Seemingly every season since Pittsburgh Penguins superstar center Sidney Crosby broke into the NHL there’s been suggestions of how much better his point numbers would be, and in turn how many more games the Penguins would win, if he had a quality scoring winger.
The Pens had addressed that for a short period late in the 2007-08 season by bringing in Marian Hossa at the 2008 trade deadline, and following his departure found affordable but lesser talented wingers a year later in Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin, who helped the Penguins march to the 2009 Stanley Cup title.
But with Guerin now retired and Kunitz clearly not the Jari Kurri to Crosby’s Wayne Gretzky the speculation persists in some circles of the Pens search for a true scoring winger to compliment “Super Sid”.
Hockeybuzz.com’s “Eklund” recently offered up his take, claiming he’d heard “rumblings” akin to those he heard three years ago just prior to the Pens acquisition of Hossa that the club could be in the market again for a winger for the Crosby line.
Well this year I am hearing the same rumblings…and now it appears as though the Pens may be considering two “projects” of sorts to see if either may be the answer.
Hmmm, two “projects” of sorts? So rather than pursuing an expensive veteran the Penguins might instead consider a promising, affordable young player or two?
Well, it’s an intriguing idea, certainly one the Penguins could at this point more easily afford cap-wise. Eklund also claimed a source told him the Columbus Blue Jackets were in Pittsburgh scouting Penguins defenseman Alex Goligoski.
It’s well known the Blue Jackets are in desperate need of a skilled puck-moving defenseman, and the 25-year-old Goligsoki with 22 points in 41 games is on pace for his best season to date.
But who would these “projects” be which the Penguins are supposedly considering?
Eklund claims they’re Nikita Filatov and Petr Prucha.
No, he’s not kidding. A kid who has yet to prove he can make it at the NHL level, and a player not good enough to stick with the Phoenix Coyotes, are the “projects” the Penguins are supposedly considering.
Eklund’s reasoning that both might rediscover their lost scoring touch by playing with Crosby – just doesn’t make sense. Prucha is no longer a dewy-eyed rookie and over the past five seasons failed to follow up on his promising 2005-06 debut, while Filatov despite all his supposed offensive prowess continues to struggle at the North American pro level. It’s not as though the Blue Jackets don’t have any quality forwards to put him with. Certainly none in Crosby’s category, but putting him on a line with, say, Antoine Vermette and RJ Umberger, or Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek, could’ve helped.
Indeed, when Kristian Huselius went down to an early season ankle injury that could’ve been the opportunity for Filatov to seize the moment and prove himself. Instead, after a couple of months he found himself still struggling at the NHL level and demoted to the AHL where things only seem to have gotten worse for him.
If the Penguins really wanted Prucha they could’ve had him several days ago when the Coyotes placed him on re-entry waivers, where the Pens could’ve picked him up for nothing and only been on the hook for half of the remainder of his $1.2 million salary for this season, which would’ve been more attractive to the cap-strapped club.
As for Filatov, the Blue Jackets management undoubtedly have concern over this kid’s stalled development but I doubt they’ll give up on him just yet. Even if they did, the Penguins aren’t going to take a chance with Filatov on Crosby’s wing and magically expect him to blossom into a 40-goal scorer overnight.
Eklund also claimed the Penguins would love to land RJ Umberger but the Blue Jackets don’t want to part with him. Even if they did, there’s the little matter of the Penguins inability to fit Umberger’s $3.75 million per season salary under their very tight cap (which they currently have just over $600K of available space) even if they agreed to ship Goligoski and his $1.833 million per season to Columbus straight up.
About the Author: