To say that the Pittsburgh Penguins have been busy this offseason would be a pretty big understatement. After picking up Phil Kessel and two prospects in a blockbuster trade from Toronto at the beginning of July, the Penguins were back at it today, trading Center Brandon Sutter and a 2016 third round pick to the Vancouver Canucks for Center Nick Bonino, Defenseman Adam Clendening, and a second round pick in 2016. The Pens also made headlines by signing unrestricted free agent, and former Washington Capitals Center, Eric Fehr to a 3-year contract.
All in all, these acquisitions make the Pittsburgh Penguins better than they were yesterday. When the Pens acquired Phil Kessel and sent Kasperi Kapanen, Nick Spaling, Scott Harrington, and two conditional draft picks to Toronto at the beginning of the month, a lot of talk regarding the trade surrounded the lack of depth amongst the bottom six. Kessel filled a huge need for a right-handed winger to play with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, but the third and fourth lines had holes that needed to be filled.
Today, Jim Rutherford took action to fill those voids. Yes, he traded a beloved third line center in Brandon Sutter, but when it comes to offensive numbers; it’s possible that Bonino could actually be an upgrade. In 80 games last season, Sutter accumulated 33 points with 21 goals and 12 assists. He finished the year with only 14 penalty minutes and was an offensive monster on the penalty kill, notching four shorthanded goals. Though he wasn’t as much of a penalty kill sniper as Sutter, Bonino’s numbers last season matched up well with the man he was traded for. In 75 games with the Canucks, Bonino accumulated 39 points with 15 goals and 24 assists. Both players were also extremely solid on the power play for their respective teams, racking up five points each.
The Penguins also acquired 22-year old defenseman Adam Clendening and a second round draft pick in this deal, so there is really no reason, besides the fact that Sutter was popular amongst fans in Pittsburgh, to hate this trade. Only time will tell, but I think Bonino will do just fine filling in for Sutter as the third line center for the Penguins. He was an exciting player to watch when he played for the Anaheim Ducks, a team that he had success with in 2013-2014 when he scored 22 goals and collected 49 points. He is a proven goal scorer and could be considered a more skilled third line center than Sutter, which will only help improve a third line that will likely consist of Chris Kunitz, Bonino, and Pascal Dupuis. When it comes to these two players, they could be considered even, in regards to skill and performance, but I think the Penguins might have gotten the better end of a deal that will likely benefit both teams.
As far as Eric Fehr is concerned, I think this was also a deal that makes plenty of sense. Despite the fact that he just underwent elbow surgery on June 3 that will sideline him for four to six months, the Penguins signed a guy who brings a lot to the table, as far as leadership and on-ice performance goes. He is a veteran center who has proven that he can score goals, play solid defense, and win faceoffs. There’s not more that you could ask from a guy that you expect to be your fourth line center. Aside from winning 52 percent of his faceoffs, in 75 games last season, Fehr scored 19 goals and racked up 33 points for the Washington Capitals, an organization that he had played with since he was drafted 18th overall in 2003. It is unknown whether Fehr will be ready once the Penguins open up training camp, but it is a possibility, if his rehabilitation stays on the right track, that we could see him in a Penguins sweater for the start of the 2015-2016 regular season.
Jim Rutherford went out and made moves that could make the Penguins a legit threat in the Metropolitan division once the regular season gets underway in October. Now, I know it’s a little too early to talk about things like that, but the point is that the Pens General Manager did his job by filling immediate needs that will make this team a more well-rounded group.
The Penguins top two lines are bound to be dynamic with the additions of Kessel and Sergei Plotnikov, but they have become an even better team with the additions of Nick Bonino and Eric Fehr. It should be an exciting year for the Penguins, as they look to bounce back from a disappointing ending to their 2014-2015 season. The new faces have provided the team with depth from their first line down to their fourth line, but only time will tell whether or not these additions will help lead the team to more disappointment, or another rise to success in 2015-2016.