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.