The Pittsburgh Penguins caught everyone by surprise two days ago. No fan, no spectator and no member of the media knew that the Penguins were planning to trade center Brandon Sutter so suddenly. Sure, he had been on the trading block for quite some time and it was not a secret why he was there. Sutter is an adequate third line center, but he absolutely was not worth the $3.3 million dollar cap hit and he won’t be worth the large extension the Vancouver Canucks are planning to give him. Despite the transactions the Penguins made, they’re no where near finished.
Canucks source confirms that team and Brandon Sutter will get new long term deal done in the next few days.
— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) July 29, 2015
The hockey media loved Sutter as a person, not as a player and the moves made by Pittsburgh management the other day left Penguins fans very encouraged. Instead of having Sutter at $3.3 million, the Pens now have Nick Bonino and Eric Fehr for $3.9 million, a promising defensive prospect and a second-round draft pick. On paper, it’s a clear win for the Penguins, but only time will tell who “won” this trade.
Penguins Are Far From Finished
So let’s address the elephant in the room right now: the Penguins are not done making moves, or they shouldn’t be. As it currently stands the Penguins have between $167,000 and $200,000 in room under the salary cap and that is not going to cut it.
#Pens have $167K in cap space after Fehr signing and Bonino trade. Fehr ($2M) can be placed on LTIR if necessary: http://t.co/rp0umLgmDD
— Mike Colligan (@MikeColligan) July 28, 2015
The current ownership of the Penguins has always allowed management to spend right up to the salary cap and that has been fine in previous seasons, but last year was a different story. A wave of injuries swept through the locker room, the Pens could not place anyone on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) and they were forced to play without a defender for five games. Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Christian Ehrhoff and Derrick Pouliot all missed significant time at the end of the season and it’s a miracle they still made the playoffs.
Given that the Penguins had the “five defensemen fiasco” they’re going to have to clear some space under the cap to prepare for injures. How will they clear room? Well it won’t be easy and there have been various rumors floating around, including a few consistent ones.
The Penguins are actively trying to trade Rob Scuderi and Chris Kunitz, that’s a fact and a few teams have actually made an offer for Kunitz. He, unlike Scuderi, could still return some valuable assets and clear $3.85 million from the salary cap, but the plot thickens.
Many sources have pointed out that the Pens are trying to move both of these players to make a run at free agent defenseman Cody Franson. In theory, it looks to be a great plan as they could clear cap space, upgrade their defense and hopefully leave themselves some wiggle room for injuries and player movement. But the key to this is that both Kunitz and Scuderi would have to be traded to afford the cap hit that Franson should command. However, there’s something very important that the free agency landscape has shown us this year, value is determined by the buyer. If no team is willing to offer Franson a very lucrative contract, it is easy to conceive that he could sign a team friendly one-year contract just like Christian Ehrhoff did last season.
One Last Penguin Rumor
Let’s also make something very clear, the Penguins are not interested in a reunion with forward Matt Cooke. A few nights ago there was a fan who spoke to Cooke at a Pittsburgh Pirates game and he said he would like to re-sign with the Penguins, but this is a one-way interest. Ever since Cooke cleaned up his game he has been a much less effective forward, couple that with his age, 36-years, and it’s easy to see that this reunion will not happen.
Did Greg Brown just break Matt Cooke news?
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) July 29, 2015
It’s nice to think about bringing back Cooke, but remember Tyler Kennedy just a few months ago? He publicly stated that he wanted to re-sign with the Penguins as well and there has been no movement by management to make that happen. It’s one thing for a player to express interest in re-joining a team and another for action to be taken.
The Pittsburgh Penguins made some big headlines the other day, but their work is far from over. General manager Jim Rutherford needs to make another move or two to show that he has learned from the “five defensemen fiasco” and ease the minds of countless fans.