Penguins Update: The Sexy Seven – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: The Sexy Seven

Who’s going to play third-line center?

It’s been the hot-button topic for Penguins fans. Liable to be all summer, too, or at least until Pens GM Jim Rutherford makes a move.

Last week we looked at some internal candidates. Today we’ll glance at potential trade options, or at least the ones who’ve churned through the rumor mill. For lack of a better description, we’ll call ‘em the Sexy Seven.

Keep in mind…just because a player’s name pops up, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s on the block.


Artem Anisimov (Chicago)

6’4” 198, 29, $4,550,000 AAV (+ future signing bonus), expires 2020-21

A contemporary of countryman Evgeni Malkin, Anisimov’s a big, skilled two-way forward. Versatile, too, able to play left wing and center—areas of comparative Penguin need. While not a huge scorer, he’s reached the 20-goal mark three times during his NHL career, including the past two seasons with Chicago.

Although not a shot-blocking demon like the departed Nick Bonino, Anisimov won’t bail out, either. Possession wise, his career Corsi is adequate (50 percent), but he’s weak on faceoffs (46 percent). According to The Hockey News, consistency is a major concern.

Tyler Bozak (Toronto)

6’1” 195, 31, $4,200,000 AAV (+ $2,000,000 signing bonus), expires 2017-18

The fact that Bozak’s shown good chemistry in the past with Pens’ sniper Phil Kessel—coupled with Toronto’s cap issues—makes him a natural trade target. Solid two-way center and point producer who can contribute on special teams, Bozak shines in the faceoff circle (53.6 percent). Good skater, too.

A drawback? He’s scheduled to earn $6.2 million in the coming year (including signing bonus), a hefty sum for a third-line center. Then he’ll become a free agent at the end of the season.

Matt Duchene (Colorado)

5’11” 195, 26, $6,000,000 AAV, expires 2018-19

Everyone’s darling. Possessing blazing speed and superior skills, Duchene is a dynamic offensive performer with goal-scoring pedigree. Plays the game with fire and intensity. Matt’s outstanding on draws (62.6 percent in ’16-17) and—while not quite in Bonino’s class—blocks shots with gusto. Can also play left wing, which enhances his value.

Problem is, everyone else—including Columbus and the Rangers—wants him, too. Which means the price tag is liable to be steep. At $6 million/year, he’s not cheap, either.

Zemgus Girgensons (Buffalo)

6’2” 200, 23, $1,150,000 AAV (RFA)

A potential low-cost sleeper. Big, strong two-way center with a penchant for physical play, Girgensons is a bit of a diamond in the rough. After a solid start in Buffalo (15 goals in ’14-15) he regressed the past two seasons under former Pens coach Dan Bylsma.

Although he’s improving (a career-best 47.2 percent in ’16-17) Girgensons needs work on faceoffs. Likewise, his possession numbers aren’t so hot (career Corsi of 44 percent). Perhaps too much of a project for a Pens team with designs on a three-peat.

Nazem Kadri (Toronto)

6’0” 195, 26, $4,500,000 AAV (+ $2,000,000 signing bonus), expires 2021-22 (MNTC)

The rumors surrounding Kadri likely are a by-product of wishful thinking more than reality. A solid producer throughout his seven-year NHL career, the feisty center took his game to new heights last season, notching 32 goals. Courageous, fearless and a strong two-way player to boot, he also comes with a heavy price tag—$6.5 million (including bonuses) for the next five years.

Probably overqualified for the role of third-line center. And perhaps too rich for the Pens’ blood. But definitely an attractive player.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton)

6’0” 196, 24, $6,000,000 AAV, expires 2020-21

In the wake of Connor McDavid’s mammoth contract extension, whispers surfaced that Edmonton may be shopping Nugent-Hopkins. A 24-goal season in ’14-15 aside, the “Nuge” has never developed into an offensive dynamo as expected. However, the vision, poise and supreme playmaking ability that made him a No. 1 overall pick in 2011 are still most decidedly in his tool kit.

While the six-year pro assumed more of a two-way role over the past couple of seasons, there remain sizeable holes in his game. He’s not physical, for one. And he’s downright dreadful in the faceoff circle (43.3 percent for his career). In short—a Beau Bennett with elite skills.

Jordan Staal (Carolina)

6’4” 220, 28, $6,000,000 AAV, expires 2022-23 (NMC)

It seems every time the need for a center arises, Staal’s name pops up. With good reason. Prior to his 2012 trade to Carolina (has it been that long?) Jordan was regarded as the game’s quintessential No. 3 center. Big as a horse and blessed with a decent scoring touch (five 20-goal seasons), he’s an excellent defensive center who regularly earns Selke consideration.

Staal’s developed into a master on draws as well, winning 59.1 percent of his faceoffs last season. Despite heavy feet, a possession monster, too. Everything considered, perhaps the best all-around candidate out there.

