The Pittsburgh Penguins are all for having a plethora of talent on defense, but with Simon Despres’ contract up after the season and first-round choices on the horizon, could he be on the trade block?
Despres, 22, is entering the final-year of his entry-level deal he signed after he was drafted, and because the cap says Pittsburgh has limited room for extensions, he becomes a viable option to be moved.
His 6-foot-4, 214-pound frame is exactly what Pittsburgh needs on their defensive group, but is he really worth the money to re-sign?
Over the past two seasons Despres has been bouncing back-and-forth between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Granted he’s still young and needed time for development, but there’s other blooming defenders in the Pens’ system that are thought to be tremendous difference makers — better than Despres.
I’m obviously referring to Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot, who were both selected high in the first-round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and there’s no denying they will be in the fold for Pittsburgh in the near future.
However, it’s not just them though.
Players like Brian Dumoulin (acquired in the Jordan Staal trade) and Scott Harrington, who are captain-type skaters, are projected to be future leaders for the Pens’ defense. They too have the qualities of becoming stand-out blueliners for years to come.
Understandably, it’s going to take some time to groom these prospects into being what they’ll inevitably become, and should Pittsburgh lose veteran Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen next summer, Despres would be a good fit because he’ll have a leg-up on knowing the system.
But that didn’t stop them from trading Alex Goligoski a few years back. Goligoski had more than enough capabilities to satisfy Pittsburgh defensively, yet he was still moved.
Coming into this season, if Pittsburgh decides to keep Despres on the roster they’ll still be over the cap limit. And because Robert Bortuzzo has had a fine preseason in showing the organization his worth, Despres could very well start the season in WBS.
Despres is the only player that they can move down without having to clear waivers, and with Pittsburgh currently over the salary cap, it’s a move they might have to make.
Despite the fact that the Pens’ desire to keep Despres on the roster, they know they’ve got plenty of players on defense right now to fill the vacancy.
So with all that being said, Despres, although not currently being shopped, very well could be on his way out the door to provide other areas of necessity. With Ray Shero it’s hard to predict anything that man does, but he knows Pittsburgh could use some help towards forwards, and defensive players who are NHL-ready could become expendable.
There have been trade rumors surrounding Niskanen’s departure — because of his contract situation; however, being how diminished his game is of late, he might be a harder piece to pitch than Despres.
We’ll have to wait and see how it goes — but don’t be surprised if Pittsburgh makes Despres available.
In 51 regular-season contests for the Pens’, Despres has recorded 11 points (3G, 8A) and skated to an overall plus-14 rating. He hasn’t recorded a point in a six total postseason games.
Last season, Despres was named Pittsburgh’s Rookie of the Year, and he finished third amongst NHL rookie defensemen with a plus-9 rating.