DUSTIN PENNER: HE’S HAPPY IN EDMONTON

We poked and prodded Dustin Penner in the Edmonton Oilers dressing room this morning to get a read on his state of mind. I’d suggest, given what Penner said, that GM Steve Tambellini do the same between now and the NHL trade deadline.

Given that his name and that of teammate Ales Hemsky are front and centre when it comes to the subject of players Tambellini can either build around or trade to acquire assets between now and Feb. 28 — any time in what remains of their contracts, for that matter — inquiring minds wanted to know what he’s thinking.

Is Penner happy in Edmonton? Does he see promise in the rebuild that is underway despite the team languishing at the bottom of the standings? Would he like to stay beyond the end of the 2011-12 season ?

The answers are yes, yes and yes. That’s something Tambellini might want to sit down and discuss formally with Penner and his agent, Gerry Johannson, don’t you think?

The sooner the better.

TIME TO TALK

"That’s something for my friends to read about," Penner said, asked by TSN’s Ryan Rishaug about his name coming up in trade rumours. "It doesn’t really bother me. It’s interesting.

"I think what usually happens is the people who get talked about the most usually don’t end up getting traded, at least in the past when I’ve seen it, so . . . I don’t know, it’s probably exciting for a lot of people, but to me, it doesn’t matter."

Penner, 28, has been a lightning rod for debate since the Oilers plucked him from the Anaheim Ducks by way of an offer sheet in the summer of 2007 after the Ducks won the Stanley Cup.

Seen by many, including the likes of former coach Craig MacTavish, as something of a satisfied player capable of being better than he is, Penner has taken more than his fair share of criticism.

He’s inconsistent. He appears disinterested at times. He’s not in shape. He’s not really a leader. On and on. Penner has heard it all during his time here, and some of the criticism has been warranted.

Warts and all, Penner leads the Oilers in scoring with 18 goals and 34 points going into tonight’s game with the Chicago Blackhawks. He led the team in scoring last season with a career-high 33 goals and 61 points.

So what to do with Penner? Trade him and continue the rebuild with assets you get for him? Keep him and build around him? A big part of what Tambellini decides is going to be based on what Penner wants because he can pick the team he wants to play for after next season.

So we asked, and asked and asked . . .

OVER TO YOU, STEVE

We asked Penner if this season feels different than last season, even if the on-ice results and the standings aren’t what he and his teammates would like them to be.

"Obviously, the culture has changed here," he said. "We’ve got a great group of young forwards and young players. I like to say we’re an up-and-coming team.

"As you’ve seen from the beginning of the year compared to where we are now, even though we’re in 30th place, there’s a stat we heard that 24 games have been either a one-goal game or an empty-net situation. If we end up winning half of those, we’re in the playoff hunt."

Gene Principe of Sportsnet asked Penner if he is enjoying his time here and if he’d like to stay.

"Yeh," Penner said. "It’s a great place. You know, I’ve been here for four years and it’s always nice to have that comfort level being with the same team, seeing the game faces, the training staff. You grow attached, even to you guys here."

Is that a conversation Penner has had with Tambellini?

"That’s more something for my agent," he said. "That’s why I pay him two per cent . . . I think we’ll have that discussion, probably. We’ve touched on it a bit, but it’s something you really don’t probably address during the season."

One more time, courtesy of the dogged and determined Dave Mitchell of CTV: So, Penner likes it here and wants to be here?

"I think I answered that," Penner said. "I like it here. I want to be here. It’s a great place to play, especially when you’re winning."

Just one more time for good measure, still with Mitchell like a hungry dog on a fresh cut of T-bone: Long-term? "Yeh."

It’s probably time to talk.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Steve Smith

    Why are so many people willing to trade Penner or Hemsky for the Leafs’ #1 pick that the Bruins have? Last year there were no trades for top 5 picks, but this year the Bruins are already discussing it. Why? It is a bad draft year compared to 2010. Trading Penner/Hemsky for that pick is trading them for POTENTIALLY a borderline 1st line-more likely 2nd line talent, if not a bit worse, that will need some seasoning before being ready for the show.

