Dec 21, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Simon Despres (47) skates with the puck against pressure from Calgary Flames left wing Jiri Hudler (24) during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Will Pittsburgh Trade Defenseman Simon Despres?


The trade deadline is quickly approaching, and it’s almost expected that the Pittsburgh Penguins will be involved in a deal one way or another.

While none of the players they acquired at the last deadline didn’t pan-out as-well-as first anticipated, with exception to forward Jussi Jokinen, whose credibility’s been boosted from last season’s on-again off-again healthy scratches, it doesn’t mean general manager Ray Shero won’t repeat his trade-happy habits.

And because the team will more than likely move forward without Pascal Dupuis, Shero knows another offensive-minded talent would be wise to add into head coach Dan Bylsma’s cabinet.

Although the team has received surprising production off of their Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’ call-ups, we all know that the postseason is an entirely different beast to tackle, and how effective they’ll be is a bit foggy. Who knows, maybe the WBS’ guys can ultimately perform when called upon in the playoffs. But with back-to-back heartbreaking postseason knockouts, Shero’s probably put some potential trade partners on speed dial.

The only question is, who would the Pens’ trade?

Defenseman Matt Niskanen was once a strong candidate due to his disappointing performance last season, and impending free-agency visit, but his play thus far has suggested otherwise. He still remains a potential trade piece because of the team’s high payroll, his $2.3 million earnings, and Shero’s spontaneousness; however, he’s been reliable as-ever for Pittsburgh this season and has really blossomed nicely, so his skill-set might be best to have come playoff’ time.

One player to keep your eye on is defenseman Simon Despres.

Despite displaying true growth and showing the coaching staff he belongs in the lineup, Despres’ entry-level contract will be up following the season, making him a restricted free-agent. The likelihood he would be re-signed is great because of his future outlook, but the organization hold tremendous defensive talent in the minors, and the team’s defense is already log-jammed with starters.

Let’s face it, the Pens’ defense will include: Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Paul Martin, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, and Rob Scuderi. And on top of that, Bylsma has blueliners Robert Bortuzzo and Deryk Engelland. Once Engelland, Niskanen, and Orpik’s contracts come off the books next season, unless they are all re-signed, the Pens already have shown the talents of defensemen Brian Dumoulin and Philip Samuelsson – who look like solid options for next year’s lineup.

On top of that, they have this kid selected eighth-overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Derrick Pouliot, who just finished performing for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships and is almost a lock to be with Pittsburgh next season.

The other mystery is who Pittsburgh would pursue in exchange for Despres. He’s got a boatload of talent, so whoever the team gets in return for his services is going to be a premier player. I’ve suggested the team should look into a trade for Buffalo Sabres’ forward Matt Moulson, who’s a free-agent after the season and slotted into an underdeveloped roster. Plus, Buffalo would be willing to deal him because the chances he’s re-signed are slim – so it’s a case of getting what you can for him while you have the opportunity.

Calgary Flames’ forward Jiri Hudler was also another option, given his playoff experience with the Detroit Red Wings and history of playing alongside talented players. And Despres might be a perfect match, because the Flames’ desperately need a boost on the defensive side.

It’s not definite, obviously, but Despres’ status and trade intrigue create mass-speculation for when the deadline arrives. Pittsburgh still likes Despres, and he isn’t the only player that could be dealt. However, he certainly possesses the most value, and Shero probably acknowledges that.

Of course, the organization could not trade at all and ride with what they got – but we all know that’s unlikely.


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