We all know the Pittsburgh Penguins weren't prime with NHL-caliber forwards even before Pascal Dupuis suffered a torn ACL in December. Now that he's out for the season, the rumors are swirling about a replacement. The well-connected Elliotte Friedman from CBC had a few tidbits in his 30 Thoughts: (emphasis added is our own)
18. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, as usual, is looking for size. So are the Pittsburgh Penguins. According to one source, they "don't want to get any smaller."
19. I wondered if it was a coincidence that Edmonton moved Sam Gagner to wing when Pittsburgh came to town, considering the Penguins are looking for a winger (with term remaining on his contract) to replace the injured Pascal Dupuis. Assuming they do want "big," that's not a fit. But it's good to see Gagner producing a bit, with 10 points in 13 games this month. Word is the jaw is much more of a problem than we realize because it wouldn't take much for a re-injury. Maybe he's finally getting comfortable.
20. I asked a couple of teams if they saw Gagner as more of a centre or a winger. The answer was pretty quick: centre. They feel he's not suited to play the wall.
First of all, we'd agree about Gagner- he's probably better suited as a center, and stylistically if you can't play very well on the wall (cough Iginla-on-his-off-wing cough) it won't be pretty in Dan Bylsma's system.
It will be interesting to see what direction the Pens go. The last time they added a major winger with term James Neal in 2011, acquiring him from Dallas (with Matt Niskanen) for defenseman Alex Goligoski. Goligoski, at the time he was traded, was an NHL regular for two seasons and had 31 points (9 goals, 22 assists) in 61 games with the Pens. Quite simply, he was already a productive and valuable NHL player. But, even by then, the writing was on the wall that Goligoski would be on the outs- Kris Letang had blossomed into a better offensive defenseman and the team had fresh free agent signees in Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek to go along with Letang and Brooks Orpik as a top 4.
This time around, there are no obvious trade candidates like Goligoski was. Simon Despres is back in the minors, but he's younger and a lot less established than Goligoski was back then.
On the flip side of the coin, Olli Maatta is too accomplished- his play in the NHL as a teenager has probably moved him to the closest reaches of being untouchable, if he isn't already. For such a young, steady defensemen under years of team control, there wouldn't be value to trade Maatta unless the return was a staggering all-star caliber winger with a reasonable contract.
The Penguins do have a first round pick this season, but not a second (thanks Douglas Murray), so that will have to be considered too. Do they again flip a 1st round pick, at the expense of the future prospect pool? They kept their first round pick in 2010 and turned it into Beau Bennett, 2011's first rounder (Joe Morrow) was dealt in the Brenden Morrow trade. 2012 saw two firsts (Maatta and Derrick Pouliot, courtesy of the Jordan Staal trade) but then 2013 again saw the pick traded to Calgary as the main piece of the Jarome Iginla deal. And, more than likely, a team trading away a Top 6 caliber Pascal Dupuis replacement is not going to want a 1st round pick that will take years to develop. Most likely, they'll be interested a return that will pay more immediate dividends.
As always, we'll wait and see. No trades have happened, but surely that doesn't mean that the Pens haven't been busy scouting and working the phone lines. Perhaps after the Olympic break the trade market will heat up and we'll see if Shero can pull off another blockbuster trade to bring in help for Sidney Crosby on his line for the playoffs this season.