When the Pittsburgh Penguins were unable to re-sign Jordan Staal, they traded him to the Carolina Hurricanes for Brandon Sutter. Even though they lost a major offensive player, the Penguins are going to have big defensive expectations from their new forward.
There was actually a lot of defensive promise in the trade they made with the Hurricanes.
Along with Sutter, the Penguins acquired defensive prospect Brian Dumoulin and a first-round pick that became Derrick Pouliot.
Dumoulin could evolve into a good two-way defenseman that’s reliable in most situations. Pouliot, on the other hand, has the potential to become another phenomenal offensive blue-liner.
The Penguins will have to wait a little while for those two young defensemen to make an impact. Sutter’s impact will be felt shortly after the lockout ends and the team starts playing again.
It’s no secret the Penguins are an offensively stacked team. Between Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang at the blue line, they won’t be missing Staal’s scoring too much.
That’s not to say Sutter can’t find the back of the net. He scored 21 goals and 40 points with the Hurricanes in 2009-10.
Chances are that he’ll find himself centering Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy on the third line. With them on the wings, Sutter could feasibly surpass his career high of 40 points.
While the Penguins will surely appreciate the third line’s offensive contribution, they’ll be counted on to grind it out with the opposition.
That’s where Sutter’s real value is.
He often plays a shutdown role on the lower lines. That’s not just when he was a Hurricane—he was also trusted as a shutdown center when he played with Canada’s international teams.
Sutter chases after the puck and grinds in a way that stops even the most talented scorers in their tracks.
With his ability to read plays, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Sutter killing penalties. They won’t expect him to score shorthanded like Staal, but they’ll definitely depend on him to derail the offense.
As versatile a player he is this early in his career, Sutter is almost guaranteed to grow into an even more valuable depth player.
Adding more defensively oriented forwards to the mix will make the Penguins a better team come playoff time. Scoring is nice and all, but the Penguins need a sound game on both sides of the ice to win the Stanley Cup.
The Penguins won’t be expecting a lot from just Sutter—they’ll be looking at their defensive core as a whole.
They answered the issue of defensive depth in the forwards by trading for Sutter. They’ll expect him to shutdown opponents while still scoring every now and again.
This way, their offensive superstars will continue to find twine over and over again while their depth forwards, like Sutter, and blue-liners do their best to hold the other team off the scoreboard.