Pittsburgh Penguins Weekly Round Up: Daniel Winnik, Trade Rumors, And More…


I’m happy that my weekly round up can be a bit more uplifting this time around as the Pittsburgh Penguins are on a three-game winning streak, and recently acquired much-needed help in the bottom six by trading for Daniel Winnik from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This past weekend was a big test for the Pittsburgh Penguins as they faced the St. Louis Blues and Florida Panthers. The Blues are a tough matchup for the Penguins due to their combination of size and skill. Some say that the Pittsburgh Penguins lack the size to keep up with a team that’s built that way. However, they jumped out to a first period lead and never looked back, en route to a 4-2 victory. Blake Comeau shined once again for the Pittsburgh Penguins with three points (2g, 1a), and continues to perform far above what was expected of him when he signed in the off-season. Secondary scoring is crucial when it comes to a successful playoff run, and when you get production from a guy like Comeau that is making 700k/year it proves to be invaluable.

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Many were anxious to see how the Penguins performed against the Florida Panthers, as they’ve played well recently and are battling for a playoff spot. They responded with a convincing 4-1 win, and a stellar performance from Evgeni Malkin. Patric Hornqvist also had three points, two of which were goals assisted by his new-again line mate Sidney Crosby.   The Penguins followed-up that performance by beating the Washington Capitals for the first time this season on Wednesday night. As I previously wrote here, the Penguins have a tendency to respond negatively in these situations. It was a perfect opportunity for them to seek retribution on Alex Ovechkin for his slash on Kris Letang, which normally causes this team to let the game get away from them. However, they played a solid game for sixty minutes, and while it did get quite chippy, they continued to play hockey and avoided a circus act. Kudos to this group for coming away with two points and causing Ovechkin to be visibly frustrated at game’s end.

The bigger news on Wednesday was the acquisition of Daniel Winnik from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Pittsburgh forfeited Zach Sill, a 4th round pick in 2015, and a 2nd round pick in 2016. There were two very important pieces to what Jim Rutherford gave up here. It was important that the Penguins hold on to their 2nd round pick for this year’s NHL entry draft, as they wouldn’t have a pick until the fourth round if they gave that up. Also, it was important that Toronto retain cap, in this case 50%, and also take Zach Sill so that Winnik could fit under Pittsburgh’s current cap total. Dejan Kovacevic asked Rutherford about the cap situation and in response he stated that they had to get very creative to make this deal happen.

Jan 9, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Daniel Winnik (26) celebrates his goal in the first period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

What does Daniel Winnik bring to the table? Well, let’s start with the fact that he’s 6’2 and 209 lbs., and he uses his size effectively. The Penguins have lacked an individual that plays big, and Winnik is an answer to that. He’s also an outstanding penalty killer and leads all forwards in shorthanded TOI with 191:06. The most impressive part for me is a stat that I rarely put stock into; he’s a plus-15 on a team that is minus-20 overall. While on the surface his 5v5 possession numbers aren’t great at 48.8 and 48.5 for CF% and FF% respectively, you have to consider his role and the team he plays for. During close play, he’s maintaining a CF% of 52.2 and FF% of 51.8. Extremely impressive considering he played for the Leafs and only sees 23.8% offensive zone starts. He will be a huge boost to the third line and penalty kill units.

Overall, I give Rutherford a B+ on this deal. He addressed a need and was able to get a coveted two-way forward.

Overall, I give Rutherford a B+ on this deal. He addressed a need and was able to get a coveted two-way forward. The only reason I can’t quite give him an A is due to another 2nd round pick being sacrificed. I’m not as concerned as others I’ve witnessed and spoke to, but I do understand that draft picks are hard to come by these days after Ray Shero moved so many at recent trade deadlines. An added bonus of this deal could be that we’ve seen the last of the ongoing Craig Adams saga in Pittsburgh. He shouldn’t see the ice as long as everyone stays healthy.

With the Winnik deal in the bag, Pittsburgh got what possibly was their most important target in Jim Rutherford’s eyes. Is there anyone else out there that would fit? Jagr watch has ended, but the Pittsburgh Penguins are rumored to be in the market for a defenseman.

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Jeff Petry is a name that has been linked to the Pittsburgh Penguins over the last couple weeks. Petry is rangy at 6’3 and 198 lbs. He plays physical, which is backed up by his 101 hits so far this season, but he isn’t an overwhelming presence on the blue line. Also, with Ehrhoff returning and Derrick Pouliot’s recent play, I’m not sure they need someone of Petry’s caliber. His cap hit of just over 3 million is also an issue, and I don’t think you move a roster player for him considering he’s temporary and not completely necessary. I also believe that Jim Rutherford will consider the fact that Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff are impending UFA’s, and if he’s going to move a roster player for a defenseman he may want some contract control.

Eric Gryba is someone that hasn’t been mentioned much in trade rumors but would be an interesting grab for Pittsburgh. When you think about what the Pittsburgh Penguins don’t currently have on defense, it’s a guy that can make things miserable for opponents. Gryba is 6’4 and 225 lbs., and has a nasty side to him. He also carries a fairly small cap hit of 1.3 million with one more year. Of course, I have no inside knowledge as to what Ottawa’s plans are for the 26-year old, but if he were available it would be a great move for the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Below is a clip from last season of Gryba throwing a solid hit on Daniel Briere and then battling Jarred Tinordi.

The other defensemen on the market are simply not a fit. They are either too expensive for a rental or carry a large contract for multiple years. There’s always the chance an unexpected name is dangled as trade bait over the next few days, but I wouldn’t be surprised at this point to see Rutherford stand pat.

Whether the Pittsburgh Penguins make a move or not, it’s still shaping up to be an interesting trade deadline. Tis the season for teams to overpay for last minute additions in an attempt for a run at Lord Stanley. The Pittsburgh Penguins will face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday with Daniel Winnik added to the lineup. Do you think he could be the final piece of the puzzle?