Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders

Darren Dreger: Penguins might want to trade Malkin instead of Staal if necessary


Depending on plenty of factors – especially a new CBA and all that entails – the Pittsburgh Penguins’ much-touted center trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal might just become a dynamic duo. So which one would you let go if you had to decide as their contracts are set to expire (Crosby and Staal’s in 2013, Malkin’s in 2014)?

Plenty of people will add their two cents on this subject, but few carry the weight of TSN’s Darren Dreger, who thought long and hard about pegging Malkin instead of Staal in this radio interview. After complimenting Malkin’s regular season dominance, he wasn’t so sure about how he played against the Philadelphia Flyers in round one.

“For the most part, he wasn’t engaged; he wasn’t invested,” Dreger said. “[Which] Evgeni Malkin are you getting?”

For what it’s worth, here are the three centers full stats from the series:

Staal: six goals, three assists for nine points, +2, 49.5 percent on faceoffs
Malkin: three goals, five assists for eight points, -1, 52.7 percent on faceoffs
Crosby: three goals, five assists for eight points, -3, 54.8 percent on faceoffs

Perhaps Geno had an off game or three, but his stats are remarkably similar to the two other star centers who seemed to mostly get praise or neutral reviews. We can agree to disagree, but I’d say that it’s probably safer to judge Malkin on his all-world-Crosby-included 2011-12 regular season rather than his still pretty decent series. (Which, by the way, was wacky enough to be pretty unreliable from an “assessment” standpoint.)

Get rid of bad contracts instead

The radio interview also features a bit that hopefully will come to GM Ray Shero’s mind well before he considers trading franchise cornerstones: the Penguins basically have $9 million in poorly spent cap room invested in struggling defensemen Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek. There will also be plenty of players who will come off the cap.

The Penguins can’t bury Martin’s regrettable deal in the minors thanks to his no-movement clause (thanks to Nick Case), but perhaps they can rid themselves of his deal or Michalek’s if the league provides an “amnesty” window after the next CBA goes through. Even if that doesn’t happen, they’ll likely get a chance to trade away cap fat instead of breaking up their core.

After all, if you can trade Scott Gomez and Brian Campbell’s contracts, chances are you can fit Staal, Malkin and Crosby under the same cap ceiling.


That being said, let me ask: if you had to get rid of one of the three – with all things considered – who would you let go? (I’d vote for Staal.)

Bruins’ second line officially goes under the microscope

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While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.

Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson
Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly
Chris KellyJoonas KemppainenZac Rinaldo

The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.

So, where is Krejci’s game now?

Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.

So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?

On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.

So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?

“It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”

Lucic: If I wanted to hurt Couture, ‘I would have hurt him’


Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.

Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.

This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.

“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”

While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”

And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.

Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.

In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.

Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks