The Pittsburgh Penguins are deeply entrenched in an expectation-filled playoff run. This isn’t a time that you would really expect to be discussing offseason trade possibilities. But hey, we have a few days between games, so let’s talk about some stuff.
Before I make my points about trading Chris Kunitz, let me explain a bit where my mind is at in this discussion. I am not the “what have you done for me lately?” type of hockey follower. In fact, shamefully, I tend to be somewhat nostalgic, almost to a fault. Part of me would still love to see Max Talbot in Pittsburgh again. But when you consider what is best for a franchise, you need to use cold logic in your assessment.
— Sean Tierney (@SeanTierneyTss) April 24, 2016
Timing for a Trade is Right
Kunitz has been a star in Pittsburgh for a long time, and a fixture on Sidney Crosby’s left wing. But as in life, all good things must come to an end. The forward will be 37-years old at the start of next season, and will be making nearly $4 million in the final year of his contract. The Penguins are going to have salary-cap difficulties, so making a move while Kunitz still has value just makes sense.
As you can see, the emergence of Conor Sheary isn’t the reason that the Penguins should trade Kunitz, it just makes it easier. Sheary has played well all year while playing mostly in a bottom-six role. His recent promotion to Crosby’s wing, replacing Kunitz, has shown just how good he can be.
This is Conor Sheary’s world, we’re all just living in it. pic.twitter.com/QYS8u8Hcvx
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) April 23, 2016
On a team that is driven by puck possession, Sheary is among the leaders. For the playoffs, Sheary has the third highest score-adjusted Corsi For % on the team (53.39) behind only Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist.
The young winger has superior speed, amazing stickhandling skills, and a great hockey IQ. Jesse Marshall from the Pensblog wrote a great article about how Sheary is more than just speed. Below is a quote from his article. Check out Jesse’s work, he does an amazing job.
…I think there’s one major aspect of Sheary’s game that goes highly unnoticed.
Conor Sheary is a really smart hockey player.
And beyond that, he’s extremely responsible in everything he does.
Sheary’s top-six work comes in a bit of a limited sample size, so there is still a lot more for him to prove. But if things work out the way the Penguins would hope, he could become an anchor on Crosby’s line for a long time.
Kunitz and Tradeability
According to capfriendly.com, Kunitz has a modified no-trade clause that lists 22 teams that he can be traded to. We have no way of knowing which teams are excluded from that list, but surely there is a team out there with cap space that needs veteran leadership. Kunitz still has some gas left in his tank, but considering the direction that the team is going with the speed and youth movement, coupled with financial considerations, the time is right to make a move.
Kunitz goal pic.twitter.com/kdwbmJ8i2C
— Stephanie (@myregularface) March 26, 2016
This is a time for appreciation. Appreciating all of the success that Kunitz helped bring to Pittsburgh. Also a time to appreciate the emergence of his potential replacement in Sheary.
The Penguins were very recently a franchise that was aging with what was considered to be one of the worst farm systems in the game. How quickly things can change.
Until next time.
Greg is a Pittsburgh Penguins writer for ‘The Hockey Writers’.
He is a Pittsburgh area native who has written for multiple Penguins news and opinion sites. In addition to hockey writing, he is also an experienced YouTube creator.
Greg started with THW in 2015 as a Blue Jackets writer, and spent time as a Fantasy Hockey analyst.