Playing Catch Up; Big Injuries, Big Trades, and One Terrifying Press Conference
Before the Olympic break the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that Kris Letang had suffered a stroke. The breaking and shocking news had left many in the hockey community stunned.
Letang is a noted “freak” of an athlete. His training regimen mocks that of power lifters, cross fit, football players, and endurance athletes. His unique blend of explosive power and endurance allows him to play over 25 minutes a night in the NHL.
All of this makes a stroke seem highly unlikely, but as the doctors noted, a prior medical condition was the root cause.
In a short press conference Kris Letang revealed that he was found the morning of his stroke by his wife. Kris will be on blood thinners for a six week period, during which he is not permitted to work out. After the six week period is up, he will be reevaluated.
At this point in time it is not proper to predict whether or not Letang will be back this season. His injury is something that just doesn’t heal like a sprain. Kris will hopefully take the time necessary to get fully healthy and if that means the entire season, so be it. His health as a father and husband is more important than his health as an athlete.
Joining Letang on the injury list is Beau Bennett and Paul Martin.
Unfortunately for Paul Martin, he once again had to watch Team USA play their most important game from the press box. As a pair, Orpik and Martin were a plus two in three games, until Martin broke his hand and was forced out of the lineup.
Martin recently gave the go ahead for a press release and it was revealed that he underwent surgery earlier this week to repair the damage. His timetable is four to six weeks, however, the Penguins do not have a glaring hole to fill from outside the organization.
Simon Despres has been recalled from Wilkes-Barre and should serve as more than just a suitable fill in for the time being.
Despite being on IR since his wrist injury in the late fall, Beau Bennett recently had a setback that will extend his time on IR for at least another month. This setback puts Pittsburgh in a precarious position.
Bennett was looked at to fill the vacant top six roll for the Penguins upon his return, now that won’t be the case. Bennett will be used as a third line player upon his return, forcing the Penguins to make a trade for a top six player.
Who is Available
If Pittsburgh is in fact looking at acquiring a top six forward at the deadline, then who would make the most sense?
The player in question would have to have a few key qualities for Shero to send away yet another coveted defensive prospect.
1. Puck Possession – It is important for one to understand that Pittsburgh lost Pascal Dupuis, not James Neal, this season. Pittsburgh does not need a sniper in return, but a player who can control the puck and cycle well.
2. Ability to Skate – The role to be filled is that of Crosby’s right winger, so the player to return must be able to keep up.
3. Even Strength Production – Pittsburgh is not going after a power play specialist, they already have the best one in the league. They need a player whose production is not based on power play time.
With that in mind, Pittsburgh should keep their eye on a few players:
1. Ales Hemsky – Edmonton Oilers – The right winger of the Edmonton Oilers has been in trade speculation for what seems like his entire career. Now, it might actually be real talk. He is not having his best statistical season and is only playing around fifteen minutes per game, but his skill set is in demand.
If he were to play in Pittsburgh, one would expect him to be slotted next to Crosby and Kunitz, while getting time on the second power play unit. He is a great possession guy, even on such a poor possession team, and has the wheels to keep up with the style of Crosby. The only question is his value and at this point in time.
Speculation is that Edmonton has waited too long to get what they want for Hemsky. A mid level prospect and mid level pick should be enough to pry Hemsky from Edmonton. They have plenty of left shooting defenseman, which is also Pittsburgh’s prospect depth, but a goaltending prospect or center prospect could carry weight.
2. Drew Stafford – Buffalo Sabres – The Sabres are selling everything that can be sold. Place Drew Stafford on the list. The 28 year old right winger would fit well into Pittsburgh’s plans. He is a decent skater, strong puck possession player. His 6’2, 215 frame would put some size on Crosby’s line.
It looks like Buffalo is ready to build for the future as quickly as possible and sending them a top five defensive prospect should look good. Players such as Scott Harrington, Brian Dumoulin, or even Phillip Samuelsson should look like a good base for a rebuild.
3. Chris Stewart – Buffalo Sabres – He has yet to dress for the Sabres, but he is technically a Sabre. He has been on the Penguins radar for quite a while now. His style is up and down, the simple style that would really compliment Kunitz and Crosby. He is most likely going to cost the most of the players on this list, as the market for Stewart is apparently quite competitive.
If Ottawa is offering what is reported, Pittsburgh would have to throw in more than they are comfortable with. This is including a first round selection and high level prospect. Considering Pittsburgh is to have a mid-20’s first round selection at the least, Buffalo would most likely ask for a top defensive prospect in return.
While players such as Martin St.Louis and Thomas Vanek are not entirely off the table, Pittsburgh would have to include proven NHL players. Ready to move could be Brandon Sutter and or Matt Niskanen, but with the depleted defense and no true depth at center, Pittsburgh would be less likely to make this trade than any other.
Yes, the dynamic duo of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review are at it again. They have “found out” that Ray Shero proposed a trade for Canuck Ryan Kesler. The proposal included Brandon Sutter and defensive prospect Derrick Pouliot, but it was denied by the organization to have ever been more than just speculation.
I found the rumors to be brash, something that was cooked up over the Olympic break due to Shero and Bylsma being so close to so many players. Either way, it is not likely the Penguins trade for Kesler if he is to become the third center. If he was willing to switch to wing for the stretch run, then there could be some fire with the smoke, but as of now we have nothing but fluff.