As the offseason dwindles down and the season nears, the Pittsburgh Penguins still have to start thinking about what their roster will look like for this upcoming season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins made a significant move during free agency this year and that was signing defenceman Jack Johnson to a five-year contract. Johnson is a solid defenceman and is expected to fill into a regular role in our defensive line-up.
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If we take a look at the Penguins current NHL defenceman on our roster now and who may be callups even, we get a list that looks like this:
Now this is a long list of defenceman fighting for six starting lineup spots. Out of these, only three stick out to me as players who may not make it. Chris Summers is an obvious one, since he’s been a call-up player. Jack Johnson is one, since he hasn’t even played a game yet after being inconsistent in Columbus. However, I don’t think the Penguins would sign him to such a lucrative contract without plans of ensuring him a spot on the roster.
The final name that sticks out is Jamie Oleksiak, who is the topic of this article. Oleksiak has been a solid defenceman in the 47 games he played with the Penguins last season. In those 47 games, he racked up 14 points and was a great addition to the team.
But what exactly is his role on the team heading forward? With the addition of Jack Johnson, the Penguins need to look at what they want to do with Oleksiak. And if anything, could he be seen as a potential trade piece?
The Penguins have hope in Jamie Oleksiak, that’s for sure. If they didn’t they wouldn’t have signed him to a spanking new 3-year contract worth $6.4 million.
They have plans for Oleksiak, we just don’t know what it is yet. The Penguins could be looking to play him as our seventh defenceman, which honestly is where he would fit right now. Other than Ruhwedel, I would play all other defenceman ahead of him.
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After the signing, GM Jim Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, ““We liked how he fit in with us. We felt that his game was coming along. We still see more of an upside to him, but when you can get a guy that size with that strength to play in your top-six on defense, he can do some things that a lot of other players can’t.”
It sounds like GMJR has a plan for Oleksiak and we should too. He surely brings toughness to the table and that is something that should be valued.
I have a lot of hope in Oleksiak. At only 25-years old, he’s the second youngest defenceman the Penguins have on the team, just two years older than Olli Maatta. He has a lot of upside and can easily improve his game into a reliable blue-liner that can play night in and night out. But again, does he fit on a team that’s log jammed with defenders right now?
Where Can He Fit In?
The praise from GMJR is positive, but it still leaves the current question open. Where does Oleksiak fit in on this team?
Jamie Oleksiak seems like he’d fit in as a seventh defenceman right now, but I wouldn’t be worried about giving him time on the third defensive pairing. At 25-years-old, he can still get better. And what better way to improve his game than by allowing him to get a good amount of time on the ice per night?
Oleksiak currently looks like he’s in some trouble. It looks like the Penguins are using him as a depth addition rather than an NHL blue-liner. This is a good strategy for the Penguins but a little excessive when we can address other positions and even shed cap.. As much as I would love to see Oleksiak on the team, I can’t see a place for him right now.
Is A Trade Possible?
Oleksiak is a solid defenceman and can slot in on many team’s defensive core’s easily. He may be an extra defenceman here but that doesn’t mean he’s not good to be on another team’s defensive core.
The Penguins could entertain the idea of trading Oleksiak for some pieces that could even be used to improve our team further. A young defenceman who can slot in on the third pair is valued by many teams and the Penguins can fetch something.
It’s a possibility, and I think the Pens could invest some thought into this idea of using him as a trade piece. Only time will tell how we use him once the season begins.