Lately the talk of the hockey world has been Evander Kane. The talented forward was made a healthy scratch earlier this week by the Winnipeg Jets - in a game in his hometown of Vancouver, no less - and the whispers about the occasionally rocky relationship between Kane and the Jets has flared up again. Which, of course, leads to speculation about any and all possible trades.
Enter stage right, Pittsburgh Penguins, who no doubt would love to add another top-six forward to go along with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, David Perron, Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz. That is only five names- meaning unless the Pens want to pin hopes on Blake Comeau, Beau Bennett, Mark Arcobello or Nick Spaling to be a productive member of a scoring line, they need to add another player.
The ever respected Mike Colligan lays out the case for Kane and what it might cost. His proposal boils down to Kunitz, Bennett and another piece (either Simon Despres or Brian Dumoulin) going to Winnipeg, which value wise seems about right, assuming of course that the Jets are interested in moving Kane.
What doesn't seem right: if the Penguins goal is to ADD a top six forward, how do they accomplish that goal by trading away 1 top six forward (plus a couple of valuable assets) for 1 top six forward?
That doesn't net a positive change, and leaves the Penguins in the exact place they are now- which would be still relying on someone who doesn't belong on the second line to play on the second line.
It actually may leave the Penguins in worse shape than they are now, because it would make them even more top heavy. We've seen how that's worked out in the past playoffs as top-heavy Penguins teams with no depth find scoring slumps and get booted from the playoffs in frustrating fashion.
All these Kunitz rumors - which Colligan isn't the first to float his name as a potential trade candidate- strike one as odd too. Mike touched on this subject saying:
I’m not sure what’s going on with Kunitz. Something just doesn’t seem right there. He’s been playing disengaged for most of the season. There’s been a recent undercurrent of speculation on social media that he could be (or wants to be) moved, but no one has gone on the record with details yet.
Kunitz is an interesting case - as we pointed out in the Ups and Downs, his overall stats still look good, 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists) in 44 games. Factor in the player is 35 and missed some time with an injury (ask Rob Scuderi how difficult it is as an older player to get back in the flow of a season after missing time) and that might be fine. However, it masks that Kunitz only has 2 even strength points in his last 13 games. He seems a step slow, which might just be compared to playing with Crosby and Perron but still, I would have to agree with Colligan's assessment that something definitely doesn't seem quite right to the eye test in the way Kunitz is getting around out there.
That said, Kunitz has played over 3,000 5-on-5 minutes with Crosby since 2009 (that link doesn't include the 414 the pair have played together so far this season). The Pens had better be really certain if they trade him out that it is the right time to make that move. Perhaps it is, but I'm skeptical. Crosby got Kunitz on the Canadian Olympic team, Crosby knows Kunitz, the two are incredibly productive together. What's the reason to willingly break that up?
Under Jim Rutherford the Pens have been on a continuous hunt to improve the team, add to depth and acquire more skill for their stars. Trading away multiple assets for Evander Kane would fly in the face of that philosophy. There can be a time to make that bold move, however it won't be one without risk, should the opportunity present itself. Stay tuned, as we get closer to the March 2nd trade deadline.