With the NHL trade deadline right around the corner, the Pittsburgh Penguins and other contenders have tough circumstances. The salary cap is tight. Many teams are within striking distance (or think they are and don't want to admit quitting on the season by selling off players) so there isn't a big supply of players.
In a perfect world, the Penguins would probably love to add a depth defenseman. Their defense has had it's share of injuries this year, and the number 7 defenseman in the organization now is Chad Ruhwedel. With all due respect to Ruhwedel, that means any injury to the top-6 players puts Pittsburgh in the treacherous territory of dressing a player for playoff games who is probably not suited for NHL playoff action.
Acquiring a great defenseman, for reasons listed above of short supply, high demand and cost, isn't in the cards for Pittsburgh. But with recent news from Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland admitting earlier this week, "we're either going to do nothing or we're going to be a seller," the opportunity is open for Pittsburgh to add depth in the form of Brendan Smith .
Scouting Report from The Hockey News:
Assets: Skates extremely well and is adept at rushing up ice with the puck. Has offensive ability, an aggressive nature and excellent size. Has good puck skills and a bit of a mean streak. Flaws: Lacks consistency in all areas of the game of hockey. Also, he could stand to pick his spots better in the hitting department, as he can at times lose his positioning and focus. Career Potential: Inconsistent, solid all-around defenseman.
HERO chart from Own the Puck
Smith has certainly been nothing to write home about in terms of producing offense, but has excelled in possession metrics for suppressing shots and being pretty stingy by the numbers in terms of goals ending up in his own net.
I checked in with our buddy Kyle at Winging it in Motown and here's his thoughts:
Smith is certainly a guy who had a ceiling as a promising defenseman, but he's really fallen off. Now, is he a serviceable depth player who can rotate in or play regularly on the 3rd pair? Sure. Then again, we all saw what happened with Justin Schultz [exceeding. Smith is a good skater, he just has some difficulties moving the puck out of his zone at times. Best part about Smith is that he's going to come cheap. If it were up to me, I'd be ready to move him for a 2nd or 3rd round pick.
Now the question becomes, should the Penguins be interested in trading a draft pick for a potential rental? There's always the chance that if Smith does well (like Schultz) maybe the team and player would be interested in staying for next season. (And the Pens probably figure to need to replace free-agent-to-be Trevor Daley anyways).
As much as we'd all love to keep all the draft picks, invest in young players and watch them grow, insurance policies are needed in the NHL. Look no further than Schutlz and Olli Maatta leaving last night's game against the Jets with injuries. Injuries, especially for Pittsburgh, happen. Lose too many key players and a team's playoff hopes are over before they being (ala 2015 when Kris Letang was out).
A band-aid like Smith is worth it for a contending team to have, in the big picture. It would be a shame to not to provide as much depth as possible. The salary cap and tight trade market will make adding a defenseman tough for the Penguins, but if an option like Brendan Smith is the best available possibility, it's worth exploring.