    My vote would be to sign both Penner and Hemsky to reasonable deals (the rumored Hemsky one at $5.5M for 5 years is reasonable, and Penner at the $4.5 – $5M mark for 4 years + a club option for an extra year would be fine as well). There is no guarantee that the rookies will all end up being stars/injury free over the next 3 years. If they do, then Hemsky and Penner will have reasonable deals that can be moved.

  • DoubleJ

    nice work Robin. And I always chuckled to myself and amongst others when I saw Mitchell on TV as he comes off as sort of oafish and merely brushing at the broad strokes of the sports hi-lights, but now I see that he may be muzzled a bit on TV, and that he is a bulldog in the trenches. I can give props to that.

    Nice work Mitchell.

  • I don’t know if Im the only one but it seemed like to me that Hemmer is ready to move on. His quotes (all be it you can’t read everything into it) seemed very reserved to the fact he’s being shopped and that a move is coming. Maybe he’s told Tambo hes looking for a new home If Im totally reading this wrong let me know. But for some reason when his quotes are put next to Penners it seems they have different attitudes toward being traded. Just my view of their quotes

    If Hemmer brings us Bogosion then Im in. If Boston wants to trade their pick they won’t be getting a huge return id rather them come calling to us then the scenario of us begging them. They’ve been blessed with Brian Burke stupidity don’t bless then with Tambos!!!

  • Shaun Doe

    Just my opinion, but if we were to trade either of the two I would move Hemsky. My reason would be that we don’t have a player similar to Penner on our roster, while Omark seems to have a skill set that makes Hemsky some what redundant. Just how I see it at least.

    • Nilsson also had a similar skill-set. The difference is how that skill-set was applied in game and the production it translated into.

      I am pleasantly surprised by Omark’s strength and tenacity on the puck, but I think he is a long way away from making Hemsky redundant.

      • Shaun Doe

        The fact that Omark is applying himself game in game out and hasn’t (to this date) mailed a game in, is what makes a player in the mold of Hemsky. I’m not saying he is a straight up replacement, but I feel like he is a player very similar to Hemsky, so that makes Hemsky MORE replaceable in my mind. I’m not saying that we should move him out of town, but if I had to choose between the two I’d be leaning in his direction.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Good job Mr. Brownlee, thanks for digging out the goods we all wanted to know.
    I like Penner. I don’t think you trade him just for the sake of trading him. Only way you move him is if someone blows your socks off, like Bogosian or Seabrook. Otherwise, you keep him.
    He and Hemmer help this team win. I fear to think where we would be this year without them, maybe no wins in 30 games.

  • The rumour is the Tambi’s asking price is very high for Penner and Hemsky. As it should be. We don’t need to move these guys unless the right deal can be made. I think the young guys can use a little more sheltering and mentoring. Hall already attracts a lot of attention, both on and off the ice. Hall’s development is critical to this rebuild so let’s try to make it a little easier for him.

  • Rogue

    Our defence cannot match up to the physical N.Western defenses and their power players . In order for our club to move forward our defence will have to be much better than it currently is . I feel sorry for our young and diminutive forwards having to play with a defense such as ours . Under the circumstances, the forwards are playing well in comparison to the defense supporting caste . Peckham is still a long ways away from being defensively or offensively sound . He’s physical and a good teammate but probably our least defensively and offensively sound defenceman . In time he may yet develop into probably a Vandemeer or Strudwick at best .

    • D-Man

      I think you’re selling Teddy Peckman a bit short. He won’t ever be a legitimate #1 or #2 defensemen, but with his physicality and demeanor; I think he can evolve into a solid #4-#5 who could play on the PK. He isn’t offensively or defensively sound – yet – he’s a rookie, but he has tremendous upside and will definitely be better than Strudwick or Vandermeer…