The Assists and the One-Timers

As the NHL season rolls on, I am hoping to make this a semi-regular feature here.

What is this exactly?

Good question, theoretical reader in my head. This is the Assists and the One-Timers. The Assists will (hopefully) be me answering questions from you good folks that got suckered into reading these posts. They will hopefully be Pens-related (or even NHL-related), and will be thought-provoking, and will allow me to interact with all you great folks who take the time to read this regularly. The One-Timers, as you might imagine, are a bunch of short thoughts about the Pens and the NHL that really aren’t worthy of long-form thoughts. Hopefully, this goes as well in practice as I believe it will in theory.

Let’s give it a whirl.

The Assists

How long until (Paul) Martin is traded for a top-six forward? And who might that forward be? -Tim (@tstough)

Great question. Paul Martin is the Penguin most likely to be traded at this point for a top-six forward. He has many things about him that point to this outcome: He is in the last year of his contract, he is a “Bylsma guy”, his cap hit is large (five million dollars), he is somewhat redundant on the roster, and he does not seem to want to stay with the team beyond this season. That would seemingly mean that he will be dealt before the trade deadline. How much before the deadline, though? That is the big question, and a lot of it depends on things that we cannot foresee, namely the health of the young defensemen in the Penguins system. Derrick Pouliot is rehabbing his shoulder currently, and he likely will need to be healthy and productive in the system for Jim Rutherford to feel comfortable moving Martin. Also, Brian Dumoulin and Scott Harrington need to be healthy and developing as expected for Martin to be expendable. Also, there cannot be a catastrophic injury to Letang, Maatta, Ehrhoff, or Despres in the next few weeks. Martin must remain with the team if any of those bad things were to occur. I don’t expect them to happen, for the record, so I see Martin traded well before the deadline. Gun to my head, I think the week after Christmas will be the time that it happens.

As for the potential return in a trade for Paul Martin, that is a very tough question. The three Western Conference teams that I could see making a move: Minnesota, San Jose, and Vancouver. Radim Vrbata is the likely swap for the Canucks (equal money). Minnesota and San Jose would be a little different. Those teams would need to part with a young top-six guy, and would be hard pressed to do so, unless they were really ready to make a move for the Cup. Minnesota has Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund. San Jose has Tomas Hertl. But man, I can’t see them moving those players.

Also, I don’t see the Pens trading with an Eastern Conference squad.

Have they traded (Marc-Andre) Fleury yet? -Amy (@thenwchica)

I am sure this was meant at least half-jokingly, but I am sure there are some people out there wondering if MAF is going to be dealt this season. Honestly, it’s not happening. Even if there isn’t an extension signed by Fleury during the season, I don’t see him being dealt. He will play out his existing contract, take the team as far as he is capable of, and potentially move on after the year. I am not excited at the possibility of MAF not playing his entire career in Pittsburgh. But if he does leave, it will be after the season, not during.

The One-Timers

-Pascal Dupuis is not human. There is no explanation to how he was able to even skate on his own on Friday. And then HE PLAYED SATURDAY NIGHT. How is that even possible? Like I said, not human.

-The loss to Dallas in the last minute of regulation was a difficult one for the Pens to take. But I loved that they learned from the loss, immediately turned around and held onto a late one-goal lead against the Islanders. A very positive development.

-The Isles game was a “measuring stick” game, as much as the fourth game of the year can be. Very low-risk, high-reward type of game. A loss would have been a learning experience more than anything. But they won, which had to be a confidence boost. Don’t plan the parade. But feel good about the win, for sure.

-The Islanders definitely will be around all season (assuming health for their key guys). Halak instead of Nabokov means a world of difference.

-It was nice to see the PK go perfect against the Isles’ power play, which only trailed the Pens in the rankings. The defensemen on the PK need to be strong against opposing power forwards. They were not against Anaheim. They showed positive signs against the Isles.

-It is nice to have a guy like Steve Downie protecting Sid and Geno for once, instead of driving them nuts four or five nights a year.

-But he does need to be wise when it comes to taking penalties. Not horrible at the moment, but he does need to be careful.

-Patric Hornqvist. Patric Hornqvist! Horny!!! The guy is fantastic, and a perfect fit for the team.

-This is a fun week ahead for the Pens. First matchup against the Flyers, followed by Thomas Greiss’ Pens debut (more than likely) in Detroit Thursday, followed by the Pens’ first game against James Neal since he was dealt to Nashville in June. Three fun games, with some healthy hate mixed in.

-There still may be growing pains coming for the Pens. Do not lose your mind if the team drops 5 of 6 soon. This is a new coach, a new system, and a lot of new faces still. Yes, things have looked great early. But this is not guaranteed to last. Just enjoy the ride. There is a long way to go…