Pittsburgh Penguins Friday Round-Up: Chris Kunitz, Trade Rumors, Sidney Crosby and More.


Chris Kunitz has had a very good run as a Pittsburgh Penguin since being acquired from the Anaheim Ducks on February 26, 2009. He instantly became Sidney Crosby’s go-to Left Wing and helped the Penguins win their first Stanley Cup Championship since 1992. But recently, Kunitz has found himself scrutinized by much of the fan base and media, and a rumor has surfaced that he is requesting a one-way ticket out of Pittsburgh.

Whether or not Jim Rutherford should trade Kunitz is a major question right now. Statistically, Kunitz has been far from disappointing this season. He currently has 15g and 16a for 31 points, which ties him for fourth on the Penguins roster with Patric Hornqvist. And he’s still finding his place around the net, which is evident considering his team-leading 15.6% shooting percentage. He’s also tied with Evgeni Malkin with a team-leading eight power play goals, something that you have to seriously consider on a team struggling so mightily to score with the man advantage. The biggest issue with Kunitz is his contract, which carries a cap hit of around 3.8 million per year. With two more years left on his deal, that’s a lot of money for a 34-year old pseudo power forward. One area Kunitz seems to have lost a step is in his hard-nosed punishing forecheck. He doesn’t pose the same threat to opposing defenseman as he has in years past.

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I believe that the return would have to be substantial to move a guy like Kunitz, and I’m not sure another team out there will see Kunitz as worthy of such a ransom. Let’s not forget that Sidney Crosby loves playing with Chris Kunitz, and while I don’t believe players should have final say on whom they play with, it’s hard to deny that they work well together. And contrary to the perception of a lot of fans, Perron fits nicely with those two and continues to produce flanking Crosby on the right instead of the left. The only teams likely to be in the market for a Kunitz type of acquisition will be non-contenders that can use him as a temporary building block, and he has a limited no movement clause that would most definitely halt a deal with a team like that.

Moving on to the recent trade rumor mill, it has been announced that Evander Kane will require shoulder surgery and is out for 4-6 months. So much for #KaneWatch. This is a deal that was highly unlikely at this point for the Penguins anyway given the price for Kane, but if it came to fruition it would have been a huge boost. Kane is a tough, fast, skilled wing that would fit nicely with either Crosby or Malkin.

Dec 31, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Brandon Sutter (16) skates with the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Recent rumors also place Pittsburgh in the list of teams making offers for Daniel Winnik from the Toronto Maple Leafs. While my dream acquisition out of Toronto for this roster would be Cody Franson, I still love the idea of grabbing Winnik if possible. With twenty points in fifty games played, a plus-12 on a terrible Maple Leafs squad, and a meager 1.3 million dollar salary cap hit he’s a no-brainer improvement to the Penguins bottom-six. And while we’re discussing bottom-six help, I have to bring up Kyle Brodziak once again. It was reported today that more teams are beginning to inquire about Brodziak’s services. As I mentioned in my trade rumblings article here, his salary would be a challenge for Pittsburgh. But Minnesota is in need of a Center and if it were up to me a deal based around Brodziak and Brandon Sutter is something I’d take a serious look at.

Finally, Rob Rossi reported today that it’s Sidney Crosby’s preference that Patric Hornqvist not play on his wing. He stated that Crosby feels Hornqvist is not a good enough skater and that he doesn’t like playing with net-front wingers. I find these statements to be hard to swallow, especially considering that Crosby has always preferred Kunitz be on his line who plays a very similar game. Also, Crosby and Hornqvist came out of the gates flying and putting up outstanding numbers early in the season before injuries caused line separations and fill-ins throughout the roster. There were no recorded quotes from Crosby on this subject, and nothing in print, so until I hear those words from Sid himself I have a hard time buying in.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will battle the Calgary Flames tonight in Calgary, which will prove to be a good test and another opportunity to build some confidence.   Calgary is clicking right now having won eight of their last ten and look poised for a nice run while battling for a Western Conference playoff spot.