Dustin Penner

Jonathan Willis
February 10 2011 10:55PM

Early on, I was a Dustin Penner critic. While even early on I’d gladly admit that Penner was easily Kevin Lowe’s best foray into acquiring restricted free agents, I didn’t start warming up to him until 2008-09 and didn’t become a dedicated fan until last season.

Now though, I’d argue that it would be a serious mistake to move Dustin Penner.*

Over the last two seasons, no Oilers forward has been better than Dustin Penner. Sure, maybe that’s damning with faint praise, but it’s the truth all the same. Penner brings size and goal-scoring to an Edmonton Oilers line-up that still lacks both. Additionally, he keeps the puck alive in the offensive zone, which is another rarity in the current group of forwards.

Age-wise, Penner fits into a rebuild. He’s 27 years old this season; every game he’s ever played at the NHL level has been played since the lockout. He may or may not have a decade of hockey left in him but he certainly has at least another five years in the heart of his career. If this is a team that needs more than five years to get back into the habit of winning more than they lose, than we’re talking about Israel wandering around in the desert rather than an actual rebuild.

What about the argument that room needs to be made on the wings for the rookies, who are bound to supplant Penner (and Hemsky)? I’d suggest waiting until the Oilers have four wingers better than Penner (who has played right wing for the team in the past), something which doesn’t seem to be especially imminent. Another problem with replacing Penner with youth is that successful rookies every so often they turn into less-successful second- and third-year players; certainly Oilers fans ought to remember what happened to the 2007-08 rookie class (the Oilers’ “best development year in the past 12 to 15 years).

In short: Dustin Penner, in addition to being a very good hockey player, is a young veteran who supplies skills that the Edmonton Oilers are presently in desperate need of. It makes no sense for a rebuilding team to send away a player who fits the rebuild both in terms of skillset and age.

Scattered Thoughts

A minor trade between Phoenix and the New York Islanders caught my eye earlier today: the Islanders acquired underperforming AHL goaltender Al Montoya in exchange for a sixth round pick. My question: given that Jeff Deslauriers is

  • a) a pending unrestricted free agent,
  • b) has seen his role supplanted by Devan Dubnyk,
  • c) is playing in the minors for seven figures,
  • d) is arguably a better player than Montoya and isn’t much older

why didn’t the Oilers offer him up to the Islanders in exchange for a seventh round pick or ‘future considerations’? Not only would it have saved the Oilers money, but if Deslauriers played well for a few weeks it would help the team in their quest to finish dead last in the league.

Given what people like Jeff Carter ($5.3 million annual cap hit) and David Backes ($4.5 million annual cap hit) have signed for this season, why is everyone so concerned about what Penner and Hemsky will get a year from now? Assuming the team only keeps one, and that one gets a deal in the same range as Shawn Horcoff ($5.5 million annual cap hit, which is a slight stretch) it’s really only an increase of less than $1.5 million. At that rate, the team could dump any of Gilbert Brule, Jim Vandermeer or Kurtis Foster and afford it without touching any of the more than $13 million in cap room they presently have.

The Joffrey Lupul trade yesterday already had me revisiting old memories, but somehow I missed the pivotal quote until Tyler Dellow pointed it out. Brian Burke, reminiscing on the Chris Pronger deal:

The first demand that Edmonton made was ‘Lupul has to be in the deal,’ ” Burke said.

Naturally, it’s possible that Burke is blowing smoke, but if not it says something that the Oilers looked at Anaheim’s young talent and pegged Lupul as the piece they needed.

*naturally, this statement is made with the 'barring massive overpay' caveat.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 VMR
February 11 2011, 10:50AM
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madjam wrote:

Take a look at what Ottawa just did with Fisher trade . If Nashville collapses Ottawa sitting pretty -even if they don't .Now thats a better way to rebuild than gut almost your entire core like we did ! Maybe the only thing we should be gutting this time is a GM who left us with little to no core , rather than allow him to gut more of our decent core ?

