Jan 7, 2014; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Pittsburgh Penguins forward Brandon Sutter (16) during the third period against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 5-4 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Sutter's New Contract Determines The Pittsburgh Penguins' Season

Since being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012,  Brandon Sutter has been an extremely reliable third-line center, and, during certain times due to need or injury, he’s performed admirably on the second-line.

Now as a restricted free agent, Sutter is trying to cash in on a strong playoff performance. Reports have surfaced that he is looking for just a one-year deal, and if that’s true, his desire for the short-term agreement means Sutter wants to leave Pittsburgh. From a business standpoint, it makes sense that Sutter wants out; he’s looking for a team he can play a larger role on, which in turn earns him, and his agent, more money.

What Sutter and his agent don’t realize is that their contract dispute will have a huge impact on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season.

Penguins’ general manager Jim Rutherford has publicly stated he wants to sign Sutter to a long-term deal, and is willing to get creative with the cap. Yet, Rutherford only has $4,230,833 in cap space left – per CapGeek. Is Sutter worth $3.5-4 million annually? Absolutely not. But given the current atmosphere of contracts, Sutter could easily get that money outside of Pittsburgh.

Apr 6, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Brandon Sutter (16) during the second period against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The reason why the Penguins were so dangerous in 2008-09 was because they had three talented centers down the middle. There is no doubt that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are each true No. 1 centers, and the Pens are lucky enough to have them both. The third center used to be Jordan Staal, and with this trio, the Penguins were almost impossible to defend against.

Now, Sutter isn’t Staal, but he is one heck of a hockey player, and just what the Penguins need. His strong defensive game and ability to score are needed on the team to make a run for the Stanley Cup.

If the rumors are true, and Sutter does in fact sign a one-year deal, there is no doubt in my mind that Pittsburgh will eventually look to trade him. Marcel Goc would then be asked to play as the third center, and frankly, Goc isn’t as talented as Sutter. Should Sutter leave town, I don’t think the Penguins will be able to bring home the Cup. The team would once again become too top heavy and eventually falter in the playoffs.

Sutter should at least sign a two-year deal with the Penguins, and make a run for the Cup, because its fair to say he has the best shot in Pittsburgh to win.

And it’s Pittsburgh’s best shot at a Cup with him on the roster.

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