Since Pittsburgh was eliminated for the fifth consecutive postseason by a lower seed, change has been the word repetitively used when describing their offseason.
So far, it’s been authentic.
Firing both general manager Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma, the organization has wasted little time in reconstructing what was once a tantalizing franchise over the past seven seasons. And there’s a good probability they’ll move towards bettering their roster – once they name their new head coach, of course.
One part of their team they need to figure out is who will cement in as Sidney Crosby’s right winger for the long haul?
For years Crosby has had wingers roll through his line, but there’s yet to be one that could stick around for say three seasons. Colby Armstrong was with Crosby for a few, Bill Guerin the same, and Marian Hossa stayed for a fort night.
This past season, Pascal Dupuis, who was Crosby’s right winger for longer than all those three, was demoted to the third-line with Brandon Sutter, and considering he’s now coming off ACL and MCL surgery, it’s not wise to throw him out there on the top-line right from the get-go. Not to mention, he’s 35 going on 36 next April. Beau Bennett could always be the guy, but we all saw how that worked out last season.
No, they need to go acquire, sign, straight-up fish Crosby a fresh, efficient right winger. And Jordan Eberle is a name I feel would fit the criteria.
The Edmonton Oilers are terrible. And much to the idea they’d probably prefer to deal Nail Yakupov over anyone else, reality is, nobody really wants him. At least to the best of my knowledge no team cares to acquire him. Eberle and Taylor Hall are the big pieces teams would line up for. And considering Hall would arguably cost more, and is a left winger, Eberle is a better option for Pittsburgh.
Eberle is a workhorse, and a player who drives hard to the net. Having Eberle and Kunitz, two players who go to the dirty areas to pair with Crosby, would be a tremendous unit on that top-line for Pittsburgh. A combination of speed, skill, and age, the group could very well become the team’s most effective trio. Eberle also provides a right-handed shot, which is lacking on Crosby’s pairing. And having a right-handed gunslinger on Crosby’s line is pivotal. Just ask Bill Guerin.
Now, with that being said, although I said Eberle would be an easier acquisition than Hall, he certainly won’t be cheap given he’s a cornerstone to Edmonton’s core. However, if Pittsburgh wants a player whose young (24), and is still under contract, they’ll throw in the appropriate resources to snatch him away from Edmonton. As to who they’d put in a package to entice the Oilers, Pittsburgh’s pool of prospect defensemen are a great start, considering Edmonton is seriously lacking on that side of the puck.
Brian Dumoulin, Nick D’Agostino, Simon Despres, Scott Harrington, Harrison Ruopp, and Philip Samuelsson round-out the young defensemen Pittsburgh could pitch to Edmonton. All of them were first-to-second round picks – except for D’Agostino (seventh) and Ruopp (third) – and each of these players have promising futures as NHL blueliners. The only defenseman off limits is Derrick Pouliot, who will surely be on the Pens’ roster relatively soon. However, if he’s needed in the deal to swap for Eberle, there’s no reason not to include him.
I’d probably anticipate two of those six being included in the package, and then you can put Bennett into the deal. Despite his injury history, I love Bennett’s outlook. I think he’ll become one of the better wingers in this league in due time, but fact of the matter is the Penguins need players who stay on the ice, not off it. And who knows, maybe Bennett’s chronic wrist woes will linger on longer than these past few years – then what?
After that, I think a draft pick would all but be a tasty return to for Edmonton to mull over. As long as Tristan Jarry, Pouliot, and Anton Zlobin are left out of a potential package for Eberle, I don’t see how Pittsburgh wouldn’t pull the trigger to land him. Of course, this is all barring Edmonton’s willingness to depart with Eberle. The Oilers own the third overall pick in this year’s draft, so they may be less reluctant.
And if it’s not Eberle, Pittsburgh must search for a dynamic right winger regardless this summer. But acquiring Eberle would definitely classify as a power move.