The Penguins lost another defenseman on Friday when Mark Eaton signed a two year, $5 million deal with the New York Islanders. With most of their available cap space used up when they signed Paul Martin and Zbynek Machalek, and the need to sign at least one forward, the Penguins will have to look to their farm system for help.
Eaton played four mediocre seasons with the Penguins. During his time in Steeltown, Eaton averaged 55 games, eight points, a plus-2 rating and just over 19 minutes per game. These stats suggest he was nothing more than a depth defenseman with little upside.
Enter Ben Lovejoy.
The 6 foot 2, 215 pound Lovejoy, an undrafted free agent signing by the Penguins in 2008, has spent the last two seasons with the Penguins AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. During his time there, Lovejoy has made quite a name for himself. He took part in the 2009 AHL All-Star game for Planet USA and competed in the hardest shot competition, where he clocked just over 92 MPH.
If Lovejoy makes the big club, he can provide the Penguins with some offensive punch and responsibility on the back end. In the minors, he was second in defensemen scoring on the WBS Penguins last season with nine goals and 20 assists.
During his 12 game stint last season, Lovejoy averaged just over 17 minutes per game and had a plus/minus rating in the negatives only once. He also chipped in with three assists.
Lovejoy also uses his size to his advantage, recording a respectable 92 penalty minutes last season with the Baby Penguins.
Couple the points above with the fact that most scouts love how mobile he is, and I, for one, am very excited to see what he can bring to the Penguins in the upcoming season.
If his Simpsons namesake is any indication, the results could be quite intriguing!