An Underwhelming Trade Deadline Provides Depth; Shero Makes the Right Moves for the Organization
There was so much discussion over the potential trade for Ryan Kesler that many in Pittsburgh became blinded to what this organization truly needed. Thank goodness for the fans, Ray Shero was not “all in” for Kesler as some beat writers seemed to be reporting.
While Ryan Kesler would have been a good addition, it was a move that was seemingly a luxury. With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, there is no need to have another top two line center in the fold when your depth is as poor as Pittsburgh’s was this season. To counter that, Ray Shero went and acquired Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak.
Goc and Stempniak were acquired from the Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames respectfully for a 2014 3rd round selection, 2014 5th round selection, and a 2015 3rd round selection. While many point out that they could have had Ales Hemsky for this value, your’s truly being one that thought it was a possibility, he was seen as a luxury on this team due to his lack of versatility and physicality.
What Each Bring.
Marcel Goc is a 30 year old left shooting center from Germany who will bring great depth to the Penguins third line. A natural center by trade, Goc could do one of two things in Pittsburgh. He can slide to the left wing and play the low forward or he can force Brandon Sutter to the right wing and retain his spot as a center.
Goc wins 53% of his faceoffs, a slight upgrade from Brandon Sutter’s 48%, and is visibly more physical along the boards and around the net. This acquisition will allow Pittsburgh to use each player in the faceoff circle on their respective strong sides as well, hopefully boosting the teams total win percentage on draws.
Goc also brings an underrated offensive game. With 11 goals and 12 assists Goc is not going to light the world on fire, but he did only play 17 minutes a night for a struggling Panther’s squad.
Despite all of this, it is his physicality that interested the Penguins the most. Goc is not an easy guy to play against, evidenced by his 100+ hits and 46 blocked shots on the season. He adds an element of shut down ability to a third line that desperately needed to be tougher to play against.
Lee Stempniak was the wild card for the Penguins this trade deadline. He is a bit of an enigma in his NHL career. He is a player who stands just under six feet and two hundred pounds, but plays a very straight line game. He skates well and shoots the puck rather often, something that is crucial if he wants to be a top 6 player.
It is crucial for Pittsburgh that Stempniak is given a role in the top six quickly. He has a game that is reminiscent to injured Penguin Pascal Dupuis. He is not afraid to play physical, 71 hits on the season, and doesn’t shy away from shooting the puck, 144 shots on net.
Why establishing their roles early on is crucial.
Pittsburgh is currently the most injured team in the league in terms of man-games lost. With Dupuis done for the rest of this season we can take into consideration that his role is permanently open. If Stempniak is able to establish a report with Crosby and Kunitz, Dupuis role will be filled.
With Dupuis role hopefully filled by Stempniak, the Penguins would be able to slot a healthy Beau Bennett on the third line next to Sutter and Goc. With Bennett set to return just before the playoffs, this would take a lot of pressure off the young forward who has missed a majority of the season with a wrist injury.
Bennett is a great possession player who uses his frame well to control the puck. With Sutter and Goc also on this line, Pittsburgh will be able to once again ice a true third line.
Although many are pointing to Stempniak being the third line wing early on, mostly because his game and production point to the third line, removing the added pressure of production from Bennett could allow his adjustment period to quicker.
Keeping crucial assets means the Penguins still value the future.
When the Penguins made an offer for Ryan Kesler it meant that Pittsburgh was ready to give it all to win now. They were reportedly ready to trade away a young center, a first round pick, and a highly sought after defensive prospect. Instead, Pittsburgh was caught in a bidding war between the Canucks management and ownership, a battle no one was going to win.
They could have used said assets to get a Thomas Vanek or a Matt Moulson, but with each being a rental and not necessarily a true fit, Pittsburgh was smart not to make a brash move like last season.
The Penguins also refused to trade away their first round selection in the 2014 draft for a rental player. This, unlike last season, shifts the focus back onto the Penguins farm system.
One should expect the Penguins to draft the most NHL ready winger available when they select this summer. Speculation falls towards a player in the mold of a Tom Wilson of Washington; a player whose ceiling might be no greater than that of a third line winger, but a player who would make an immediate impact upon arrival.
Keeping said picks and prospects also shows that the Penguins are ready to move forward with their organization. After stockpiling high quality defensive prospects for years, Pittsburgh is now using them. Olli Maatta, Simon Despres, and Robert Bortuzzo are now NHL ready and playing on a regular basis.
With high end prospects like Scott Harrington, Brian Dumoulin, and most notably Derrick Pouliot waiting to showcase their skill sets at the NHL level, Pittsburgh was smart not to move any of them. Pouliot is considered the Penguins top prospect at this point and could possibly be in the NHL as early as next season. With UFA defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen possibly leaving for bigger contracts, Pittsburgh wanted to be certain that they would have the proper depth to fill these shoes.
There is also the scary thought that Kris Letang has played his last game as a Penguin given his shocking stroke earlier this year. It was important for Pittsburgh to have multiple back up plans in place and not moving any of their prospects at the deadline helped secure these plans.
While the deadline was underwhelming Pittsburgh did achieve its goal of securing depth. Doing so without sacrificing a current roster player or a top round selection makes for a very successful deadline.