first-rounder with a year's professional experience to be better than what we saw out of him last year.

    Staal for Sutter is a loss - unless you take in to account Staal's unwillingness to give up being a scoring center to do his job. Sutter in this case may be a lesser player but a better fit. I just think that Flyers series was less the result of personnel than flawed systems and a lack of role definition and chemistry. I may be wrong in this assumption - but Sid's return just seemed to throw everything off. No one seemed to "fit" where they were - not Sid, not Sully, not Staal, etc.

    I, personally, am also keeping my eye on Dustin Jeffrey - who everyone seems to have forgotten about. He lost last year because his knee injury cost him his summer - but he looked really good in early 2011, before he blew it out. I've seen a recent picture of him - and, man, it looks like he spent that entire year in the gym (and he's always been tall enough, just lanky). I'd like to see him get a chance on Geno's left side if (or hopefully, when) Sid gets Kunitz back. He's my dark horse to be a difference-maker this year - a guy who could give the top-6 some real depth as a supporting cast member. They've kept him around because they plan to use him, not keep him up in the press box.

    But I think the biggest reason I feel more comfortable than you in calling the Pens a contender is that just about all the contending teams took a minor step back in the same way - or aren't clearly better. Philly's back end is far worse off than ours at this point. Boston lost the goalie who single-handedly won them their cup. Wash is pretty much status quo (and is, last I checked, still Wash and without a strong enough blue line); ditto NYR. TB and Car improved - but are still lesser teams than Pitt. NJ is in shambles. Who is clearly superior to the Pens? Ott? Buff? Even if you consider some of these teams on par with the Pens - they aren't obviously better.

    Ditto with the West. Van has lost big chunks of the great blue line that took them to the finals; ditto Chicago, although both are still very good teams. Det is fading fast. Kings are contenders - but no one goes back to back. St. L and SJ are status quo. Nash is in shambles. Dal and Min improved but still don't have the Pens talent. I wouldn't necessarily call the Pens favorites (or clearly the best) - but they could hold their own with any of these teams. That, to me, qualifies them as a contender. But as you say, the season is a long time away, and this team will not be the one entering the playoffs.

  9. I agree with Brandy that the Pens are contenders, if not favorites, with the current roster. My biggest problem is that I don't think we're better right now than last year. I know Despres gets great reviews and everyone is excited about him, but even if he is good, he's still going to be just a 21 year old defenseman in the playoffs. He can be valuable at this age, but in the right role. It's not like he's Drew Doughty.

    Totally agree that DJ is the one to watch this year. Played at a 31-goal pace in 2010-11. He's also Artistry's favorite player.

    The good news is that there is one really really simple thing that would cure just about everything ... Fleury needs to be better. Unfortunately, until I see that I'm probably going to continue to obsess about how our defense needs to get (or at least play) a lot better.

  10. I agree with Brandy and Finesse, but arguing about Despres not being ready for the playoffs? Slava Voynov was playing top-4 minutes in the playoffs and he's a year older than Despres, so it is in the realm of possibility that Despres could immediately step in and produce. Now it's obviously not guaranteed success, but these "high-end defensive prospects" have to play in the NHL at SOME point in order for them to become permanent fixtures/trade bait.

    The team still could use a top-6 forward/top-4 defenseman/get bigger on the wing, but there is no reason to overspend right now. I read earlier, I can't remember where, that a lot of teams are waiting to make moves until the new CBA is passed due to the cap possibly going down. Hopefully it doesn't, but there is the possibility that some teams will have to shred salary to get compliant.

    This is obviously a playoff team as-is, so if that's the case going into the season, there's no reason to make a drastic move until the trade deadline is approaching.

  11. What are your thoughts on the current system that the team has been running. I know we won a cup with Bylsma's system. But it seemed that this year in the playoffs everything was geared for up tempo offense all the time. I heard repeatedly that "they have to keep their foot on the gas pedal". At some point in a game with the lead you have to run the trap and grind out a win.

  12. I like Bylsma's system. I think it is both effective and exciting to watch. It's not that much different than the system LA played this post-season. It is also part of the reason guys like Zbynek Michalek, Petr Sykora, Ruslan Fedotenko and Steve Sullivan are not with the Penguins anymore, because it is very demanding.

    I don't think the system failed in the playoffs. Lack of discipline and bad goaltending will do you in no matter what system you play.

    But I know at least one person here does not agree with me about this so...