Eric Godard has outlived his usefulness for the Pittsburgh Penguins
Monday morning, the Pittsburgh Penguins demoted forward Eric Tangradi and defenseman Andrew Hutchinson to their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, PA.
With winger Arron Asham and blue line mainstay Brooks Orpik both returning to health and Tangradi and Hutchinson able to be reassigned without passing through the waiver process, the roster move made perfect sense from a logistical standpoint.
From a hockey perspective, Hutchinson is a spare part at this point in his young career and could use more playing time at the AHL level, as could the rangy Tangradi, who will undoubtedly bring his power forward profile back to Pittsburgh at some time in the near future.
The decisions figure to be more difficult for the Penguins brass in the coming weeks. Free agent prize and rock-solid defenseman Zbynek Michalek is rehabbing an injured shoulder and will be available for head coach Dan Bylsma sooner rather than later, likely pushing either Deryk Engelland or Ben Lovejoy to the bench.
But while that decision will likely fall primarily to the coaching staff, general manager Ray Shero could have a serious deliberation on his hands when Selke Trophy finalist Jordan Staal returns to his familiar center position after fighting off a persistent foot infection.
While Evgeni Malkin converting to wing gave Shero a little more flexibility with his center-heavy forward group than he had in previous years, the fact remains that an NHL veteran will be the odd man out upon Staal's re-entry to the active roster.
So who will it be? Steady fourth-liner Craig Adams hasn't scored a regular-season goal in nearly two years but is a significant contributor to the Pittsburgh penalty kill and has been entrusted to win crucial faceoffs in such situations. He's safe for now, although he's only under contract through this season.
Mike Comrie has skated for five NHL teams in the last six seasons and has already been a healthy scratch once in the season's opening month. However, he is one of the few Penguins forwards outside of the Sidney Crosby-Malkin duo who has big-league hands and an evolved offensive mind.
The smart money is on his continuing to get minutes on the top two lines for at least a few more weeks before Bylsma and/or Shero pull the plug permanently.
Max Talbot has struggled to regain his 2008-09 form, but the goodwill from his Stanley Cup star turn should sustain him for at least another month or two. Pascal Dupuis brings twin elements of speed and tenacity, providing energy to the club on a nightly basis.
Tyler Kennedy hasn't impressed in the past calendar year, but his young legs can be bought at a reasonable price in the offseason, as he is a restricted free agent. Mike Rupp's large frame, toughness and decent scoring touch near the net make him more valuable than one might think.
Rupp's presence on the team gives him the advantage over the low man on the totem pole, at least to this writer's eyes. That unfortunate forward is Eric Godard, currently playing out the final season of a three-year deal that pays him $750,000 annually. Brought in by Shero to be the Penguins' resident "goon," Godard has only dressed for three out of Pittsburgh's first nine games after playing about half the schedule last season.
The seemingly perpetual debate over the value of fighting and single-faceted "goons" will rage on, but no matter how one feels about fisticuffs, Godard is expendable on the Penguins and should be waived upon Staal's return.
Roughly the same height and weight as Godard, the 6'5", 230-pound Rupp can bring all the intimidation with the added bonus of actual hockey talent. To wit, Rupp has tallied 74 points in 425 career NHL games, while Godard's hands of stone have only produced 15 points in about 100 fewer contests.
Also, the Cleveland-born Rupp can play center or wing, although he is admittedly limited in the former role by his sloth-like skating prowess.
Despite his speed deficiency, of which Godard shares, Rupp should remain on the roster when Staal can take his rightful place on the Penguins' second line with Malkin, as was planned this summer. Rupp demonstrates significant snarl while delivering offensive production well outside Godard's reach.
Simply put, the "goon" should be gone.