With the NHL Trade Deadline just five weeks away, it’s just about time for the playoff contending teams to start evaluating their wants and needs and the bottom of the pack teams to decide what makes sense to give up. The Penguins, obviously falling into the former of those two categories, will need to start looking at what they think will make this Pittsburgh hockey club the best it can be heading into the post season. Naturally, we fans love trade talk, so why not evaluate to see what we think should be done.
All season, we here in Pittsburgh heard about the need for a top 6 winger. With the addition of David Perron and his wicked release, I think it’s safe to say we filled that hole. Yet, there is still talk of another move to add to the forward group. Talk of Jagr continues to buzz, and names like Jiri Tlusty have been tossed around. While I can’t say that it would make this team and worse, I don’t see an addition to the top 6 as a pressing issue. With Hornqvist and Comeau both practicing today, I think that it won’t be long before our team is looking elite again. However, I will say that for the right cost, I would see no harm in bringing in a top 6 sniper, but with the lack of picks we are already are facing, I wouldn’t cough any more up too easily for another high end winger.
Perhaps a little more pressing of an issue is the Penguins bottom 6. This is a frustrating subject, because the fix for this subpar bottom 6 is not through a trade. We already have the pieces to build a great bottom 6, but the coaching staff continues to employ the likes of Craig Adams and Zach Sill, while energy guys and advanced statistics leaders like Brian Rust and Bobby Farnham are stuck in the minors. Look, there is a fix to the bottom end of our lineup, but that fix needs to come from within. Definitely not worth trading away or future when we have what we in house.
That brings us to the last roster position that the Penguins should look at; defense. This is where I believe the Penguins could make a useful investment. We all know of the depth the Penguins have at this position, but how much of that will really be helpful to a Cup run? It’s hard to say, really. With Olli Maatta out for the remainder of the season and Kris Letang a bit shaken up recently, it’s safe to say the back end has been a bit shaky for the Penguins. Even assuming that Letang is fine and plays the rest of the season, I still think there could be room for improvement. The way I see it, the Pens have Paul Martin, Kris Letang, and Christian Erhoff as locks in the top three D spots. After that, it’s really more or less of a toss up. I am willing to let Simon Despres fill that fourth spot of the top 4. His play has been great so far this season, and although we’ve seen a few mistakes lately, I’ll take what he’s bringing to the table overall. That leaves Rob Scuderi (bleh) and Robert Bortuzzo to fill in the last pairing. Bortuzzo in my eyes is good enough to play as a rotating 7th man. He’s good for bottom pairing minutes and I think has the potential to bring success to the lineup. Scuderi is someone who could ride the press box for the rest of the season and I’d be happy. So who fills his spot? Well, it could come from in house, but I think if that’s the case, the only person I’d trust with the job would be Derrick Pouliot. He’s been a competitor in every game up here thus far and I really love what he brings to the second power play unit. And if you’re one of those people who thinks rookies aren’t ideal for a Cup run, look up Dougie Hamilton or Torey Krug. I’m not saying that all rookie defenseman will make an impact, but both of those guys had a major role in Boston’s recent playoff success, and Pouliot shows way more potential than either of them. IF we were to bring up Pouliot for the rest of the season, it would cost us a cap penalty next season, I believe somewhere in the $500,000 range. Thats a price I’m willing to pay to give Pouliot his chance to finally crack the big League permanently. However, if the Penguins don’t take that route, I think it would be worth looking into bringing in a player via trade. Zbynek Michalek’s name has been tossed around as a potential option, and we here in Pittsburgh are already familiar with him from a previous stint. He could be a solid shutdown option. Either way I believe that some minor tweak is going to have to be made to fix up the defense come playoff time.
Whether the Penguins make a move or not is yet to be seen. This team hit a bit of a rough patch before the All Star break so it’ll be interesting to see how they come back out of that with a game tonight against Winnipeg. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!