A shame Jordan’s probably not for sale.

Sarge in Charge

The locals made another coaching move, again involving a former Pens great. A day after naming Mark Recchi as Rick Tocchet’s successor, Sergei Gonchar was promoted to a full-time assistant.

A popular and revered member of the Pens’ 2009 Cup winners, Gonchar served as the organization’s defensive development coach the past two seasons. He’ll be tasked with viewing games from the press box and passing along his observations to the bench, a role he filled most ably during the club’s recent Cup run.

“Sarge” will likely be groomed as an eventual replacement for Jacques Martin, the 64-year-old whiz who presently coaches the Pens’ defense.

Pens Sign Two

The Pens re-upped two of their restricted free agents yesterday. Right wing Josh Archibald and defenseman Derrick Pouliot each agreed to terms on one-way contracts.

A feisty former Hobey Baker finalist, the speedy Archibald signed for two seasons with an average annual value of $675,000. Pouliot, the team’s top draft pick in 2012, inked a one-year deal worth $800,000.

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  1. pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
    July 17, 2017 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Way too much for sheary

  2. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    July 13, 2017 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Hey all,

    Interesting day, with Dave Molinari’s fantastic piece of journalism about Ron Burkle on the PG rightfully taking center stage.

    However, Rutherford made a comment in the Trib I wanted to pass along. He said he expects to have about $2 million left to put towards a center after Brian Dumoulin and Conor Sheary are signed.

    Barring a trade, of course.

    • Jim's Gravatar Jim
      July 13, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      Hey Rick
      That means about 8 million to sign Brian and Connor both If Cap Friendly is correct. THAT IS A LOT OF MONEY…
      What do you think?

      • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
        July 13, 2017 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        Hey Jim,

        The Trib estimates we have about $9.5 mil of space–so that’s about $7.5 mil going to Dumoulin and Sheary. Figure maybe $4.5 mil to Dumo and $3 mil to Conor?

        A lot of money, yes, but not outrageous considering what others around the league are signing for.


        • Jim's Gravatar Jim
          July 13, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

          I have No problem with Dumo…
          It is Sheary I question.
          Is he really worth 3 million?

          • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
            July 13, 2017 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

            Hey Jim,

            It seems a lot of folks are down on Sheary right now.

            I know he had a rough playoff. For the first time, his lack of size seemed to be an issue. And he wasn’t very effective in a bottom-six role. Seemed to be gripping the stick a little tight, too.

            It’s easy to forget he’s just a kid. One who had something like the NHL’s seventh or eighth best points per 60 rate during the regular season. Some of that was attributable to playing with Sid, for sure, but there was a reciprocal benefit for Crosby as well.

            Sheary thinks the game at a high level and has the skills and creativity to make plays at a high rate of speed. I, personally, love his grit and think he does a really good job in traffic for his size. The playoffs, to me, were kind of an anomaly.

            A lot of people seem to think he’ll be traded as part of a package to land a center, so maybe it’s a moot point. But I think he’s a good, little player.

            It would be nice if Conor had a little more of a track record to really get a read on his value. But in today’s admittedly inflated market, I don’t think $2.5 to $3 million would be all that out of line.


            • Jim's Gravatar Jim
              July 13, 2017 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

              I understand your reasoning Rick.
              I guess I am hoping for a trade for a bigger name player at center. 2.5 million will not do it.
              4.5 million will.

            • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
              July 14, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

              Interesting discussion but I have to go with Jim on this one Rick. You know I like Sheary but his disappearance during the play-offs makes him a limited player and hardly worth $3-4 mil. If he comes at about $3mil maybe the Pens can (excuse the pun) skate by, but if the arbitor awards him more than $3mil he must be traded. His return will never equal that.

              None of us know what the offers and counter offers are but if sheary is asking for more than $3mil, I would have traded him already and let someone else deal with it.

              Furthermore, because of both of these players going to arbitration, I would be shopping them around. There could be some level of angst that will be the fall out.

            • July 14, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

              I’m with tOR & Jim about Sheary (Warren Young the second). I like him, I believe he is a solid winger, but we have 4 guys just like him on the team that are bigger. If he comes in high and you can get someone good for him, do it. I seriously wouldn’t pay him more than $2 mil. If he is worth something in a trade, do it fast before the season starts.

              Dumoulin was probably seriously undervalued and the Pens defense is the soft spot as it is. I would try to sign him for 5 years. Especially if arbitration comes in under $3

            • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
              July 14, 2017 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

              Good points, all.

              When Sheary signs, we’ll definitely have an organizational log jam at right wing.

              It’ll be interesting to see what JR does …


  3. July 13, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick,

    Like your article on Nail Yakupov I’m waiting for the trade to happen any minute now.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      July 13, 2017 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I’m sure they’ll all be traded…to everyone but the Pens…before the day is out … 🙂



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