Let's not kid ourselves; Pascal Dupuis is done for the season and the Pittsburgh Penguins need to examine options for replacing him. It should not be difficult finding his substitute on the penalty kill. If you can skate, block shots, and clear pucks then you can kill penalties in the NHL. Okay, there's a little more to it than that but you get the point. What will be hard to replicate will be Dupuis's scoring touch. Super Duper had twenty points on the year (seven goals, thirteen assists) and was heating up before his knee blew out. His locker room leadership will also be missed and not easy to recapture.
Joe Vitale is the Penguins short-term solution and he looked fine in the role of first line winger last night against the Carolina Hurricanes. While he did not tally a point in the Pens 4-3 win, he was keeping up with the speedy Sidney Crosby and fought along the boards. Vitale's a decent Band-Aid, but the moment Beau Bennett comes back into the fold that spot on the top unit will belong to him. The trouble with that is Bennett's return is a ways away. Wrist surgery recuperation does take a while. James Neal played a few minutes on the top line, but Evgeni Malkin's return is forthcoming and you know he'll want his partner back. So no deal there.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Pens usually crutch for dealing with injuries, can offer no help either. The Penguins AHL affiliate has already sent up most of their leading scorers (Chris Conner, Harry Zolnierczyk, and Brian Gibbons). Forward prospects like Nick Drazenovic and Tom Kuhnhackl are not NHL ready yet. And the aforementioned trio has done a fantastic job strengthening the bottom six forwards. Again, there's no help there.
Naw, the only way to replace Pascal Duspuis is to find a rental via a trade.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero said of a possible trade, "We'll see what happens down the line here, but there's nothing imminent in that regard."
Shero added, "If this injury happens after the trade deadline, it's much more of a problem."
Dupuis being placed on IR means he's $3.75 million dollar cap hit transforms into $3.75 million dollar cap space. The market for rental players is deep this year and the Penguins have showcased a ton of trade targets this season. Those rookie defensemen who preformed so well for the Pens during this injury plague are now the perfect trade bait. Nothing NHL teams love more than young defenseman who have a crazy amount of upside.
The big one teams will be calling about is Simon Despres. The once untouchable Despres now finds himself the prime candidate for a deal thanks to his 6'4" frame and 66 NHL games of experience. Teams who are rebuilding would love to add him as a future power play quarterback. Contending teams would love to have him to bolster their third d-pairing. Penguins fan may not want to see him go, but the play of Bortuzzo and Maatta have made Despres expendable.
Winnipeg's Devin Setoguchi (seven goals, twelve assists), Phoenix's Radim Vrbata (eleven goals, seventeen assists), Anahiem's Andrew Cogliano (ten goals, twelve assists), and Calgary's Lee Stempinak (six goals, seven assists) are all reasonably priced and available. The Ducks are looking for defensemen, Winnipeg and Calgary are both looking to get bigger, and Phoenix has no extra cash to pay Vrbata. Any of them could be reasonable fill-ins but if the Penguins are looking for a home run, they need to call Buffalo about Matt Moulson.
The Sabres are dreadful and on the verge of rebuilding. They traded Tomas Vanek for Matt Mouslon earlier this year, but if the Pens toss draft times and good prospects at them . . . they'll let just about anyone go. Plus, the salary cap balloons to $71.1 million dollars next year. That extra money may be enough to lock in Moulson (for anyone they trade for) for more than just the 2013-2014 season. Long shot, but what's life without chances and debate? Mouslon has thirteen goals and thirteen assists on the year.
Like in all things, when dealing with Dupuis's injury, in Shero we trust.
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