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Can Penguins Pick Perfect Partner for Petry?



Pittsburgh Penguins trade acquisition, Jeff Petry

Jeff Petry has only been a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins for about a day, so there is much that he doesn’t know yet.

He’s not all that familiar with the finer points of Mike Sullivan’s system, and has had only one cursory conversation with assistant coach Todd Reirden, who oversees the defense corps.

That means Petry still hasn’t been told much about exactly where he’s expected to fit in on their blue line.

And because Montreal, the club from which he was acquired Saturday, faced the Penguins in just three games during the past two regular seasons, his knowledge of a lot of his new teammates is rather limited, too.

But there is at least one thing of which Petry seems pretty certain: Pairing him with a guy who is reliable defensively is the best way to assure that Petry produces to the best of his considerable offensive abilities.

Petry told a conference call Sunday that, “a guy who’s more on the defensive side of things is somebody that I’ve had the most success with in my career. I look back at the latest (partner), with (Joel) Edmundson and before that, it was Jordie Benn and Alexei Emelin.

“Those are guys who can bring some offense, but are very strong on the defensive side of the puck. Those are the guys who come to mind that I felt most comfortable with in my career. I do like to skate the puck, let to get up on the play. Knowing that there’s a strong defensive partner with me is something that gives me a little bit of comfort.”

That is similar to the yin-and-yang partnership on the Penguins’ No. 1 pairing, where Brian Dumoulin’s defense-oriented style has made it possible for Kris Letang to be active offensively.

Given the current makeup of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ defense corps — and it remains very much subject to change before the start of training camp, let alone the regular season — Marcus Pettersson would appear to be the leading candidate to work alongside Petry, considering that the other left-handed defensemen who project onto the major-league roster — Ty Smith and P.O Joseph — are better known for their offensive games.

“I’m a guy who likes to skate,” Smith said. “I kind of rely on that, and my hockey sense.”

Smith, like Letang and Petry, likely would fare best with a partner who emphasizes playing well in his own end, although he deferred to the judgment of Sullivan and his staff on that.

“The coaches will decide,” he said. “Whatever they think is best is probably best for me.”

It merits mention that Smith — who was acquired from New Jersey in the John Marino trade Saturday — noted that he has experience playing on both sides, which also is true of Jan Rutta and Mark Friedman. That means it’s possible the Penguins could deploy a righty on left defense.

Smith, a member of the NHL’s all-rookie team in 2020-21, said he didn’t necessarily anticipate being traded, but realized it could happen because of “what they’re doing there in New Jersey and the good young defensemen they have and some older guys who are playing really well.”

That contrasts with Petry, who is about to become the Penguins’ highest-paid defenseman — his salary-cap hit is $6.25 million, compared to Letang’s $6.1 million — and who had actively sought a trade.

He asked to change teams in large part to get closer to Michigan. where his family — including his father, Dan, once a pitcher with the Detroit Tigers — resides. Rather than having to make a lengthy trip that includes crossing the Canadian border to get there, Petry now will be about a four-hour drive away.

“It is nice now, that that’s all in the past,” he said. “And that we’re closer to home and we can all be together again.”

Forward Ryan Poehling, who came over from Montreal with Petry, is a Minnesota native, so he’s a bit closer to his roots, too. And, like Smith, he said he can be used where needed, although he thinks of himself primarily as a center.

“It’s a little bit of an adjustment (to move to the wing),” he said. “But nothing too crazy. … It’s something that definitely is an option for myself.”

All three of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ latest acquisitions sat out the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring, so they’re joining a team where the expectations are considerably higher. Which, predictably, they don’t seem to mind.

“Their wont to win is very apparent, and that’s the most exciting thing for me,” Petry said. “To be on a team that’s ready and eager to win.”

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27 days ago

Who did understand the system? Who understood what Sullivan wanted? Matheson. But we can’t have nice things anymore.

26 days ago
Reply to  GBG

With these two moves we upgraded the right side of our D, got a VERY young defender that has a Gonchar like game as a ceiling and can be put through waivers, and got another forward with a ton of size and pedigree that has good potential. This also opens up a spot for POJ who can be as good as Matheson. So, the Pens solved a logjam issue, improved forward depth, basically exchanged a 4th for a 3rd (the round where the Pens seem to hit home runs in Guentzel, Murray, Sundqvist, Rust, Bortuzzo, Letang, and possibly Legare), got… Read more »

26 days ago
Reply to  GBG

Noone wanted Matheson when he came into town. Then he played above expectations then everyone is upset when he left town…let’s hope the same for Petry and Smith. I wish Matheson well while in Montreal

Doug Ukish
Doug Ukish
26 days ago

Shelley, Dave & Dan, Thanks for the in depth views & opinions along with the quantity of articles. Summer w/o hockey or news can be frustrating.

Last edited 26 days ago by Doug Ukish

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