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.
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.