Last week it was reported that Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero said he would most likely not be making another big trade at the deadline like he has in years past; however, with the deadline approaching on Mar. 5, the Pens have reportedly made multiple offers to the Vancouver Canucks in order to acquire Ryan Kesler.
With Pascal Dupuis out for the season, acquiring Kesler is an absolute must if the Penguins want to be serious Stanley Cup contenders.
Due to injuries, the Penguins are currently lacking depth up front, and having Kesler in the lineup would once again give them three notable centers. Remember, the last time the Penguins won the cup Jordan Staal was centering the third line.
Brandon Sutter has been an adequate fit since Staal’s departure, but he isn’t a game changer. He’s an average forward, average on the penalty kill and not skilled enough to be a threat on the power play. Kesler would rejuvenate the Penguins’ offense and also give them a legitimate scoring presence on the second power play unit.
Kesler is at his best playing center, but he could easily adjust to the wing to play alongside Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz in late stages of the game when the Penguins need an equalizer. At 6-foot-2, Kesler has the size that coaches crave in a power forward. He plays the hard fought, gritty style of hockey that the Penguins are currently lacking and is a guy who can shift the momentum toward his team at any moment. He can score, he hits and he’ll fight – a triple threat that is rare in today’s game.
Kesler injured his hand during the Olympics, but it doesn’t seem serious and shouldn’t be brought into the debate as to whether or not he should be dealt at the deadline.
So what would the Penguins have to send to Vancouver?
Well, there’s no doubt that Sutter will be involved, but it would obviously take more than him to get the deal done. The Canucks have won the Presidents’ Trophy twice in the last three years, but are currently 1-8-1 in the last 10 games and are slipping farther out of playoff contention. This means they’ll need future talent if they’re going to ship away Kesler.
Simon Despres‘ horrendous showing against the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday night in front of a national audience couldn’t have happened at a worse time because his stock has now diminished greatly. He will most likely be staying put in Pittsburgh.
If I’m Shero, I would be looking at the roster for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ AHL affiliate, and weigh who I could afford to send off to the Canucks. There are more than enough young players in that lineup who could eventually make a serious mark on an NHL roster.
Just leave Harry Zolniercyzk alone, please. He has proven that he will be a force with the Penguins in the next couple years.
The name that sticks out the most is 6-foot-4 Brian Dumoulin. Sure, he has limited NHL experience, only playing in six NHL games thus far, but at 22 years old the defenseman from Biddeford, Maine has enormous potential.
If the Pens offer Sutter, Dumoulin and multiple draft picks, one of which would have to be a first-rounder, then this deal could get done.
But Shero better move fast. The deadline is approaching rapidly.
Shane Darrow is an NHL writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @ShaneDarrow