LATEST TRADE TALK
Rob Rossi of the Tribune-Review reported on Friday that defenseman Simon Despres “can be had for the right price” and the rumor mill surrounding Despres has been heating up since. The Penguins are not actively looking to move Despres but the team willing to move Despres for the right deal is no surprise as the team dangled him last summer in an attempt to trade for a No. 1 pairing defenseman. There were talks then between the Penguins and Coyotes with the Penguins interested in moving Despres in a package for Keith Yandle, but the two sides were never a match as the Coyotes wanted a young top-6 forward in return.
There’s talk now again that Despres might only be available in a targeted trade from the Penguins end, similar to Alex Goligoski in 2011 when inquiring teams were being told he wasn’t available, yet Goligoski was traded to Dallas for James Neal/Matt Niskanen, and a few GM’s were upset about not having the chance to make an offer for the puck moving defenseman.
However, chatter about the Penguins willing to move Despres has more teams inquiring about the former 2009 1st round pick. The Jets and Canadiens are two teams who would like to get their hands on him, NHL sources said over the weekend.
It remains to be seen, though, how much value Despres has around the league and whether views about Despres have changed. Sources said during the summer when he was in play, that there were doubts among teams about Despres having the upside of a legitimate top-4 defenseman and his value might not be as high as the Penguins think it should be.
TWO UNDER THE RADAR FORWARDS SURFACING AS POTENTIAL TARGETS
The Penguins have two pressing needs they would like to address. A long-term No. 1 pairing for Kris Letang, which is going to be extremely hard to address as there are few types of those defensemen available, and the one’s that are, teams want offense in return.
The other need is a top-6 winger. The team is not sold on Beau Bennett being an impact forward this season and would like to move Chris Kunitz back to Evgeni Malkin’s line.
When it comes to “non rental wingers”, two under the radar forwards on the Penguins radar is Calgary’s Curtis Glencross and Minnesota’s Devin Setoguchi.
The Penguins also like Toronto’s Nikolai Kulemin but have concerns about him.
At the top of the list is the 30 year old Glencross who they have liked for sometime. Glencross is not seen as a James Neal type of addition but more of a Chris Kunitz type addition from 2009.
Glencross, 30, leads the Flames with 3 goals and 5 points on the season and has posted two straight 20 goal seasons, including a career high 26 goals (8 power play) last season. Glencross has good size at 6-foot-1, 205 lbs and is an extremely hard worker and can impact a game in a number of areas. He kills penalties and offensively is a very good playmaker at finding players in space. He’s had great chemistry in Calgary with Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla.
What really intrigues the Penguins about Glencross is the contract. Glencross carries a cap hit of just $2.550 million and is signed through the 2014-2015 season. With intentions for now (always subject to change) of giving new massive long-term deals to Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang this summer, the Penguins are leery about taking on a big contract at the winger position or on the blueline with term past the 2013-2014 season. There’s a good chance for the 2014-2015 season, Crosby, Neal, Malkin, Fleury and Letang will count around $35 million against the cap.
To land Glencross it would likely take a Simon Despres due to the term left on Glencross deal. Shero has always said to be against giving up a young asset for an older player. I don’t think Glencross fits the bill of an older player yet.
THE IDEAL TRADE?
The 26 year Setoguchi is a player I’ve been hearing in Penguin circles since last May and regular readers of the site will remember, he’s a name that came up around draft time. Head coach Dan Bylsma is said to be a big fan of Setoguchi. Yesterday I was told right now there are no imminent talks going on between but a Setoguchi/ player or prospect for Despres makes a lot of sense on the surface. Michael Russo of the Star Tribune hinted at that today, claiming the Wild are in the market for a defenseman and wrote “trading Setoguchi would create a spot for prospects Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle or Johan Larsson.”
Setoguchi is signed through 2013-2014 season with a cap hit of $3 million. He’s a right handed shot, which the Penguins need on the power play and has been a proven 20 goal scorer in this league. Setoguchi scored a career high 31 goals with San Jose in 2008-2009 and has posted seasons of 20, 22 and 19 goals since. Last season Setoguchi had a down year of 19 goals and 36 points.
Were the Penguins to set their sights on Setoguchi, I believe they would want another asset in return to move Despres for him, similar to the 2-for-1 return they got for Goligoski. They like him but don’t love him.
WILL PENGUINS MAKE A PLAY FOR KULEMIN?
It should be no surprise that Toronto’s Nikolai Kulemin could emerge as a player the Penguins look at. Don’t be surprised if Clark MacArthur emerges as a rental winger later this year but he’s a topic for another day.
Kulemin, 26, is a former 30 goal scorer, has a good skill set, size and can skate.
He fits a lot of needs in Dan Bylsma’s system and it’s not a bad thing that he’s close with Evgeni Malkin.
Kulemin, though, is a player you don’t know what you’re going to get on a consistent basis.
After scoring 30 goals and 57 points in 2010-2011, Kulemin’s production dropped all the way down to 7 goals and 28 points in 70 games last season. Scouts feel Kulemin’s 30 goal season might have been a fluke but he still has an intriguing skill set and good contract as he’s signed through 2013-2014 with a cap hit of $2.8 million.
Kulemin had 38 points in 36 games playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk with Evgeni Malkin this year.