The Penguins have sent a second-round pick to the Florida Panthers for Jordan Leopold, a 29-year-old UFA-to-be stay-at-home defenseman. Any more hyphenated phrases I can use to describe him? He is also a jack-in-the-box.
I like the move — the Pens get a veteran but not too old boring defenseman, which is exactly what they need, and even though he’s unrestricted this coming offseason, all they gave up was a second round pick, and second round picks basically only exist to be traded at the deadline for Jordan Leopold.
With the deadline looming Wednesday, though, it seems highly likely the Pens are gonna deal a defenseman; even though depth at D is crucial come playoff time, there’s no way they’re gonna go into the postseason with 8 NHL defensemen on their roster (Gonchar, Orpik, Letang, Goligoski, Eaton, McKee, Skoula, Leopold), and they didn’t trade for an unrestricted free agent so they could not play him, so one of two courses of action appears inevitable:
1) The Pens will deal Skoula or McKee to a contending team in the West for a late-round draft pick, just to tidy up the roster.
2) More likely, Letang or Goligoski will be involved in a trade for an impact winger. While the Pens are likely still exploring rental options (I foresee Alexei Ponikarovsky as a more likely and better fit than Ray Whitney), any deal involving Letang or Goligoski would assuredly return a higher-quality forward with more years of team control remaining.
If I had to guess, I’d predict Letang is the most likely to get dealt. He’s a restricted free agent at season’s end, he hasn’t been playing well for the Pens but is still a young offensive defenseman and thus still extremely valuable in a trade, and the Pens could go into the playoffs moderately confident on D with Gonchar, Orpik, Leopold, Eaton, and a more sparingly used Goligoski-McKee pairing (or another deadline-acquired veteran in place of McKee). This isn’t to say Leopold would replace Letang’s contributions, just that Letang would command a decent return in a trade and allow the Pens to redistribute their talent to go into the playoffs with 2 offensive defensemen and 4 stay-at-home types instead of the 3-and-3 that’s been rather shaky the last couple months, plus whichever forward they grab in the Letang deal.
The Pens will assuredly make at least two moves by the deadline Wednesday. I’m predicting a Letang deal for a decent, non-UFA winger, a draft pick or Wilkes-Barre guy for Raffi Torres, and a minor Craig Adams-style pickup (probably to replace Craig Adams, ironically).
Either way, I’m greatly looking forward to Wednesday, my perennial favorite day of sitting on the internet (aka, “The Day TSN.ca Crashes”) with 10 IM windows open, hitting Refresh every two seconds and indulging in rampant speculation til hours after 3 pm actually hits. Malkin and Letang for Kopitar and Jack Johnson? Keep that zany comin’, internet!