Seriously? I think Fisher was a pretty big part of their remaining core since they already traded away Heatley for next to nothing. They also made a horrendous signing with Gonchar easily as bad as the Khabiblin and Souray signings combined.

Expecting Nashville to collapse seems like wishful thinking for Sens fans, much more likely the pick is closer to the second round than it is to the first overall.

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#52 Ender
February 11 2011, 10:51AM
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OilComesFromSand wrote:

I read this article http://bit.ly/hD1l5E yesterday and it preaches about the need of trading for a d-man now and focus on drafting a centre come draft day. Makes a lot of sense to use one of our forwards as a trading chip to get a defender, then come draft day it's that much easier to grab the centre the Oilers have been needing for quite some time.

The article has the right idea, but not all the right reasons. Completely true that we should draft a forward and trade for a defender, but Raine_Snow says it's because the Oilers don't have time for Larsson to develop and become effective by the time this team needs to be competitive. I'd go a step farther and suggest they need to avoid drafting Larrson because drafting d-men in the top-five is a bad idea period - a gamble that seldom produces the result you were hoping for and certainly not delivering quality as often as drafting a top forward does.

I also note that Raine_Snow completely avoided the idea of drafting Landeskog, but fully advocates RNH as a strong possibility. I'm a firm advocate of drafting at center and Raine_Snow has the right idea, but in this particular case I'm not convinced that I'd pass on Landeskog if he were still available to get RNH, positions notwithstanding.

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#53 Ender
February 11 2011, 10:54AM
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@madjam

~You know, if you're not more careful with what you write, people are going to start thinking that you're not really Tambellini's best friend like you claim.~

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#54 VMR
February 11 2011, 11:06AM
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@Ender

Good points about draft strategy Ender. I was hopeful for RNH until Willis posted that article about the majority of his points coming on the pp. That and his lack of size and goal scoring makes him seem like a redundant piece for the Oil.

If Oil scouts think Larsson is far and away the best prospect then take him but if it's close I'd lean toward Landeskog or Couturier for exactly the reasons you mentioned.

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#55 Volfman
February 11 2011, 12:01PM
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Anyone else wanna see a Hemsky for Seguin trade? I get we would have add to that with maybe a second round pick but as long as were nor giving up a first round.

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#56 Racki
February 11 2011, 12:04PM
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No need to convince me... :P

I've thrown my jabs at Penner here and there, but it's mostly been in mock of the other comments being made at him. I have always liked him and hoped that he could pull out of his struggles. Nothing pleased me more than seeing him do well to silence critics last year.

I think he's the real MVP on this team, but he fades in the background a bit due to what looks to be complacency and/or laziness. But the things I like about him are that he is solid in all zones, he is very strong on the puck, and he can adjust to playing with any linemates and make that line dangerous. He's also got a strong stride that allows him to seemingly effortlessly beat guys in a short foot race.

I honestly want to keep both Hemsky and Penner, but I would keep Penner over Hemsky if forced to choose, just because, as you said, Penner brings something to the table that we lack. We have various other pretty set-up men and goalscorers here though.

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#57 Horcsky
February 11 2011, 12:05PM
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"Over the last two seasons, no Oilers forward has been better than Dustin Penner. Sure, maybe that’s damning with faint praise"

No matter how bad your team is, the best players on the team are useful, and should be kept around. Replacing the bottom feeders should be priority one.

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#58 Quicksilver ballet
February 11 2011, 12:05PM
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Volfman wrote:

Anyone else wanna see a Hemsky for Seguin trade? I get we would have add to that with maybe a second round pick but as long as were nor giving up a first round.

Please sir, i'll even wash your car every week this coming summer.

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#59 misfit
February 11 2011, 12:15PM
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I haven't read all the comments, so someone may have made this same point, but I actually might believe Burke on his Lupul comment.

