Penguins Update. 2/19/2012
Trade and Season Update
It has been a wild season for the Pittsburgh Penguins, to say the least. Since the last update, the Pens have reeled off winning streaks, losing streaks, and have seen super star Evgeni Malkin vault into the MVP discussion. The Pens currently sit in 5th place in the East, but need to vault the Flyers if they would like home ice advantage in the first round. The problem still resides, however, that the Pens are not playing playoff hockey.
Over their last 6 games the penguins have allowed 20 goals, a very unimpressive number. Malkin, Neal, and Kunitz might be performing well, but they cannot produce to that level, or to a greater extent, they should not be counted on to produce that level. A few other contributors have shined over this period though. Jordan Staal now has 4 goals and three assists since returning from his knee injury and Matt Cooke has 5 goals over his last 8 games. Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, and Deryk Engelland have been strong in all areas recently. Since returning from his concussion, Letang has helped the Penguins to a 12-4-1 record, while producing greatly in the offensive department. Orpik and Engelland have been as physically imposing as ever; see the Philly game and Boston game for highlights. Yet with all of this good, the Penguins are just 5-4-1 in their last 10. So with all of the trade deadline hoopla, it might be time to take a peek at who the Penguins should be targeting.
First – The Penguins made it clear this morning that they mean business by signing surging forward James Neal to a 6 year, 30 million dollar contract. Neal now has 30 goals and 57 points, both career highs. His 2.2 million dollar increase in pay puts the Penguins over their cap limit, making it almost certain that a trade will occur. The most likely candidates are those with a higher cap hit, specifically the defense.
Paul Martin – His name has been thrown around since early December, mostly because of his big cap hit and small contributions. Since signing two seasons ago, Martin has yet to feel comfortable in the Penguins system. This comfort level now makes Martin a liability and according to multiple sources, coach Dan Bylsma is running out of patience with the defenseman. Martin’s NMC makes it difficult to trade him, but if the Pens can send him to a contender in exchange for anything, it can become a win win for all parties.
Zbynek Michalek – This might Michalek’s worst ever season, stats wise, but the shot blocking stay at home defenseman has not been as the numbers show. The problem is, he makes 4 million dollars a year and is a cap liability. His style of play matches exceptionally well with a big, faster skating defenseman, and reminds all Penguin fans of Robert Scuderi. His presence is well liked and he will most likely not be moved, but his modified trade clause does make him an easier trade than Martin.
Brent Johnson – Johnson will be just a cog in any trade if he is moved. He has been rather weak this season and with only a .6 million dollar cap hit, he doesn’t clear up much of anything. This move would most likely be made just to rid the Pens of a liability in net and have minor leaguer Brad Thiessen jump up to the bigs.
Multiple Forwards – My favorite trade bait is now injured. Tyler Kennedy was a two million dollar player that recently sprained his ankle. His shoot first mentality would fit any team looking to add a spark, but his lack of forechecking doesn’t fit well in the Pens current system. The once highly sought after Eric Tangradi might be up on the block as well. His lack of scoring in his call ups has him sitting in the minors, but many teams would like his size and power up front. Tangradi would be another piece to a puzzle and not a major trade piece.
Sidney Crosby – He is not a trade candidate, but all of these trades do revolve around the health of Sidney Crosby. If he returns and it will be prior to the playoffs, then Pittsburgh might wait to address cap problems in the offseason, if he can’t return, the Pens will be wheeling and dealing by next week.
Candidates – These are a few players/teams that would fit the system as well as trade partners.
Johnny Oduya – The Winnipeg UFA defensemen would be nothing more than a rental, but if the Jets are looking for help on the back end a trade involving Martin is a possibility.
Bryan Allen – The Carolina defensemen is big and relatively responsible in his own end. Could possibly come cheap and would be the perfect fit with Michalek. Problem – Paul Martin would most likely not be part of the deal.
GM Ray Shero has a way with making some significant trades to clear up space and solidify a line up. With not many options available, it is up to him to once again work some magic.
I would also like to apologize for my absence. Over the past two months I have been active in internship activities and LSAT preparations. As my schedule opens up, I plan on being rather active as we wind down the season and head into the playoffs. Happy Hockey Day in America everyone.