Since being recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pittsburgh Penguins’ defenseman Simon Despres has played impressively, leaving us all to wonder what the team will ultimately do with him.
Demoted at the start of the season due to a lack of conditioning and a strong training camp from Olli Maatta, Despres, although he hasn’t hit the scoresheet just yet, has skated a significant amount of minutes. And his plus-1 rating, accompanied with his exceptional puck management, has impressed the Pens’ coaching staff.
He’ll more than likely see quality playing time with defenseman Paul Martin shelved for the next 4-6 weeks, however, what will his role be once Rob Scuderi returns. The Pens’ will have eight defenseman on the roster (Robert Bortuzzo, Despres, Deryk Engelland, Kris Letang, Maatta, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Scuderi), and since the team has already implied that Maatta will be on the roster for the long-haul, there just isn’t room for Despres.
Not to mention that if you add Martin they’ll have nine blueliners – which is obviously more than enough.
Currently in his last season of his three-year entry-level deal, Despres is set to become a restricted free agent, opening the possibility that the Pens’ might be showcasing his talent to other teams for potential trade implications. And because his value is through the roof, as far as what the future holds, Despres could certainly be an interesting piece.
The Pens’ have a closet full of talented defensemen throughout their organization, but there’s still a chance they could end up keeping Despres in the end. Selected in the first-round (30th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the 22-year-old might hit his stride this season, considering he’s seen action over the last two years.
Before he was recalled, Despres was tied with fellow teammate Brian Gibbons for the league-lead in plus/minus (+13) and led all WBS defensemen in goals (3), which is a sign that he’s starting to come along. Spending the majority of the season thus far in WBS, Despres also has the extra motivation to prove himself while up in Pittsburgh.
In my opinion, he belongs in the NHL – I just don’t know if it’s going to be with Pittsburgh. The Pens’ are notorious for making a splash in the front office over recent years, and although the salary cap might prevent them from landing a prominent player, Despres could still be had for an equally talented forward for their secondary scoring issues.
We should get an idea of what the team is thinking about doing with him once Scuderi comes back, but so far, he’s shown positive energy.