Chris Kunitz: No Savior for the Pittsburgh Penguins

John BuecheleContributor IFebruary 27, 2009

Ray Shero couldn't resist. 

Looking to give the Pens the spark needed to surge into the playoffs, Shero pulled the trigger and dealt Ryan Whitney to Anaheim for Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi. 

My first thought upon hearing of the trade was that Shero made an unnecessary trade. 

I don't like when teams make trades just for the sake of making a trade.  The Pens have struggled since late November and are currently on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. 

It's no secret that Shero has been looking for a winger to play with Crosby for a while now, since it is safe to say Miroslav Satan has been a disappointment since being signed in the offseason. 

However, Kunitz is no Marian Hossa, and if Pens fans expect the offensive and defensive domination they were accustomed to seeing from Hossa last year, they will be sorely disappointed.

It is difficult to predict whether or not the acquisition of Kunitz will propel the Penguins to the playoffs.  Kunitz will help, but he is not the answer to all the team's problems.  This is still the same team that lacks the necessary solid role players, and that is not something you can fix with a trade. 

Kunitz is not going to make up for the loss of Jarkko Ruutu, Adam Hall, Georges Laraque, Ryan Malone, and Gary Roberts.  They still lack the secondary scoring they enjoyed last year.  Fleury is still playing like a wide-eyed rookie. 

Because of the trade, the Pens may win another game or two that they wouldn't have won, but what's the point?  Why deal a solid, young, defenseman who has four more years in his contract for a player who might help the team secure the seventh or eighth seed in the conference? 

I could understand if they were making a push for the top seed or a division championship, but this trade seems to have been born out of panic or pressure or both.

I don't want to totally dismiss this trade as ridiculous because Kunitz does bring some good things to the table.  He will definitely be an upgrade over Satan on the wing.  He has good speed and stick-handling, and also brings a certain physical aspect to the top line. 

Also, Kunitz has three years left in his contract, so the Penguins will not be "renting" him, as they did with Hossa last season. 

The Pens also got an exciting, young prospect in Tangradi.  Playing with the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League, he already has 87 points.

The question with Tangradi is, "Where exactly does he fit?"  The Pens already have three centers locked up with long-term contracts. 

I may be getting ahead of myself, but perhaps they are planning on grooming Tangradi as a possible replacement for Jordan Staal, if he continues to struggle.  In any case, it will be interesting to see how both Kunitz and Tangradi perform wearing black and gold. 

One thing is certain, though—the Penguins still have many holes on a team that has been an undeniable disappointment this season.  Pens fans should not expect to see a miraculously different team down the stretch.