At the time, Edmonton fans were watching Peca, Spacek, and Samsonov walk as free agents. The Mike Comrie disaster was still fresh in everyone's mind, and UFAs continued to avoid Edmonton like the plague. Couple that with Pronger's trade demand, and all of a sudden a player's willingness to play in Edmonton became something that held just about as much value as their ability. So in that regard I could see Lupul, a local kid with a knack for scoring goals, as being a real selling point for Lowe. Not to mention...5 assets!

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#60 spOILer
February 11 2011, 12:37PM
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Csimpson said...

Your claim that in a rebuild what you get back has to be better today than what you give up is the opposite of true. Rebuilding teams give quality players for players they hope to be better down the road when it's time for them to compete again. Maybe you just mispoke. Yeah I think teams would be a little pissed if your asking price is something higher than Seguin. Give your head a shake.

Yeah I re-read that line and it is contradictory. Needs clarification. Apologies.

Lemme say this... I, unlike Joanne Ireland, consider the re-build to have started with the drafting of Gagner--not last summer. To me we're entering year 4 of accumulating assets.

At this point, if we're giving up assets that are good NHL players now, for futures 3-5 years away from being ready, we aren't continuing the present re-build but starting another one. Assets that we obtain now, outside of draft picks, will need to help now to continue this rebuild properly.

And yeah, despite your unsupported assertion and head shake crack, I still wouldn't trade Hemsky for Seguin. I would however consider trading the 1st overall for Seguin. That delays Boston's influx of talent while they are presently flush (delays their timeline) and moves the timeline of a prospect up a year in our re-build.

Now of course, Savard's head might impact Chiarelli's thinking on the matter.

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#61 madjam
February 11 2011, 01:42PM
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Ender wrote:

~You know, if you're not more careful with what you write, people are going to start thinking that you're not really Tambellini's best friend like you claim.~

Funny thing is i like Tambellini , just not as a GM .

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#62 Oilers21
February 11 2011, 01:54PM
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Does anyone else think that we (hockey minds/fans) are maybe starting to OVERvalue draft picks? For instance, a couple of years ago we would be talking about what Nashville had to give up to get Mike Fisher. Now we seem to hear a lot about what Ottawa had to give up to get the pick. Dustin Penner's career seems to have stabilized to the point where we know what we're getting and I think there reaches a point in a rebuild where there's a lot of value to that versus the uncertainty of a pick. Just don't want to see a situation where we rate players by what they can bring to the organization in the way of picks as opposed to what they bring on the ice.

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#63 Dennis
February 11 2011, 01:59PM
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cap-wise - without getting into how we're supposed to pick up a real D without dealing one of these guys - can we afford to say pay 27-83 a combined 10 mill a season beginning in the 2013 season?

The three kids won't start to get really paid until the 2014 season and i guess that's what we all need to keep in mind.

Personally, I want to keep both 27-83 around and hopefully keep that line together with 10 as a safety net for the kids and then find a pivot or a LW for 4-14 and let those kids play against the second lines of the league.

I'm just wondering if it's doable financially.

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#64 Dennis
February 11 2011, 02:01PM
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Oilers21 wrote:

Does anyone else think that we (hockey minds/fans) are maybe starting to OVERvalue draft picks? For instance, a couple of years ago we would be talking about what Nashville had to give up to get Mike Fisher. Now we seem to hear a lot about what Ottawa had to give up to get the pick. Dustin Penner's career seems to have stabilized to the point where we know what we're getting and I think there reaches a point in a rebuild where there's a lot of value to that versus the uncertainty of a pick. Just don't want to see a situation where we rate players by what they can bring to the organization in the way of picks as opposed to what they bring on the ice.

I think there's another question as to when do you dig your heels in and say "this is it" and try to do something else then be the laughingstock of the league.

You can keep dealing off the 27 and 83's for picks and prospects but it's all bird-in-the-hand stuff and if even one of those prospects or picks doesn't pan out then you're going backwards again and now you're starting to burn affordable years of the contracts of kids like 4-14-91.

