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Will the Pens trade Daniel Sprong this summer?

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Could the Pens trade their best prospect? Should they?

Boston Bruins v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

Our Calgary Flames blog had an interesting idea (and of course one that a Pensburgher had previously thought up months ago, since our readers cover all the bases) in the form of a mutually beneficial trade suggestion for this off-season.

As Matchsticks put it:

..the Flames do have a stacked defensive core, both at their NHL level and in the prospect system. At some point it may make sense to deal from a position of strength to address a position of weakness which is the right wing position with the Flames.

Their idea is to send defenseman Rasmus Andersson to the Penguins in exchange for Daniel Sprong. They already see Sprong as a potential big time player for them.

With the Flames, Sprong would likely slot right into that top line spot with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan with the right side being as open as it is. Calgary would potentially have a long term solution to their top line wing spot, and create one of the best young lines for the foreseeable future in the NHL.

Perhaps trading Andersson would also act as incentive for Adam Fox to sign in Calgary next offseason by freeing up a spot on the depth chart.

Andersson, like Sprong, was drafted in the 2nd round in 2015. Also like Sprong he’s been unable to stick in the NHL full-time and played really, really well in the AHL as a 21-year old, which suggests both have bright NHL futures.

The contract situation would be very favorable for Pittsburgh here. Andersson has 2 more years remaining on his entry level deal with a cap hit of $755,833 in the NHL. He is also able to be assigned to the AHL next season without waivers.

Due to Sprong playing 18 games in 2014-15 (which has developed into a dumb, dumb move), he is NOT waiver eligible next season. He’s also a restricted free agent, though holds no leverage and would be easy to re-sign for a cheap one year deal this summer.

With Sprong’s waiver status, we’re about to see how much Mike Sullivan and the Pens really like or distrust the talented but seemingly enigmatic winger. Pittsburgh was content to slow-play Sprong’s development, giving him all of 2017-18 in the minors - save an eight game cameo in January when due to injury he was needed. Sprong only recorded points in one of those eight games (a three point night) and was largely invisible towards the end of his run.

GM Jim Rutherford has mentioned he thought some recent talented prospects that didn’t pan out (Beau Bennett and Derrick Pouliot) had development stunted by frequent call-ups and demotions between the NHL and AHL and not enough time in the AHL to develop. They tried a different course with Sprong, who had 65 points in 65 games this season on the farm.

But will there be space in Pittsburgh for Sprong? With the Patric Hornqvist contract extension plus Phil Kessel (4 years still remaining on his contract) plus Bryan Rust under team control, the Pens don’t really need an offensive-minded right winger. Sprong’s defensive awareness and interest has often been criticized, sometimes fairly, sometimes not, but with Kessel on the team they already have a better “offense-only” type of RW. They may not want too many more of that sort of player that doesn’t help much away from the puck. And, for as good as Sprong is, he’s not likely to replace anyone on the team’s top power play. With Jake Guentzel around, Sprong’s probably not even the first alternate either.

That said, if the Pens think Sprong is a 20 or even possibly 30 goal guy in the NHL, they’ll obviously figure out a way to fit it and make it work. Maybe Rust plays LW, maybe other trades are explored but if Sprong is evaluated to be a big time player, you would think the Pens clutch him tight and let him help next year. Nothing wrong with that course of action.

But it would be wonderful to add a defenseman like Andersson. The Wilkes-Barre defense last night was: Chris Summers, Ethan Prow, Andray Pedan, Lukas Bengtsson, Niclas Almari and Zach Trotman. With apologies to the 19-year old Almari who was a 5th round pick (and has all of 3 career games in North America so far), there’s no real NHL defenemen prospects in the organization. Pittsburgh has drafted a few defensemen here and there over the last few years, but none are close to NHL ready at this point, or have terribly much promise as it is, really.

Adding Andersson would be huge, it’s easy to imagine him growing into a role eventually with Olli Maatta as a wonderful shutdown type of 2nd pair that can play big minutes and against any competition and do well with it.

It’s usually tough to trade for really good defensemen, harder still to get a right-handed one who can skate well (just ask the Oilers). It would probably be very challenging to actually pull the trigger on trading Sprong for fear he could turn into the next Filip Forsberg or something, yet the return of a similarly talented and aged player is a very intriguing thought. I haven’t wrapped my mind around whether or not the Pens should actually go through with this idea, and in the midst of a playoff run I doubt they have either. But, on an off-day from the playoffs it is an interesting thought-process to talk about the future status of Sprong with the Pens organization. One way or another we will know a lot about how the Pens truly see him this summer and next season.

Poll

In theory would you support trading Daniel Sprong this summer for a similarly aged and also near NHL ready defenseman?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    Yes, it’s moving an excess area (scoring) for more of a need (defense)
    (993 votes)
  • 32%
    No, Sprong’s offense and potential is too much to trade
    (479 votes)
1472 votes total Vote Now