As the 2010 NHL Draft approaches, the trading appears to be picking up. As Jaroslav Halak, Dan Hamhuis and Jason Arnott have already been dealt, the fun appears to be only beginning.
As teams look to fill needs or cut payroll, the continuing rumor mill will only grow bigger and faster. How many players will be dealt before the draft even begins?
- D Brent Sopel
- F Andrew Ladd (RFA rights)
- C Dustin Jeffrey
This is a deal that could help each of the last two Stanley Cup Champions return to the promised land while accomplishing some of the offseason objectives of both franchises.
Why would these two teams make this trade? Let's examine the deal from the perspective of both organizations.
The Penguins have only three defensemen under contract and are trying to find a way to keep Sergei Gonchar, but they need help on the blue line. While they could certainly jump on the Anton Volchenkov bandwagon and overpay for a guy with a similar skillset to Sopel, the Pens have a number of young defensemen coming up that might make a longer-term deal with a free agent a bad idea.
Sopel isn't going to shock anyone with his speed, but he was a solid defensive player for the Blackhawks this year. Especially in the postseason, Sopel's greatest value was on the PK and blocking shots; he isn't the guy that was once a point specialist on Vancouver's power play, but he'll willingly take a puck to the body two or three times a night.
Sopel has just one year left with a cap number of $2.3M, which would fit well into Pittsburgh's cap space while not obligating them to a deal that's longer than they need. Sopel would be a perfect rental for the Pens.
In Ladd the Pens might be able to find a power forward to play next to Evgeni Malkin. Ladd can skate well, has a good shot and is willing to get physical in corners, and could be a good compliment to either Malkin or Jordan Staal. He's a restricted free agent, but is eligible for arbitration.
At 24, and with two rings, Ladd could be a great addition to Pittsburgh's young group of forwards.
Both Ladd and Sopel meet the needs of the Penguins, and the total cost for the two could be around $5M next year.
Jeffrey is a nice prospect, but considering the needs of the Pens and that Jeffrey will never be better than a fourth line center behind Sidney Crosby, Malkin and Staal, using him to fill two needs makes sense.
The Blackhawks need to move some payroll off the 2010-11 books, and can't afford to bring back Ladd. This would accomplish moving Sopel's $2.3M off the books and would bring value back for a free agent the Hawks won't be able to bring back.
Jeffrey is a big 22-year-old (6-3, 200) who scored 71 points (24 G, 47 A) in 77 AHL games last year. The Blackhawks have been loading up at the center position recently, adding two European free agents and signing 2009 draft choice Marcus Kruger to an entry level deal this past week. Adding Jeffrey would bring more organizational depth to the table for the Blackhawks.
Chicago has done a good job of drafting or trading for young defensemen and developing them in the last few years, but don't have a lot of top-tier forward talent on the rise. Other than Kyle Beach, Kruger and maybe Akim Aliu, the Hawks certainly don't have the depth up front that they do on the blue line.
Jeffrey has 15 games of NHL experience under his belt, but could buy the Hawks some time if Kruger needs a season in Rockford before coming to Chicago (which he does).
The Blackhawks would clear some cap space and bring back a good young center. The Penguins would add a solid defenseman and a power forward that could be a good fit with any of their three elite centers. This deal works well for both teams.
Could it happen?