Kesler Report Becomes Official; The Penguins Are Foolish To View This As A Fix
When the rumor came out of the woodwork just a few days back, I was taken by surprise. I figured the Penguins were more interested in acquiring winger depth than trying to reestablish the dominant three center model that won them a Stanley Cup.
But what do I know about building a competitive hockey team.
Pittsburgh is reported by just about every major outlet to be heavily interested in acquiring Kesler’s services. He would be an instant upgrade at the third line center position and has the ability to play wing when needed; however, there is a big problem with this.
For one, Kesler would join the Penguins at a time of depletion. With Pascal Dupuis and Beau Bennett lost for the foreseeable future, the Penguins are using wingers that are more suited to play in either the AHL or on the fourth line.
Players such as Tanner Glass, Taylor Pyatt, Chuck Kobasew, Andrew Ebbett, and Jason Megna have all spent time at the wing position on the third and fourth line. These players have totaled less than fifteen goals this season and have a combined plus minus less than -20.
It is rather clear that this depth is some of the worst of any legitimate contender.
So what would Ryan Kesler actually bring to the club if acquired? Could he actually produce with such a rag tag group of bottom line players?
Well for the latter the answer is going to be no. While a great talent, there is little one can do with this group of wingers. Kesler would be limited offensively as well as in ice time if he were acquired and placed into the third line center position.
So then, why get him?
It would reportedly take Brandon Sutter, Simon Despres/Brian Dumoulin, a first round selection and a third round selection. That is a boatload to give up for a player who will seemingly be handcuffed upon arrival.
One possibility is that Kesler is acquired to play right wing this season. He is a right handed shot, plays down low well, and has good skating ability. All of this is desired when you speak of a linemate to play alongside Sidney Crosby.
The return then would leave an open spot in the third line center position. This position could be filled with Jussi Jokinen, a current winger of Evgeni Malkin, but then another void is created. In order to fill this void the Penguins would have to use one of Megna, Pyatt, or Glass and then have, upon his return from injury, Bennett play the third line right wing.
The problem is this is way too much movement after the deadline to submit a formidable roster for a playoff run. It is way too much to ponder at this point in the season.
So I ask again, why make this move?
To put it simply, it isn’t for today or tomorrow. This would be a move for next season.
Pittsburgh is beat up, badly, and maybe the thought here is that this season is not one to legitimately compete. If Kesler is acquired now and plays well, then Pittsburgh gets to change its focus in the offseason. They would be able to let certain players leave via free agency to address the depth.
Take Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik for example. Both UFA’s are poised to get a raise and both can be considered expendable by the Penguins. There are actually more than a few assets who can be let go.
Vokoun (retire), Engelland, Niskanen, Orpik, Kobasew, Glass, and Pyatt are all considered expendable.
This gives Pittsburgh close to 16 million dollars in cap space to play with in the offseason. Add in the five million cap for Kesler and that leaves 11 million in cap space with a roster set of 15 players.
Finding seven to eight quality players for a total of 11 million dollars isn’t easy, but it isn’t difficult when you are only finding a few bottom six players and maybe a defenseman.
Consider this; Pittsburgh would have a top line of Crosby, Kunitz, and Dupuis, a second line of Malkin, Neal, and Bennett, and a third line center in Kesler. Jussi Jokinen, Jayson Megna, and Joe Vitale will likely return for a rather reasonable fee for all three. Jokinen will be a three million dollar player next season at the least, but Vitale and Megna are fourth line players who will not top one million apiece.
This is five of the possible eleven million taken away; however, it is also just one forward short of a completed four line roster.
With six million remaining, the Penguins could certainly find someone to fill in on the third line. A player with the status of Ales Hemsky comes to mind. He is not likely to be resigned and he has not drawn a lot of interest on the trade market. He could be an affordable free agent in the range of four million.
That would leave Pittsburgh with a defense consisting of Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi, Olli Maatta, Robert Bortuzzo, Paul Martin, and a slew of NHL ready prospects in the AHL. While it is not what any would consider the best, it is certainly not an area of weakness considering the possible line up in front of them.
So what does all of this mean? It means nothing. It is a headache for one to just ponder and write about let alone try to manage. I am still dumbfounded as to why the Penguins are so high up on this trade. It seems easier for Pittsburgh to send these assets somewhere else and acquire young talent on the wing, but maybe it is not that easy.
Would Dallas be interested in Brandon Sutter and a prospect for Alex Chiasson? I wouldn’t mind kicking the tires on this deal. Pittsburgh might overpay straight up, but there is room for a fit. The Stars cannot be happy with Horcoff’s production and he is an eligible complacency buyout candidate at his 5.5 million dollar cap hit.
Pittsburgh would provide Dallas with a strong two way center to go along with Peverly and Seguin, and considering Sutter is a restricted free agent at just 25 years old, the deal is not one to leave a bad taste in Dallas.
It just seems to me that there is too much going on for a Kesler trade to fit in perfectly for Pittsburgh and there is no guarantee that this deal goes down. Considering the reluctance to trade disgruntled goaltender Roberto Luongo, I highly doubt Pittsburgh is able to offer anything that Vancouver deems a deal to good to be true.