Almost anyone who followed the Penguins this past season would agree that they need better players on their bottom two lines. The regular season struggles of third line center Brandon Sutter could be largely attributed to the carousel of wingers that played alongside him.
Who would better fit the description of a player that could help solve that problem than New York Rangers soon-to-be free agent Benoit Pouliot?
Pouliot was a journeyman player who played for Tampa Bay, Boston, Montreal, and Minnesota prior to having a career season in New York.
His value was apparent during the Rangers trip to the Stanley Cup Finals as he displayed scoring support as well the heart and grit that the Penguins badly need. He is also a big man at 6’3 200 lbs who can skate well. Any team needs a player with these attributes, especially the Penguins.
Pouliot made $1.3 million in 2013/14 and has earned a big raise, so the Penguins new GM Jim Rutherford would have some work to do in order to fit his salary under the cap.
During the Rangers playoff run, Pouliot contributed 5 goals and 5 assists and overcame early regular season struggles to accumulate 15 goals and 21 assists in 80 games.
The Penguins, or any team, would be taking a risk if they signed Pouliot. His career has been disappointing prior to this year and if this season was a fluke, there would be a fair amount of money wasted on a one hit wonder.
The other issue that would possibly impact the Penguins is that Pouliot has a tendency for ill-advised penalties. Pittsburgh already has their own issues with costly penalty minutes, and another PIM contributor could keep them in a situation that they are trying to get out of.
Negatives being what they are, Pouliot was one of the Rangers toughest, and hardest working players. He also has the pedigree after originally being the 4th overall pick in the 2005 draft, just three picks after Sidney Crosby.
There is a very strong chance that Pouliot could re-sign with the Rangers, so the Penguins would have to present a compelling case to lure him away from New York. He also developed into a top-six winger in New York, so he may not be interested in being a 3rd liner in Pittsburgh.
This is a very thin free agent class, and Rutherford himself said that the free agency period wouldn’t be very exciting, but if there is a chance to be taken, Pittsburgh should take a shot at this guy. Surely the third line couldn’t get any worse.
Photo by Sarah Connors flickr.com
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