Pittsburgh Penguins: Trading Chris Kunitz Is Priority, Could Paul Martin Re-Sign?


As we’ve seen, there have been multiple rumors involving the Pittsburgh Penguins being attached to some very high profile players. The outlines of these deals being unrealistic with the asking price set by the market just too high for the Pens. Now, as we approach the NHL Entry Draft, trade winds are heating up just like the Pittsburgh weather.

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News began to roll in last night with insidepittsburghsports.com and multiple other media outlets reporting that the Penguins are in full sell mode with Chris Kunitz. The likelihood of a Kunitz deal was reported to be very high if not imminent. This was coupled by the ongoing news over the previous few days that the Penguins have leaned toward moving Brandon Sutter. While not as attractive trade chips as James Neal was at this time last year, there is some value present that may be able to help the club in both the short and long term.

The current situation with Chris Kunitz needs to be addressed first. Was Kunitz’s decreased play this past season a blip on the radar that can be explained away due to an off year or Iron Deficiency, or is there something more there? With his increased age and history of physical play it is likely the precipitous decline in his production will continue. It is believed that the Pittsburgh Penguins feel the same and they are willing to move Kunitz for below market value.

It has been speculated with the expected loss of Matt Beleskey that Kunitz may be a good fit returning to the Anaheim Ducks, where he had won a Stanley Cup earlier in his career. While the Ducks fleeced the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Simon Despres/Ben Lovejoy deal this should not prevent them from being trading partners. On the contrary the Ducks have exactly what the Penguins are looking for, high upside cost controlled wings.

The chance to move Kunitz for Emerson Etem or Kyle Palmieri would improve the Pittsburgh Penguins in the long term by getting younger on the wings, and may provide the chance for one of these young wingers currently buried in Anaheim’s depth to have a breakout season. Emerson Etem should carry a lot of interest for the Pens. Etem is a close friend of Beau Bennett having played youth hockey together and reuniting them may spark some development in Bennett as a pro.

Another landing spot for Chris Kunitz would seem to be the Buffalo Sabres. It is no secret that new Buffalo coach Dan Blysma is a fan of Kunitz. Couple this with his veteran leadership qualities, and experience playing for young teams that won the Stanley Cup, and it makes this seem more appealing. While the chance that the Sabres move a roster player for Kunitz are slim, one of the more appealing returns in addition to clearing his contract from the books would be draft picks which the Sabres possess a glut of this year.

There are other options out there for the Penguins when moving Kunitz. These include a swap of a bad contract for a player such as Teddy Purcell (Who is 5 years younger than Kunitz) which would up the cap hit due this year by around 700k but knock a year off of the contract and provide Edmonton with a veteran presence with playoff experience. The Pittsburgh Penguins could also look into a contract dump for draft capital in teams looking to reach the cap floor such as the Arizona Coyotes or Florida Panthers. All that is certain is that the Pittsburgh Penguins are trying to maximize their assets in Kunitz and trading him sooner rather than later would best accomplish this.

It was also reported by Jason Mackey of the Trib yesterday that the Penguins were going to meet with the agent for impending free agent Paul Martin. Martin is coming off of a 5 million dollar per year deal and is likely looking to cash in on his last free agent payday. Providing Martin anything with term would be counterproductive to the path the Penguins need to follow. Not to mention that this seems to be a terrible fit with the Penguins, as the defensive depth could go as much as 8 deep without Martin.

This could be a precursor to a move that depletes that defensive depth, or it could be a courtesy meeting. We can only hope that resigning another player in his mid-thirties to a cap crippling contract isn’t something the Penguins are seriously entertaining.

Next: Should the Pens Target Carl Soderberg This Summer?

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