The Penguins Must Trade Paul Martin


For the past several seasons, one of the major struggles for the Pittsburgh Penguins has been managing their salary cap. Balancing the contracts of elite players and those that provide depth for the team has proven to be quite a tricky proposition.

With today’s signing of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to a four-year contract extension worth $23 million, the team saw their cap space shrink even further. According to, the Pens have the second-lowest cap space in the National Hockey League, with a measly $712,703 to play with for contracts.

When the 2015 free agent-season arrives, the Penguins will have to negotiate cap space to retain players such as Beau Bennett, Blake Comeau, Christian Ehrhoff, Robert Bortuzzo and several others, depending on their interest in them come the end of the season. This is not to mention any attempts at dabbling into the free-agent market.

Clearly, general manager Jim Rutherford has some work to do in order to give the team the greatest opportunity at growth and development.

The best route to this destination will be through trading defenseman Paul Martin.

Martin is currently in the final year of a 5-year deal worth $25 million. During his time with Pittsburgh, he has averaged just short of 24 minutes of ice time per game, logged 92 points of solid production from the blue line and became the Penguins’ “leader on the blue line.”

According to advanced statistics, such as the Fenwick percentage which measures a team’s puck possession when certain players are on the ice, Martin is incredibly adept at helping to control the puck for his team when on the ice. For reference, two-time Stanley Cup winner, two-time gold medal Olympian, two-time NHL All-Star and two-time James Norris Memorial Trophy winner Duncan Keith has a career Fenwick percentage of 54.6 percent. Paul Martin, meanwhile, has a career Fenwick of 54.1 percent.

May 13, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Paul Martin (7) handles the puck against the New York Rangers during the first period in game seven of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Rangers won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For many teams, Martin would be a true asset. A potent defenseman with leadership capabilities is always a plus to any roster. But with a one year left to his $5 million cap hit and a deteriorating, injury-prone body at age 33, the Penguins would be much advised to try to move Martin as quickly as possible.

There are rumors that the Pens are targeting a top-six forward and Martin would make excellent trade bait for such a deal. However, given that Pittsburgh already has a top-tier offense and are teeming with young defensive talent, it would be in their best interest to move Martin for draft picks or offensive prospects.

There are several teams that are a step or two away from contending, but are suffering from lapses in defense and puck possession.

The Montreal Canadiens, for example, are leading the Atlantic Division over formidable opponents, such as the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins. However, the Canadiens currently have a goal differential of -8 and are ranked 22nd for the Fenwick Close, which analyzes how often the team possesses the puck during close games.

Martin is aging, expensive, and increasingly prone to injury. The time to move him is now. The results could be extraordinary.

With a player like Martin in their midst to bolster the play of their other defensemen, the Canadiens would certainly see a jump in their play. The Penguins, on the other hand, assuming they received the aforementioned draft picks or prospects, would have $5 million in cap space open up, in addition to allowing the chance for the team to give playing time to any of their extraordinary young defense talents, such as Robert Bortuzzo or Scott Harrington.

While Martin’s talent and leadership are undeniable, trading him would free up a great deal of cap space, allow for prospect development, and provide the opportunity to draft quality young players.

Martin is aging, expensive, and increasingly prone to injury. The time to move him is now. The results could be extraordinary.