The other day Penguins GM Jim Rutherford continued his “re-tool” of the Penguins by trading away, fan scape-goat, Brandon Sutter and a Conditional 2016 3rd Round Draft pick for (F)Nick Bonino, (D)Adam Clendening and a 2016 2nd Round Draft Pick.
On the same day GMJR also signed veteran forward Eric Fehr for a very reasonable 3 year $6 million deal.
July 28th was a BIG day for the Penguins organization this year. Maybe not as big as July 1st when they acquired Phil Kessel but these moves have exponentially improved a Penguins team that many still had doubts about.
In this article you will find the opinions on the Sutter trade by those who contribute to The PIT Blog.
Spencer J. Warner
When I first learned of this trade I was ecstatic. I didn’t think GMJR could pull it off. I like Brandon Sutter, he’s a decent player but unfortunately he comes with a high price tag. Maybe he’ll excel in Vancouver playing a bigger role but he just wasn’t what the Pens needed. Bonino comes to the Penguins having 88 points over the last two season and comes with a price tag of 1.9M. Can’t beat that. Sutter on the other hand had 59 points over the last 2 seasons while serving as a possession anchor. During that span, Sutter had 9 more games played. This trade not only brought the Pens a solid defense prospect in Clendening but they also upgraded a draft pick in the process.
A lot of Sutter’s supporters will lean towards his 21 goals and solely use that as evidence that’s he’s useful. Looking at the HERO charts of both Bonino and Sutter it’ll show you that Bonino is better than Sutter offensively. Ryan Wilson says its great, “Bonino isn’t a possession darling, but he’s still way better than Sutter”. Bonino also comes to the Penguins with experience on the PK. He led all Canuck players with SH TOI last season. The season before that he was 3rd on the Ducks.
While it remains to be seen how the Penguins perform, on paper they vastly improved. With a little luck from the Hockey Gods the Penguins could be back to legit Stanley Cup contenders. GMJR has done a good job fixing the roster mess Shero left the team in. A ‘Re-build on the fly’. I’m ready for the season to start….
“My opinion on Brandon Sutter should be clear. If not, check out my two big articles I wrote about Sutter and his performances: (Brandon Sutter by comparison: The plain hard truth & Brandon Sutter by comparison: The Plain hard truth hasn’t changed)
So what does the Brandon Sutter trade really mean? – In my opinion, with this trade + the signing of Eric Fehr, the Penguins entirely became serious Stanley Cup contenders, again. Penguins management finally realized, that constructing a roster doesn’t have to be difficult when you already have all the hard core pieces (Crosby/Malkin/Letang). It’s all about depth, true depth – skilled forwards throughout the lineup, not a single “gritty” unskilled player is needed in order to be successful during the playoffs!!! Take a look at the Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning!
So again, the Pittsburgh Penguins put themselves back into the conversation for the Stanley Cup. Hats off Jim Rutherford, what an off-season so far!
P.S. Rutherford is a Rob Scuderi trade away from an entirely perfect offseason! Stay tuned!”
Frequently, when fans evaluate trades, the temptation is to always judge the success of the deal by what “assets” are added. Frequently however, the acquisition component is just one part of the story. After spending three seasons in Pittsburgh, Brandon Sutter will be missed in some respects. He did have some great benefits. Most noticeably is Sutter’s durability throughout his 209 regular season games and his 33 playoffs games. Since the 2009-2010 season, the Penguins have led the league in total games lost of all teams in the NHL. During that time, Brandon missed just one game during the three seasons. When it comes to being an “iron man” for the Pens over the past three seasons, Sutter’s durability is unparalleled. However, General Manager’s must make conscious decisions about players on a comprehensive basis and how each players performance is measured across the board.
