With the title alone, I put myself in the minority. Sometimes I enjoy doing it to bother other too adamantly voiced Pens fans and then there are times, like this, where I truly believe my statements.
Rob Scuderi is the subject of many verbally pitchfork led talks about who to run out of town. "He gets paid too much!" "He's too slow!" or the simply put, "He sucks!"
I disagree with the latter and can see the points in the other two, but you know what Scuderi has that most on the roster does not? A Stanley Cup ring. And do you know what he has over everyone else except Chris Kunitz? Two Stanley Cup rings.
He brings a winning pedigree. Hell, six years ago, he was Pittsburgh's favorite player as he was "The Piece" to their 2009 Cup win with his outstanding saves in Game 6. When he left the city, fans were furious. When he resigned a couple seasons ago, everyone was thrilled.
Now, he's the one fingers are pointed at. Last time I checked, there were 19 other players that dressed that held responsibility for the team's success or failure, not just number four.
When you think about the Penguins defensively this season, who is going to stand out on the penalty kill? Kris Letang is surely a top-notch defenseman, but will he see a ton of time short-handed? I'd venture to say no. Olli Maatta, once healthy, will be a bright spot on those units. Ian Cole and Ben Lovejoy can be a risk at times. And are we as a fan base going to truly put our full belief in Derrick Pouliot right away? I doubt it.
The loss of Paul Martin stings...bad. Especially in terms of penalty kill, but do you know who is a "master" of the 5-on-3 penalty kill and kills in general?
Mr. Robert Scuderi is, that's who.
And it's not like Jim Rutherford and the Penguins haven't parted with "dead weight" this offseason. Craig Adams was told his services would no longer be needed, Nick Spaling is in Toronto as part of the Phil Kessel trade, and Brandon Sutter was recently traded away.
If the Penguins have been listening to the fan base, then they've done a good job of finding ways to eliminate bad contracts/players, in some people's views.
I'm not the one running the Rob Scuderi fan club, but I'm sure not part of the majority that wants him gone. I believe that he has a role on this team and will play a responsible role this season. He will mentor the young defenseman and contribute on the third pairing.
What he did for Simon Despres last season was invaluable and raised Despres' stock tremendously. He was a calming factor for the unbridled stallion and helped Despres tighten up his game. Scuderi deserves some credit for that at least.
Would trading him to free up cap make sense? Yes. But is it absolutely necessary to move Scuderi? I don't think so at all.
So, #KeepScuderi. He's kept for now. Hopefully it remains that way.
In the immortal words of everyone's fictitious anchorman, Ron Burgundy, things have "escalated quickly."
With two moves less than ten minutes apart, the Pittsburgh Penguins continued to rebuild, reshape, and reform their bottom six. One move is more favorable in my mind than the other, but let's recap a bit first:
Pens Sign Eric Fehr to Three-Year Deal
In a move that had been rumored quite a bit online and among inner circles of Penguins fans, General Manager Jim Rutherford was able to sign former Washington Capitals center Eric Fehr to a three-year, $6 million dollar deal.
Fehr, 29, spent nine of his first 10 NHL seasons with the Washington Capitals, recently posting 33 points in 75 games last season, amassing a plus-8 rating.
The Winkler, MB, Canada native underwent elbow surgery in June, putting him out of action for "4-6 months." Earliest time we may see the 6'4" center would be in October, but could be pushed back as late as December.
I like the signing. Fehr is a big body who will add his size, penalty killing, and scoring touch to the bottom six. He also has a tendency to score against the Penguins, so if you can't stop him, add him to the fold. The injury is unfortunate, but if all goes well during his recovery, we still may see him relatively early on in the season. Solid signing for a good price.
Pens Trade Sutter, 2016 3rd Round Pick to Canucks in Exchange For Bonino, Clendening, 2016 2nd Round Pick
It was a move that was all but expected. Pens fans had been clamoring for the organization to unload either the contract of Chris Kunitz, Rob Scuderi, or Brandon Sutter.
The latter was the one to move.
Brandon Sutter, along with a 2016 3rd round pick, has been traded to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for center Nick Bonino, defenseman Adam Clendening, and 2016 2nd round pick.
Bonino, 27, has 121 career points (48G, 73A) in 284 career games split between the Anaheim Ducks and Vancouver Canucks. Clendening, 22, was the second highest scoring defenseman in the AHL last season and was part of the Utica Comets team that reached the Calder Cup Finals.
I am not going to break down statistics as much in the aforementioned section simply because by the time most fans read this, they will already know each player's Corsi, and other advanced statistics and what not. Not what a "recap" or "thoughts" section is about.
Immediately, I must say I'm personally upset that Sutter's gone. Again, one could argue his paper stats, but his relationship with the team on the bench and in the locker room is what will be missed. His clutch goals and performances over his last couple of seasons will be missed. His hockey heritage and lineage will be missed. I will miss Sutter and his contributions, especially when both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were not contributing...at all.
Secondly, Nick Bonino is a solid return. Good hands, good down low on the boards. He's quick, has a great release and was quite the playoff performer for Anaheim in 2013.
Clendening may be the diamond in the rough in this trade. Taken 36th overall in 2011 by the Chicago Blackhawks, he has not quite found his footing in the NHL, but is a solid player in the AHL. He will surely help the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. If his development improves down there and there are injuries on the main squad, I would not be surprised to see Clendening called up and potentially challenge other prospects for a permanent spot.
