It is no secret that the Pittsburgh Penguins could use some help on the wings as Pascal Dupuis is out for a minimum of six months and against the Boston Bruins, it appeared that Beau Bennett once again was injured. Bennett will be out for “a couple of weeks,” according to the Penguins pre-game report before they face the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.
It is also no secret that the Edmonton Oilers could use help, well, in all positions, but specifically defensively. The Oilers are 29th in the league in goals against per game (3.46) only to be outdone by the Columbus Blue Jackets (3.57). The most proving statistic, however, is that they are currently ranked last in the NHL with a record of 6-14-2.
Lastly, it is no secret that the Penguins have a surplus of young defensemen and that the Oilers have a surplus of offensive talent. Both teams have what the other is looking for and rumors and ramblings over the last two seasons have combined the two organizations in these talks. The teams are not unfamiliar with one another, as during the 2004-05 NHL lockout, the minor league affiliates were combined in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the season.
The question is do the teams make a trade and if they do, who are the potential targets?
What the Penguins Need
The forward depth in the organization has been shallow for quite a while as the Penguins have focused on drafting defensive prospects since their 2009 Stanley Cup win. At the 2009 NHL Draft, the Penguins selected Simon Despres with their first pick. The following year, Beau Bennett. From 2011-2014, the Penguins have selected eight defensemen (Joe Morrow, Scott Harrington, Derrick Pouliot, Olli Maatta, Clark Seymour, Ryan Segalla, Dane Birks, and Jeff Taylor), three goaltenders (Matt Murray, Sean Maguire, and Tristan Jarry), and seven centers (Dominik Uher, Teddy Blueger, Oskar Sundqvist, Matia Marcantuoni, Jake Guentzel, Blaine Byron, and Troy Joseph) in their 25 picks. That leaves only seven wingers drafted in that time frame.
What Edmonton has is a plethora of talent that could greatly benefit in a change of scenery, most notably Jordan Eberle and David Perron. Eberle, 24, is signed through the 2018-19 season with an annual cap hit of $6 million. The Saskatchewan-native is one of the main building blocks from the initial rebuilding of the Oilers franchise and would cost a pretty penny to acquire, if in fact the rumblings are true. Eberle currently leads the Oilers in points this season with 15 (4G, 11A) in 21 contests and has 236 points (100G, 136A) in 296 NHL games. He is a bit smaller in stature at 5’11”, 183 pounds, but his shot ranks among the top in the league in terms of accuracy. The right-handed shooting winger could be an incredible asset to the Penguins.
Perron, 26, on the other hand, is a cheaper option going down the road with an annual cap hit of $3.8 million for the next two seasons. The injury prone winger would be more of a short-term option for the Penguins, however, would be a cheaper option as well. There have been rumblings over the last two days that the Blue Jackets have interest in the former Blues winger as well. Perron is 6’0″, 200 pounds and can throw the body when needed, but his skill with the puck is what makes him standout. In 440 NHL games, Perron has 265 points (114G, 151A), but has had concussion issues in the past.
What the Oilers Need
When you look at the Oilers defensive prospects, few names stick out. Keith Aulie, Oscar Klefbom, and Darnell Nurse are three that immediately jump out off of the page. Each of these defensemen were toted to be NHL ready, or only one year away from reaching the Edmonton squad, but have split time between their respective minor league affiliates such as Oklahoma City and Sault Ste. Marie.
What the Penguins have are several NHL-ready defensemen that are just waiting their turn in the minor league system. Names like Scott Harrington, Derrick Pouliot, and Brian Dumoulin are just three that have been tossed around over the last two seasons. Rumors this off-season were that Pouliot was more than likely to make the main roster before having to have surgery. These defensemen would welcome a change of scenery for the same reason Ben Lovejoy has to love playing in Anaheim; more playing time at a higher level.
What the Penguins also have that Oilers need is a proven two-way centerman in Brandon Sutter. Sutter, who is off to a solid start with the Penguins this, compiling 11 points (6G, 5A) in 20 games. While the Penguins do have depth at the center position with Marcel Goc, Craig Adams, and Zach Sill, would it be worth losing Sutter? That is a question that General Manager Jim Rutherford would have to ask himself and be quite certain about moving forward.
Come What May
It has reached that point in the season, roughly the quarter-season mark, where teams have been able to assess what they have, what they need, and what they would potentially be willing to lose if they needed to acquire a missing piece. The Penguins and Oilers have problems that each would be able to satisfy if the opportunity presented itself.
Best case scenario for Pittsburgh: They acquire Jordan Eberle and lose either Simon Despres/Robert Bortuzzo, a top defensive prospect (Scott Harrington or Derrick Pouliot), and a draft pick (second or third round).
Best case scenario for Edmonton: They acquire either Brandon Sutter or a combination of young defensive talent that can be immediately thrown into the line-up and play solid minutes, while losing David Perron. Eberle is arguably the best player on that team and it would be a big loss for the team if he were to be traded.
While these are hypothetical scenarios, they are ones that would help the teams drastically. Pittsburgh needs a “right-now” type of winger and Edmonton could use a “later-this-year” pair of defensemen to get their feet wet in the league and organization and prove to be vital pick-ups heading into the 2015-16 campaign.
Either way with both squads, rumors will run rampant and dominate many a Twitter feed, depending on which team you follow. What happens between these two teams, if anything, remains to be seen, but if any of the situations above come true for either team, Pittsburgh and Edmonton would have to be thrilled with their different, yet effective acquisitions.
THW Penguins Contributor
Adam Williams is a graduate from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Communication and M.S. in Sports Administration. While at the school, he was a sports broadcaster, radio personality, and editor/writer for the school paper. He also interned with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the 2012-13 season.
More of his writing can be found on adamwilliams13.weebly.com and thoughts/opinions on his Twitter feed (@AdamWilliams71).