FRIDAY’S DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. With his eye on testing free agency and the Penguins knowing this, Paul Martin has privately told close associates he wouldn’t be surprised if he’s traded this season, sources tell Inside Pittsburgh Sports, but with Jim Rutherford a win-now/short-term GM, there are still some level of doubts around the league.
In previous years under Ray Shero, the Penguins have let too many players leave for nothing because their eye was on the present in chasing a Stanley Cup, not the future. Will that actually change for a franchise with the same expectations?
One thing that has been telling from Rutherford this summer is he hasn’t made one trade of a current roster player with the eye on the future. Everything has been about right now as in the 2014-2015 season. Pittsburgh clearly could have moved James Neal for a more significant trade package, notably a deal with more futures (top pick, top prospects) but the Penguins went the route that they felt made them a better team for now.
Also, trade offers were out there for Paul Martin at the draft that would have landed the Penguins another first round pick and more, including an offer from Colorado, but Rutherford’s stance to other teams has consistently been he’s not interested in making any move that weakens the current roster. Even after the Christian Ehrhoff signing on July 1, Pittsburgh hasn’t put Martin back in play.
The Penguins plan for Martin is a wait and see situation. Management wants to see how the blueline shakes out during the first couple months of the season, notably how Olli Maatta returns from injury, whether the Penguins see an improved Rob Scuderi in 2014-2015 as management feels his ankle injury hindered him
all season, if the Christian Ehrhoff they get is the player from Vancouver not Buffalo, ect.
2. Whether the Penguins have the stomach to trade Martin in season is likely going to depend on these three players:
- Kris Letang returning to his Norris Trophy form from the lockout shortened season
- Olli Maatta returning from injury in top form and management being confident he can handle a full-time top-2 pairing role
- Christian Ehrhoff — Rutherford thinks the world of him and the chances are very strong of a long-term extension being finalized after January 1, but Ehrhoff is nowhere near the defensive player Martin is. There is a big drop off there.
From a far it sounds easy to trade a Paul Martin for a top-6 winger, but it’s not an easy move to make for a so called Stanley Cup contender to trade their best defenseman during the season. It won’t sit well with the room if better players aren’t coming back and that’s why the time to do it was this summer but that’s not going to happen.
3. Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle is said to be very lukewarm about giving Pedro Alvarez much of a look at first base during the middle of a pennant race but the Pirates have to find out if the potential is even there for Alvarez to make the switch and that’s what phase they are in right now. As expected, this is managements call. Really, how can’t they give it a look at somepoint this month.
4. Pirates management is taking a lot of heat for playing shorthanded this week as the team has opted against placing Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker on the DL for now. The reward of getting McCutchen potentially back on day 10,11 of his injury than day 15 if he were to be placed on the DL, is a lot greater than having some Triple-A player sit the bench just to take up a roster spot and pretty much give you nothing anyways.
5. A key for the Pirates during this stretch so far without Andrew McCutchen was going to be their pitching staff. They’ve scored a lot of runs the last two games, but through three games without McCutchen, they’ve received excellent starting pitching from Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke, and Edison Volquez. Volquez “stuff” was outstanding Thursday night vs Miami.