Final, Final Thoughts
Lastly, like all deals the Penguins have made this season (Kessel trade, Plotnikov signing, Bennett signing), they all look great on paper, as do these. Paper trades and signings are fantastic, but what will happen once they take the ice? Will the chemistry be diminished with the loss of Sutter? Will Fehr's injury impact the lines and throw the team off in the first two months of the season?
Will the players live up to their expectations? That's the biggest question this team faces.
Currently speaking, my lines would look like this:
I place the question marks because in terms of left wing, you have Scott Wilson, Bryan Rust, Bobby Farnham; just to name a few. If Fehr does not immediately start, do we see Oskar Sundqvist?
There are still some questions surrounding this team, but these moves certainly answer some questions and further shape the team.
Exciting times to be a Penguins fan, Penguins' fans!
In a move that had been rumored for at least a week or so, General Manager Jim Rutherford pulled the trigger. He found his top-six winger who was his "number one priority."
Introducing the newest Pittsburgh Penguin, Phil Kessel.
Kessel, who I wrote about in an earlier post, is an addition much needed for a Penguins team whose offense seemed to disappear for the last month of the 2014-15 regular season. Depending on chemistry with Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby, it's safe to say Kessel will hit 30 goals easy, potentially and even probably more as long as the team stays relatively healthy.
He is knocked on his defensive efforts or lack there of and his minus-34 from last year does not help his cause. However, one has to assume, like I do, that playing under head coach Mike Johnston and playing on a team that was in the top five defensively last season that those numbers will turn around. I expect Kessel to be a plus player this season and even more determined with something to prove against his former suitors.
To acquire Kessel was quite the price tag for the Penguins. Heading to Toronto included 2014 first round draft pick winger Kasperi Kapanen, defenseman Scott Harrington, center/winger Nick Spaling, a 2016 lottery protected first round pick and a 2016 third round pick. Toronto also sent winger Tyler Biggs, defenseman Tim Erixon, and the 2016 second round pick that the Penguins had traded at this past year's NHL Trade Deadline to acquire winger, and newly reintroduced to Toronto, Daniel Winnik. Lastly, the Leafs will retain $1.2 million for the remainder of the contract. Kessel's cap hit in Pittsburgh then will be $6.8 million instead of $8 per year; certainly a plus.
When you boil it down to the bones here (I think I'm combining too many sayings), Kessel is the elite scoring winger the Penguins were looking for and Toronto was looking to rebuild/shed the contract. Mission accomplished for both teams. Plus, especially for the Penguins, defensemen Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta remain in a Penguins jersey. That's absolutely huge.
Plotnikov Officially a Penguin
It was rumored about a week or so ago that KHL winger Sergei Plotnikov planned on signing with the Penguins come July 1. Today is July 1 and Sergei Plotnikov is a Pittsburgh Penguin. For once a rumor was completed without any hiccup.
The deal is a one-year entry-level deal worth $925 thousand dollars. A low risk signing with potential huge rewards, especially if he plays alongside fellow countryman, as he is expected to, Evgeni Malkin. Is Plotnikov a top-six winger? Time will tell, but it is an experiment worth attempting. Overall, I like the signing because of the diversity in nationalities on the team that it brings and the mystery of what could be with Plotnikov.
Depth, depth, and more depth
One would be crazy to think Rutherford was going to go all out and for broke on day one of free agency. There are still plenty of good players out on the market now that he may circle back to, but the Penguins chose to add some depth forwards and defensemen. Signings include Kevin Porter, Kael Mouillerat, David Warsofsky, and Steve Oleksy. They also signed Conor Sheary to a two-year, entry-level contract. Sheary, who was a huge bright spot for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will continue to develop in the AHL and hopefully has an opportunity to bring his speed and tenacity to the big line-up within that time frame.
The signings help replenish some of the depth spots lost in free agency from both Pittsburgh and Wilkes/Barre-Scranton. Barring any horrible injury crisis that Pittsburgh has been a part of for the last several years, I expect most of those signings to stay in the AHL. Porter is the only name I really see making occasional appearances on the fourth-line.
Where Do They Go From Here?
While I think the Penguins addressed a much desired need, there is always room for improvement. When you think back to the end of last season, the Penguins were without Kris Letang, Maatta, and Pascal Dupuis. Come the start of the year, that all will be different.
As I write this, Alexander Semin is still on the board and someone I would love to see have a chance in a Penguins uniform for a short-term, low money contract (one-year/$1-$1.5 million). While it's been reported that the Penguins have no interest in him and personally neither do I, but what if they could snag Martin St. Louis for a similar deal as Semin? It's tempting to think about. Why not bring in Sergei Gonchar for one last year to mentor young defenseman and quarterback the second unit power-play? The Penguins have a little cap space to utilize, why not take a one year gamble?
Rutherford is on record saying that the main focus now is acquiring a fourth-line center. Zach Sill is a fourth-line center and I may be the only person as a Penguins fan who would love to see him back, but he is certainly an option. Maybe even Tyler Kennedy, Mike Santorelli, or do the Penguins give Oskar Sundqvist an opportunity? That seems to be what most Penguins' fans want.
This write-up is a summary of the massive deal simply because you've probably already read every article written about it. There's nothing more I can add to the specifics of the Kessel trade other than my thoughts. Same deal applies with the other signings and where they go from here.
It's called Christmas for a reason in the hockey season. I have my list. I may get one, two, all or none of the names, but it can't hurt to have them out there.
The Penguins won today, and there is no doubt about that. They got their target, signed depth, and still have a little more room to improve. What happens on Thursday (Day 2), who knows, but I expect it to be quiet. Today was a big splash. Tomorrow may be a ripple. Either way, I think we can all agree, Pens fans:
Is it October yet?