Moving Sutter and his 3.3 million dollar salary allows the Penguins to add much needed depth that they have not been able to achieve during those years taking into consideration all factors. Over those 209 regular season games, Sutter had .373 (ppg) points per game. Meanwhile, Eric Fehr who was signed as an UFA (the same day as the Sutter trade) and is projected to take over that 3rd line center position, was able to play 189 games during that same three year period with 81 points which means he had .428 ppg. During this time Fehr played 21 games in Europe for HPK, a team in Finland (not included in statistics). The icing on the cake is the fact that Bonino who was obtained for Sutter from Vancouver, during the same 3 year period was able to score 101 points in 179 games which is an impressive .564 ppg! He did this with the Ducks and Cunuck,s both formidable teams in the west. Clearly, this is just one aspect but it gives a good indicator of a player’s value. While Sutter proved to be a true “iron-man,” his value and production was well short of his 3.3M salary in comparison to Fehr’s 1.2M salary for the same period. Further, Bonino currently earns just 1.9M. Sometimes you add to your team by taking a simple step of subtraction first!
One added point that needs to be factored in when evaluating the Sutter trade is the system that Head Coach Michael Johnston requires a puck possession focus. Nothing can torpedo this more than turnovers. As we know, turnovers often lead to agonizing goals against. Just last season, Sutter had a +/- turnover rate of +8 while Fehr had a +27 and Bonino had +30! This means that both of the players are far better at puck possession because they do not turn-over the puck. This will prove to be a massive difference that will provide Coach Johnston with the ability to reduce the overall turnover rate and improve true scoring opportunities because they possess the puck. This is one area the Pens had to change if they are genuinely committed to a puck possession game. The addition of Fehr and Bonino was a move that the Pens desperately need! Just one more example of “addition by subtraction.”
By subtracting #16 from the Penguins roster, Jim Rutherford & team was able to reallocate scarce dollars towards building much needed depth on the 4th line. Factoring in Fehr’s new salary of 2.0M for three years allows the Pens to use the difference of 1.3M for team depth. This was quickly allocated by obtaining Bonino for a cool 600,000 more! An absolutely stellar move! The Pens throwing in a #3 pick is of small consequence. The ice cream on top of the cake and icing is the promising 22 yr old Defenseman Adam Clendening and a 2nd round draft pick! It was a spectacularly brilliant move. The added depth will prove to pay great dividends by using the simple step of addition by subtraction.
Even after the HUGE trade that brought Phil Kessel to the Penuins in early July I was still a bit skeptical and worried about this Penguins team. I knew the cap was a bit of an issue for the Penguins and realized if anything else could happen to improve the team a player or multiple players would have to be dealt to get anything done. Kunitz, Sutter and Scuderi were all on my list to be moved.
While Sutter has his upside he has never panned out like many hoped he would while playing for the Penguins. Was it lack of talent surrounding him or was it his inability to play in the role the team needed him to? At this point I can’t be too sure on that, but it is better that Sutter and the Penguins have now moved on in different directions.
This brings me to who the Penguins acquired, (F)Nick Bonino and (D)Adam Clendening. Bonino, in a sense, is Sutter’s replacement, his advance stats (more specifically his hero chart) show he is a big improvement over Sutter. His $1.9 million cap hit was welcomed when compared to Sutter’s $3.3 million cap hit. While looking at this trade, as it is, Bonino would be an excellent 3rd line center for the Penguins. However GMJR didn’t stop with the trade, he also signed veteran forward Eric Fehr to a reasonable 3 year $6 million deal. By signing Fehr Rutherford has solidified the Penguins Center position for the next Two seasons. Just look at the Center depth Crosby, Malkin, Fehr, Bonino and Sundqvist. Pretty insane, maybe it’s time for fans to start talking about the 5 Center model (ha!).
All-in-all the Sutter trade has proven JR’s abilities as a GM when given appropriate resources (unlike what he had in Carolina). This Penguins team is far superior, on paper, than any Penguins team that we have seen in a long time. So I say get excited for the coming season and realize that Lord Stanley’s Cup is not out of Reach.
Thanks for Reading!
– The PIT Blog – since February 2015.
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