With some of the front office staff from the Columbus Blue Jackets in attendance at the Pittsburgh Penguins game against the Tampa Bay Lightning this past Monday night, rumors have since been surfacing as to what this could possibly mean.
During the broadcast, Penguins play-by-play announcer, Paul Steigerwald, mentioned that Blue Jackets senior advisor of hockey operations, Craig Patrick, was at the game. Left to put the puzzle together, many believed it had to do with some type of trade. As most of them have been recently, the rumor involves Penguins defenseman Simon Despres being dealt; this time, to Columbus for Jack Johnson. It wouldn’t likely be a popular move, but it would fit with a “now” mindset to put together a team to win the Stanley Cup now rather than later, as I’ve mentioned a few times before.
I believe Despres is quite a talented defenseman and is getting better with each game they include him in the lineup. Despres has needed to work on his physicality on the ice, which you can tell he has in the last few games.
Granted, Johnson may be better right now but Despres may be better in the long-run and I’m concerned about missing out on that later. Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik aren’t going to be with the Penguins forever and we need more developed defenseman for down the road. If we had more of those, I would be more for a trade like this. This is why my knee-jerk reaction to the trade is not a good one.
How about trading one of the other defensive prospects and include one of those various draft picks we obtained recently for Johnson? Why do we have to give up an investment such as Despres? There’s no question Despres is still developing but how much farther along is he then, let’s say, Joe Morrow? In 49 games, Morrow has recorded three goals and nine assists for 12 points this season. Whereas Despres has two goals and four assists for six points in 17 games (and, at that rate, is on the path to earning around five goals and 11 assists when he reaches the same amount of games that Morrow has played). When comparing that with Johnson’s stats, he actually doesn’t appear as impressive as one may have thought as it’s similar to the other two defensemen (2 G, 7 A; 9 points in 19 games). Why give up Despres for that?
I’d feel more comfortable trading Morrow and a draft pick rather than Despres and, to me, there wouldn’t be enough of a difference to the organization we’re trading to. I’m just not completely sold on Johnson especially when there’s no guarantee we’d win a Cup with him. I’m actually not sold on trading Despres at all even though I understand that the window of opportunity to winning a Stanley Cup soon won’t be open for very long.
Ultimately, this is all discussion about speculation and the decision is in the hands of Penguins general manager, Ray Shero, who has proven repeatedly that they’re very capable hands.