On Tuesday afternoon, the Capitals acquired Anaheim Ducks forward Dustin Penner in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. This is a smart move in the long term, but more importantly completes the team’s offensive unit and sets up opportunities for more moves before the deadline passes on March 5, 2014 at 3 p.m. ET.
In terms of where Penner will slot into the Capitals’ lineup, it is almost a certainty that he will suit up on the first line alongside Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Penner will complement the offensive skill and grace of the two with brute force as the 31-year old is a massive 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, and he has used this size to rack up impressive totals of 13 goals and 19 assists this year.
Furthermore, he loves to sit in front of the net and pound home goals and lines up on the left wing, which makes him a perfect fit to play alongside the two without anyone having to alter their style or change positions.
Penner will also link up with the first power play unit in a similar role in front of the net. In 2014, he has already scored five goals and contributed five assists on the power play with Anaheim, and he will now be joining a Capitals power play that ranks second in the NHL in efficiency, but has lacked the punch in front of the net to get things done come playoff time in recent years.
Penner should help change this, as putting his big body around the crease will make life even more difficult on goalies that are trying to stop rifles shots from Ovechkin and Mike Green, and will also tax defenders fighting for rebounds.
What makes this move even more of a stroke of genius than the fact that it doesn’t keep the team from making more moves both this year or in the future. The outlook for this year is particularly important in that Penner only comes on at a $2 million cap hit and with a price of a fourth-round draft pick, meaning that Washington still has assets to move for a much-needed defender and has ways to wiggle out room under the salary cap.
For the long-term outlook, it is a positive that the left winger will be a free agent after the current season, meaning the Capitals aren’t on the hook for a guy they don’t want.
As the Capital look to jump out of a current tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference with the Detroit Red Wings and fight to potentially jump up to the fourth spot before seasons end, this is a huge move in the right direction. The team now has outstanding forward depth from top to bottom, and they have enough assets to continue to get better before the NHL Trade Deadline passes. This is a win-win for everyone involved.