Penguins Swap Sutter for Bonino and Clendening, Sign Fehr – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Swap Sutter for Bonino and Clendening, Sign Fehr

I’ll say this for Penguins GM Jim Rutherford. He ain’t afraid to roll the dice.

Displaying the brass of a riverboat gambler, JR wrested center Nick Bonino and defenseman Adam Clendening from Vancouver for third-line center Brandon Sutter. The black and gold also received the Canucks’ second-round pick in 2016 in exchange for the third-round choice imported from Buffalo for Dan Bylsma.

Almost simultaneously the venerable exec inked free-agent center Eric Fehr to a three-year deal worth $2M annually. In an unusual twist, Fehr isn’t likely be available to the Pens until December due to off-season elbow surgery.

The moves should ultimately add flexibility and depth to a Penguins squad that hemorrhaged no fewer than eight regulars over the summer to trades, free-agency, and attrition. They also serve as a hedge if veterans Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz can’t return to form.

Fehr, who established a reputation as a Penguin-killer during a solid 10-year NHL career, figures to be a most welcome addition. The big-bodied forward is blessed with surprisingly soft hands and a willingness to work the dirty areas. A center by trade, the former Capital can also play right wing in a pinch.

A 27-year-old center, Bonino emerged as a scorer with Anaheim in 2013-14, tallying 22 goals. The Hartford native followed up with a solid 15-goal campaign with the Canucks last season. He’s described by The Hockey News as a hard-working, two-way forward with an offensive upside.

The sleeper may be Clendening. Chicago’s second-round pick in 2011, he garnered All-Star honors at Boston University and in the AHL. Although undersized at 190 pounds, the skilled defender piled up 12 goals and 59 points with Rockford in 2013-14. Last season he made an auspicious NHL debut, scoring on his first shot on goal.

Acquired in 2012 for Jordan Staal, Sutter was productive and dependable–if somewhat maligned–during his three-year stay in the ‘Burgh. Advanced-stats mavens were especially harsh, citing Brandon’s less-than-stellar possession numbers. But Sutter was a hit with his teammates, played sound defense, and displayed a knack for delivering in pressure situations. He also possessed a quick release and underrated shot, notching 21 goals last season.

The downside? Barring a personnel purge, the Pens are virtually pinned to the salary-cap wall. According to the Tribune Review’s Jonathan Bombulie, the black and gold presently has less than $500,000 of available cap space. Barely enough for five new Zambonis and a couple of bags of pucks.

Still, the newcomers will make the Pens a better team.

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  1. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    July 29, 2015 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    Hi Rick,
    A very interesting day to be a Pens fan. Looks like JR has fixed the Center issue with Crosby,Malkin,Fehr,Bonino and Sundquist.We are now faster, bigger,gritter,more talented then last years team at the center position.Also as a group they are all under contract for the next few years.Great news.
    Where does JR go from here? Internet and media reports that Chris Kunitz could be heading to the Ducks for a prospect and Rob Scuderi to Colorado or the Devils.If this were to happen, and given that Fehr will be on long term disability until he returns in December, the Pens could actually have about 10 million in Cap space to sign some more pieces.
    Personally I would try to sign “BIG” Cody Franson to a 3 year deal in the 4-4.5 million dollar range.Then use Matt Murray as trade bait to secure another young,large talented winger on an entry level contract to replace Kunitz.
    ( like Arizona’s Brendan Perlini ,Florida’s Lawson Crouse or the Star’s Valeri Nichushkin). Now the team starts to have a Championship style to it. Plus you would still have about 2 million plus left in cap space to tinker with the line up or to help the injury bug that always follows this team.
    Fun to be an arm chair GM Rick, but you are correct in saying JR is not slowing down and he wants to field a Stanley Cup contender before he retires next year. Thanks for the chance to talk about the team.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      July 29, 2015 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      Great comments, as always.

      I was really surprised by yesterday’s moves. Pleasantly so. Nothing against Brandon Sutter, who I thought did a good job here. But they weren’t going to re-sign him after this season. So to get Bonino and Clendening—plus a second-round pick—was a huge score.

      I also like the Fehr signing. He’s just a really solid hockey player. At least he always has been against us.

      Slowly but surely, Rutherford is changing the mix in the dressing room, which seemed to be lacking. Short of breaking up the core, he’s done everything he can to remake the team.

      I don’t have any special connections. But your take on pending moves is consistent with what I’ve heard through the rumor mill. Kunitz to Anaheim, possibly for a prospect. Scuderi to Colorado (I haven’t heard the Devils).

      The “poop” I heard is that the Pens may need to surrender a prospect, too, to get a team to bite on “Scuds.” If so, it’s kind of sad to see him diminished in this way. He’s such a class guy and was such an integral “Piece” (pun intended) of the ’09 Cup team.

      I was fine with allowing Martin and Ehrhoff to walk. But there is—as you pointed out—a glaring hole on “d.” Franson certainly sounds like he’d fit the bill. In addition to being an established defenseman, he’s got some size. They desperately need a bigger body back there.

      Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see what JR does next.


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