Penguins Trade Debate: 3rd Line Center or Top-4 Defense?
The debate is simple. Should the primary Pittsburgh Penguins trade target be a third-line center or top-four defenseman?
The March 3 NHL trade deadline is rapidly approaching, and GMs are going a little crazy with giveaways. The Tampa Bay Lightning traded five picks for young but struggling power forward Tanner Jeannot, and the Toronto Maple Leafs swung a massive deal involving a first and second-rounder for defenseman Jake McCabe and bottom-six forward Sam Lafferty.
Which position should be the Penguins’ top trade target?
First up, Dave Molinari: third-line center.
Ron Hextall would be fortunate if all of the questions he faced were this simple, at least as I see it.
While Brian Dumoulin got off to a poor start and seemed like he might never return to his customary level of efficiency, he’s been very solid for several weeks now, looking a lot like his old self and again being a very nice complement to Kris Letang on the No. 1 pairing.
Similarly, I think the Penguins believed that Jeff Petry, who mans the right side opposite Marcus Pettersson on the second pair, would be more of a force at both ends of the ice when they acquired him from Montreal last summer.
But it’s not that Petry has been bad, or a liability. He simply hasn’t been as much of a positive factor as it was reasonable to believe he could be heading into the season.
Conversely, Jeff Carter’s game plunged to unexpected depths after he got a decent start last fall, and has shown no signs of re-emerging. The Penguins’ third line has been a total mess for much of this season, and bringing in someone who could add a little productivity to the position could go a long way toward rectifying that problem.
Dan Kingerski: defenseman
Those NHL trade deadline prices are ridiculous today. If you’re going to spend, I firmly support Hextall’s aversion to rentals unless they are a bargain.
Dave is correct about Brian Dumoulin returning to something pretty close to a player who resembles, well, Brian Dumoulin. And Jeff Petry has been, at best, OK, and at worst, OK.
The two simple reasons that GM Ron Hextall has been linked to defensemen via suggestion and report is the anemic totality of the PittsburgPenguins’ns blue line. P.O Joseph has the second most goals with four.
Petry and the ever-dangerousus Jan Rutta have three.
Marcus Pettersson and Dumoulin scored their first goals of the season over the weekend.
Even as coach Mike Sullivan noted the contributions that don’t appear on the stat sheet, after 59 games, the team needs a few more stat sheet contributions.
“I don’t think some of the offenst our defensemen help us create is always quantifiable, at least on the scoresheet. When our defensemen score goals, it’s a huge bonus for us,” Sullivan said. “And I do think that’s an important element of winning consistently is finding offensive production throughout the lineup different ways. … even though our defensemen might not have a ton of goals as a group of six, I do think they’re doing a lot of things out there that help us create offense that don’t necessarily show up on the scoresheet.”
Sorry coach, there’s almost no tangible offense coming from the blue line. As bad as the third line has been this season, and it has been epicly bad, the Penguins might be able to cobble something together that is passable with Teddy Blueger, Drew O’Connor, even Jeff Carter and Brock McGinn.
McGinn can’t pull a Riley Sheahan and go scoreless for months, can he?
The benefit from a top-four defenseman who plays 20 minutes and provides far more direct offense (and maybe a bit better defense) and could statistically benefit the Penguins more than a third-line center.
A top-four defenseman could even help the third line with solid puck movement and being a fourth stick in the play.
It’s close. If the trade ask is close, and it’s one or the other, I’d go with the defenseman. Or at least I’ll say so to argue with Dave.
Though finding a way to do both would sure help more.