NHL Trade Rumors: Acquiring Dustin Penner Is Best Move for Toronto Maple Leafs

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 03:  Dustin Penner #25 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens to trail 2-1 during the second period at Staples Center on December 3, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

There has certainly been no shortage of Toronto Maple Leafs trade rumors ahead of the NHL's Feb. 27 deadline, but most have seemed like pipe dreams. A possible deal for Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Penner seems possible and sensible, though.

According to Bob Mitchell of the Toronto Star, the Leafs might have interest in acquiring the 6'4", 245-lb power forward. There is no question that Penner is having a rough year with just five goals in 43 games and having suffered back spasms while leaning over to eat pancakes, but he could be a good, low-risk addition for the Leafs.

Since being traded to the Los Angeles Kings from the Edmonton Oilers at last season's deadline, Penner simply hasn't fit in. He has scored a mere seven goals in 62 games as a King after a 32-goal campaign with the Oilers during the 2009-10 season.

Penner has proven in the past that he is the type of player capable of wreaking havoc in front of the net and picking up what are termed as "garbage goals." No matter how pretty or ugly the goals are, however, they count just the same, so the Leafs might be willing to take a chance on the one-time Stanley Cup champion.

Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke is quite familiar with what Penner brings to the table as he scored 29 goals in his first full NHL season as a member of Stanley-Cup-winning 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks. Burke was, of course, the GM of that team, but he was unable to retain Penner the following season as the Oilers signed him to a ludicrous five-year, $21.25 million offer sheet.

Burke letting Penner go had more to do with his inability to match Edmonton's offer than a lack of confidence in the player. Burke had to love what he saw out of Penner in 2006-07 as he excelled on a line with future stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

It's no secret that Burke loves big players that can score, and when Penner's head is screwed on right, he fits that description perfectly. Perhaps the biggest reasons why Burke would be wise to make a play for Penner are that he likely wouldn't cost much and the commitment would be minimal.

The Kings are currently in seventh place in the Western Conference, so they will surely want to make some moves near the deadline in order to improve their playoff chances. The issue with that, however, is that they have less than $800,000 in cap space, so there aren't many possibilities.

The easiest way for them to open up some room would be to dump Penner's $4.25 million cap hit. With that in mind, Burke could probably get Penner fairly cheaply and certainly wouldn't have to give up a top prospect like Nazem Kadri or Joe Colborne like he might in a higher-profile deal.

On top of that, Penner is an unrestricted free agent following the season, so the Leafs would only be tied to Penner for a couple months. Penner's name may not be as sexy as someone like Getzlaf or Rick Nash, but he is a very realistic option.

Penner is struggling right now, but sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery to kick start a player. It's worth a shot for the Leafs as they may be able to catch lightning in a bottle for the playoff push.