Still unclear as to what’s ailing forward Pascal Dupuis, the Pittsburgh Penguins are getting increasingly low on scoring forwards.
Even when they’re healthy, the team still has an issue with secondary production, and so Dupuis’ injury might force General Manager Ray Shero’s hand. Pens’ fans know how the postseason is a totally different animal, given the fact how poorly the team played overall in last season’s playoffs to how dominating they performed during the regular-season.
And even though Dupuis perhaps may not be severly injured, he hasn’t exactly been thriving alongside forwards’ Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. I get it, they have chemistry and played with each other for quite some time now. However, I just think there are better options.
Which is why I’m pitching the idea that the team’ pursue Calgary Flames forward Jiri Hudler.
Hudler, 29, has played tremendous for the Flames so far this season. A team that’s still struggling to string consecutive wins, and a team that just fired their General Manager [Jay Feaster] would certainly listen to what the Pens’ would potentially offer for Hudler.
The problem with the Flames is that they don’t have a strong defense, and the issue surrounding Pittsburgh is that they have too much defense. Albeit the Pens’ defense can’t manage to stay healthy, they do have players’ ready to take on free agency following the season.
Hudler is signed for $4 million through the 2015-16 campaign, so Pittsburgh will have to figure out a way to integrate him into the payroll. It shouldn’t be that hard though, considering they have a few impending players’ making over a million.
Here’s what I propose.
- Forward Jiri Hudler
- Fifth-round selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft
- Defenseman Matt Niskanen
- Forward Tanner Glass
- Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and/or Deryk Engelland
- Third or fourth-round selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft
It would work more from a financial perspective if Bortuzzo was included instead of Engelland, but Pittsburgh might have a little flexibility if they were to deal Engelland. However, if Bortuzzo is in the trade, they’re swinging $4 million for $4 million.
Although Glass has looked as though he’s turned a corner from last season, he’s still a fourth-line player – something the team has plenty of. Chris Conner, Jayson Megna, Harry Zolnierczyk – they’re all alternatives should Glass be part of the deal.
When it’s all said and done, here’s what I anticipate the lineup looking like:
- Kunitz – Crosby – Hudler
- Jokinen – Malkin – Neal
- Dupuis – Sutter – Bennett
- Megna/Kobasew – Vitale – Adams
- Letang – Maatta
- Martin – Orpik
- Scuderi – Despres/Bortuzzo/Engelland
Hudler is an experienced guy and in the prime of his career. From his days with the Detroit Red Wings, Hudler is no stranger to the NHL Playoffs. And even though he may not be the most recognized player, his value is irreplaceable because of how many different things he does well.
In 37 games, Hudler had compiled 33 points (11G, 22A) and skated to a plus-2 rating so far this season. He skates on the team’s top power play unit, contributes on the penalty kill, and involves every player on the ice in one way or another.
If he can post those numbers on an undeveloped team, in the Western Conference with how hard it is, I can only imagine what he’d be able to contribute to Pittsburgh. Which is why regardless of Dupuis’ situation, the team should deal for Hudler.
It won’t be easy to pry him away from Calgary, but he’ll certainly be worth it in the end.