Why Maxim Lapierre Is Just What The Penguins Need


After six losses in ten games, a continuing string of injuries, and even misspelling their superstar’s name on the game program, it seemed that the Pittsburgh Penguins had arrived at that dreaded moment in the season where the culmination of all their woes was starting to take its toll.

Then, in what is sure to be one of the more underappreciated trades of the season, general manager Jim Rutherford made a move to shake up the fourth line. After the 5-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night, the Penguins traded center Marcel Goc to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for center Maxim Lapierre.

At face value, this trade does not appear to be spectacular. St. Louis Game Time could not seem to make sense of the move: “Is this an upgrade? A lateral move? Just a shake-up to the fourth line for fun?”

Josh Cooper of Yahoo! Sports summarized the move as “minor.”

But the trade is far-more interesting on the Penguins’ end than is being admitted. Goc was a solid player, but, as noted by Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, he never meshed well on the ice with the Penguins. This season, the 6’1″, 197-pound forward has six points, but half of those have come in his past five games. He also was a pending unrestricted free agent with a $1.2 million hit to the cap.

By comparison, Lapierre is poised to add size, grit, and strength to the Pens’ bottom-six, in addition to being only a $1.1 million hit to the cap, although he is also a soon-to-be free agent. At 6’2″, 215 pounds, Lapierre is definitely a “big guy,” as he was described by Rutherford. “He plays with energy. He plays with an edge at times” Rutherford said.

With the realization that the team is being faced with a great deal of physical hockey,  which only develops more and more as the playoffs approach, Rutherford made the call to add another blue-collar player to deepen the roster.

“It certainly seems we’re getting into more physical games than I would’ve expected,” said Rutherford,” so [Lapierre] will help that group of guys that we already have. The [Steve] Downies, the [Zach] Sills and [Robert] Bortuzzos and those guys.”

Adding to the allure of acquiring Lapierre is his postseason experience. Across 75 playoff games, he has posted 15 points on seven goals and eight assists during lengthy runs with the Montreal Canadiens in 2010 and the Vancouver Canucks in 2011, when they went to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final before falling to the Boston Bruins. This is compared to Goc, who, despite have an identical number of points, has never been part of a deep playoff run.

At the end of the day, it is Lapierre’s reputation as one of the league’s premier agitators and grinders that makes him such a great addition to the Penguins. Goc is not a particularly physical player and having someone who will get into the dirty areas of the ice to make a check or knock the puck loose will be vital to keeping the Penguins chugging through the regular season and keeping them on their feet in the playoffs

Some may write off this trade as insignificant, but look for Lapierre to make an immediate impact on the ice for the Penguins.