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#65 Ender
February 11 2011, 02:16PM
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madjam wrote:

Funny thing is i like Tambellini , just not as a GM .

Unless you and he regularly connect for a round of golf and drinks, that statement is somewhat akin to me saying "I like Iron Man. Just not as a superhero."

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#66 dawgtoy
February 11 2011, 03:35PM
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Ender wrote:

The article has the right idea, but not all the right reasons. Completely true that we should draft a forward and trade for a defender, but Raine_Snow says it's because the Oilers don't have time for Larsson to develop and become effective by the time this team needs to be competitive. I'd go a step farther and suggest they need to avoid drafting Larrson because drafting d-men in the top-five is a bad idea period - a gamble that seldom produces the result you were hoping for and certainly not delivering quality as often as drafting a top forward does.

I also note that Raine_Snow completely avoided the idea of drafting Landeskog, but fully advocates RNH as a strong possibility. I'm a firm advocate of drafting at center and Raine_Snow has the right idea, but in this particular case I'm not convinced that I'd pass on Landeskog if he were still available to get RNH, positions notwithstanding.

Well written, can't agree more Ender. I was trying to make this exact point recently, but you've said it much better.

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#67 godot10
February 11 2011, 03:35PM
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I think the Oilers are eying a Calder Cup run from Oklahoma when Omark, Petry, and Reddox get returned for the AHL playoffs, and thus, don't want to weaken their goaltending there.

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#68 propo
February 11 2011, 05:03PM
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I'm definitely in the Deal Penner camp. His style of play - lazy, non-aggressive - is not condusive to successful oiler hockey (in my opinion obviously). I admit he has a strong shot and good ice-sense in the o-zone, but thats not nearly enough for a 1st liner on a (future) contending team. We have too much youth for him to be on the 2nd line, and he's not gritty enough to be on the 3rd line. To the veteran point; a good veteran to me shows up every game and gives the team a boost in different ways, whatever the situation calls for - not Pennerish. I think he's a good player... in a different setting.

I'd sign Hemsky for as long as possible.

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#69 TigerUnderGlass
February 11 2011, 06:30PM
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propo wrote:

I'm definitely in the Deal Penner camp. His style of play - lazy, non-aggressive - is not condusive to successful oiler hockey (in my opinion obviously). I admit he has a strong shot and good ice-sense in the o-zone, but thats not nearly enough for a 1st liner on a (future) contending team. We have too much youth for him to be on the 2nd line, and he's not gritty enough to be on the 3rd line. To the veteran point; a good veteran to me shows up every game and gives the team a boost in different ways, whatever the situation calls for - not Pennerish. I think he's a good player... in a different setting.

I'd sign Hemsky for as long as possible.

I love that Penner is not good enough to play for a contending team even though he already has a ring.

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#70 PerryK
February 11 2011, 11:06PM
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Just a great post JW!

Significant points of facts are that:

1. The Management and the fans, (as well as the other teams) are all looking for a large bodied forward that can play well defensively and have the ability to put the puck in the net! So, why trade this man? Isn't that his calling card? If he was 36, I could understand the reluctance. We won't be ready for a deep playoff run while he could help. But, really he is only 28! If we don't think we need him, what do we think we need? How many Penners are out there?

2. Cap room is the one thing that we presently have. Granted that we always need to be prudent with the cap system in place. But please, we have made some errors on the cap hit and actually survived them! I really didn't think that we would! Regardless, the numbers that you mention for David Backes don't seem too high; ask any fan!

I was always a fan of this young player since Kevin Lowe acquired him. Derek Zona and others like him made me recognize his abilities (esp. defensive) better. If we did not have him on our team, I bet we would all be clamouring to get him!

Time to get off the pot and make a serious extension offer. And immediately Mr. Tambellini, no time like the present!

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