Is Eric Tangradi Ready To Play for the Pittsburgh Penguins?

Don AndrascikContributor IOctober 3, 2010

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 01: Brent Seabrook #7 of the Chicago Blackhawks knocks the puck away from Eric Tangradi #42 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during a pre-season game at the United Center on October 1, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Penguins 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

When Penguins GM Ray Shero traded Ryan Whitney to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forwards Chris Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi in February of 2009, a lot of NHL analysts claimed that Shero made off like a bandit.  A top-six forward and a highly rated forward prospect in exchange for a top-four defensemen, sounds familiar doesn’t it?

That was what Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke was rumored to be looking to get in exchange for Tomas Kaberle this past summer.  

Chris Kunitz proved that maybe an even swap could have been a sufficient enough deal.  Look at how he contributed to the Penguins’ Stanley Cup Championship in 2009.  Once Kunitz was traded to Pittsburgh, he managed to accumulate 18 points (7-11-18) in 20 games in the regular season.  He then posted 14 points (1-13-14) in 24 playoff games before lifting the Stanley Cup.  

Last season we watched Kunitz struggle due to injury. Make no mistake he compliments Sidney Crosby very well on the top line.  When he doesn’t accumulate points, he’s doing all the dirty work battling along the boards, mucking it up in the corners and being smart with the puck.

Basically, Kunitz came to Pittsburgh and proved he could contribute in a number of ways.  So, one has to question why Tangradi was thrown in to the trade.  Was it because Anaheim thought that Tangradi would be so good that his cap hit wouldn’t fit in their future plans?  Or did someone in the organization think that Tangradi wasn’t going to cut it at the NHL level and wanted to sweeten the deal?

These are legitimate questions to ask given the fact that even though Tangradi looks better than he did at this time last year, there is still something lacking in his game.  Is it confidence?  Is it awareness?  Could it be a combination of both?  

Don’t forget that Tangradi only posted 39 points (17-22-39) in 65 games with Wilkes-Barre Scranton last season.  He netted two points (1-1-2) in 4 playoff games as well.  To be fair his season was riddled with injuries, but a player that supposed to possess the skills to be a top-6 winger in the NHL should be averaging a point a game in the minors.  

So what do the Penguins do with Tangradi?

He may dodge a bullet and get to remain with the team if Aaron Asham’s upper body injury turns out to be serious.  If not, it would be wise to send Tangradi down to Wilkes-Barre Scranton to start the season.  This way the opportunity to give him a lot more ice time and get some confidence back in his game, will benefit him in a lot of ways.

In 2008-2009, Tangradi posted 88 points (38-50-88) in 55 games with the Belleville Bulls of the OHL.  It shows he has a scoring touch, but so did Max Talbot in juniors.  My point is that Tangradi needs to post those types of numbers in the AHL before he plays regular shifts in the NHL.  This way it proves that he has the skills to become a top-6 winger that will contribute on a nightly basis.  Thirty-nine points in 65 games just doesn’t cut it.  

It remains to be seen what will happen with Tangradi and if he remains on the big team in four days, it’s not the worst thing that can happen.  Hopefully Coach Bylsma has him penciled in for some decent game minutes because he’s going to need to see a good amount of ice time in order to become productive.  

He has the potential to crash the net, put pucks in the net and be a force to be reckoned with.  Until I see that type of play consistently, I am not convinced he is ready yet.  He will be, it just may not be this season.  Only time will tell and he’s got one more preseason game left in Detroit to make a lasting impression on the coaching staff.