1. WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE PENGUINS FROM THEIR 2-1 WESTERN ROAD TRIP
Pittsburgh’s 2-1 Western road trip saw some positives in Marc Andre Fleury picking up shutouts No.7, No. 8 on the season, two games he really needed as he had won just three of his previous 15 games with a .890 save percentage during than span, to the Penguins top line of Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – David Perron really starting to click and showing the ability to become one the NHL’s top lines, and Derrick Pouliot’s ability on the breakout to drive possession was an important takeaway from the road trip.
Pouliot has clearly passed Scott Harrington as the one young defenseman in the prospect ranks who could be regular in the post-season.
Other than that, don’t read too much into the Penguins performances against Edmonton and Calgary, a horrible Oilers team and a Calgary team that looks much better in the standings than they really are. Those were just games where the Penguins superior top tier talent took over for them.
When the Penguins faced a quality playoff type team in Vancouver Saturday night, the Penguins ran into similar problems that they often do against deep teams.
Pittsburgh’s lack of secondary scoring is well documented along with having two very poor third and fourth line possession centers but one scout cited a bigger red flag for the Penguins in that they have few players in their bottom-6 who can dominate the corners in the offensive zone. Not enough cap space to resolve these issues.
2. PENGUINS DIDN’T PLAN TO GO AFTER EVANDER KANE
After pulling back on trading Evander Kane last summer when the Jets had a deal in place with the Philadelphia Flyers, the Kane situation has now reached the point where he’s played his last game in Winnipeg due to a fractured locker room that Kane has no interest in being involved with anymore after being embarrassed by his own teammates last week during an incident in Vancouver. Kane hit the Jets back on Friday opting to have shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum he’s been playing with, an injury that needed surgery at somepoint whether it was going to be this season or the summer.
Just like the Taylor Hall speculation a few months ago, anytime a young 30 goal scoring top-6 winger becomes available, the Penguins are immediately linked to the player.
“Most top contenders will definitely show interest,” said Darren Dreger on TSN’s Insider Trading Thursday night. “We’re talking about the Pittsburgh Penguins. “We’re talking about the Boston Bruins,” Dreger said, naming several others.
Several other top NHL insiders also immediately linked the Penguins to Kane.
It’s been no secret that the Penguins have always been intrigued about Kane and what team isn’t, though the Penguins under Jim Rutherford didn’t get into the Kane sweepstakes last June at the draft when they were looking to move James Neal nor were the Penguins targeted by the Jets in trade talks. Interest in Kane was lukewarm last summer because of the cap hit and character concerns, team sources said at the time.
The message immediately coming out of the Penguins organization following the announcement that Kane will undergo season ending shoulder surgery, which happened Saturday, is the Penguins didn’t have any interest in moving a salary or going all in to acquire Kane anyways before the March 2nd deadline.
Kane having shoulder surgery had no impact on the Penguins as their focus has been elsewhere on lesser impact players like Daniel Winnik, Jiri Tlusty team sources said.
Kane being traded to a rebuilding team like Buffalo makes all the perfect sense now.
3. BENNETT IS A PLAYER WITHOUT A ROLE
Beau Bennett’s lack of grit and inability to dominate the corners, has him pretty much in no mans land with the coaching staff when it comes to his role on the team moving forward. A healthy scratch the last three games, Bennett has no spot in the lineup on the first, second or third line at this point.
With Blake Comeau expected back this week, the intention is to play Comeau on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist. The coaches plan for now is Brandon Sutter centering Nick Spaling and Steve Downie on the third line.
Bennett worked on the 4th line with Max Lapierre and Craig Adams/Zach Sill during 5 on 5 drills today.
Management is also on the lookout for another top-9 player, specifically to play on Malkin’s left wing or bolster the third line which would limit a role or spot for Bennett, assuming he remains on the roster past March 2.
4. EHRHOFF SOUGHT LONG-TERM DEAL IN THE $6 MILLION PER RANGE FROM PENGUINS IN PRELIM TALKS
Why won’t there be a new deal for Christian Ehrhoff this season and unlikely to be one with the Penguins this summer?
For one, his demands on term and money came in much higher than the Penguins anticipated. Sources confirm the Penguins and Ehrhoff’s agent Rick Curran were not close to being in the same ballpark when both sides opened up preliminary talks in late January.
Ehrhoff is seeking a deal of at least five years in the neighborhood of around $6 million per season, including a full no movement clause.
Both sides quickly agreed to halt talks until the summer. Ehrhoff’s demands caught some in the organization by surprise and team officials fear the likelihood that the team could lose Paul Martin (who the coaches prefer) and Ehrhoff (who management prefers) this summer.
While it’s way too early rule out a deal happening in June or July, the Penguins believe Ehrhoff has some interest in returning out West.