Late Wednesday night, the Penguins traded defenseman Ben Lovejoy to the Anaheim Ducks for a 5th round pick in the 2014 NHL draft. Simultaneously, the Penguins recalled Upper St. Clair native, Dylan Reese from Wilkes-Baare.
Lovejoy started the season as the seventh defenseman for the Penguins. After two games, he was given Simon Despres's starting spot. But, after Matt Niskanen went down with a lower body injury, the Penguins inserted Lovejoy back into the lineup, only to see the defense struggle mightily.
After an embarrassing 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders, Lovejoy was scratched for Robert Bortuzzo and the Penguins never looked back. Thanks to stellar defensive play and timely scoring, the Penguins have won four in a row, and with Matt Niskanen looking to return, GM Ray Shero had to make a move.
If Shero decided to keep Lovejoy, he would have eight defensemen on the NHL roster which would mean sending somebody down. Given the consistency from Robert Bortuzzo and the high potential of Simon Despres, Shero was out of options. He couldn't send Lovejoy down without putting him through waivers, a mistake that was already made when the Penguins lost Brian Strait to the Islanders. In the end, it was better to get something for Lovejoy than nothing.
By all accounts, Ben Lovejoy is an upstanding person. Fans got a chance to see him in the HBO 24/7 documentary. Lovejoy scored his first NHL goal before taking a puck to the face. When he met with reporters after the game, he teared up over his accomplishment.
Ben Lovejoy signed an AHL contract with the Wilkes-Baare/Scranton Penguins in 2007. He played one year with Boston College and three years with Dartmouth. Lovejoy's name is on the Stanley Cup with the rest of the 2008-2009 Pittsburgh Penguins, despite not playing in any of the playoff games.
Unfortunately, he never fit in with the Penguins' system. He was a serviceable player leading up to last year's playoffs before everything melted down. His turnover in game two against the Flyers led to a goal from Sean Couturier and Lovejoy never quite recovered. His instincts, skating, positioning, defensive and offensive qualities were average at best, and on a team with so many young defensemen, both in the NHL and waiting in the wings, Lovejoy was never going to maximize his potential in a Penguins uniform.
The Penguins look to have their seven defensemen set as long as they can stay consistent throughout the season. In the event Ray Shero decides to trade for a more veteran defenseman, he will have one less roster spot to worry about.
The Penguins have puck-moving defensemen in Matt Niskanen, Simon Despres, Kris Letang, and Paul Martin while Robert Bortuzzo, Deryk Engelland, and Brooks Orpik are more defensive-minded. The call up of Dylan Reese is just to bide time for Matt Niskanen's return.
Of course the probability of injury is always high, but it's pretty clear the Penguins already have better options in mind.