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Future of Simon Despres?

The Pens have sent Simon Despres back to the minors...What does his future in the Penguins organization hold?

Jared Wickerham

Simon Despres (along with forwards Nick Drazenovic and PL3) were sent back to the AHL today. With Paul Martin expected back in practice soon as he rehabs his broken leg, Simon Despres' time in the NHL was over.

The bigger question might be- where is Despres' place in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization?

And wonder we will.

At still just 22 years old, Despres should have some value as a former first round pick with his significant size and skating ability. Mentally, however, Despres has seemed to regress recently in aspects of his game. After the lockout he spent all of the 2013 NHL season with the Pens, but fell out of favor and saw his ice-time and role on the team decrease on the season, leading to only just three playoff games.

There was hope for this season, with Dan Bylsma even calling Despres a top-4 NHL defenseman (though, that might have been inflationary coach speak, since it came just days before the Pens signed Rob Scuderi). Despres stock has continued to flutter within the organization.

Especially contrasted with the smooth and marked progression of 19 year old Olli Maatta, who’s calmly passed every test and seen his NHL role grow and increase this season, it’s very fair to wonder where Despres stands. With Brian Dumoulin very close to being NHL ready, plus blue-chip prospects like Scott Harrington and still-junior aged Derrick Pouliot growing every game, Despres seems like he could be lost in the shuffle very soon…If he isn’t already.

The speculation about Despres losing confidence of coaches really stands out. In the past, Bylsma and his lieutenants have been big Despres supporters, but now 69 NHL games and 2.5 seasons into his professional career, that they might not be in his corner shows that a change might need to come.

It’s the time of the season where multiple scouts are always at games, and talks about potential trades are heating up. Will Shero pull the trigger on a deal before the February 7th Olympic trade freeze before the early March deadline? Given when Shero acquired the likes of James Neal (on a February 21st) and Chris Kunitz (February 26th), deals prior to the deadline aren’t uncommon.

With teams like Edmonton and Winnipeg (among others) reportedly looking to shake up the structure of their teams, it could be a good opportunity for the Penguins to get a good deal, if they can find one. Colorado might consider moving a forward like Jamie McGinn as well. Or, like Neal or Kunitz (who’s named weren’t often mentioned as Pens targets) maybe Shero will surprise again and target someone off the radar.

Either way, the status of Simon Despres with the Pens is in flux now as much as ever. Maybe soon we’ll see a new resolution.