Penner Sweepstakes?

Dustin Penner has had an outstanding NHL season. Unique on the entire Oiler roster in that he’s performing at a high level, remaining healthy and is playing a complete game. When we’ve talked about the trade deadline, the names that come up are Moreau, Staios, Pisani and more recently (courtesy Darren Dreger) Sheldon Souray, Robert Nilsson and Andrew Cogliano.

These are interesting pieces but unlikely to bring a strong return. Even Andrew Cogliano (who has averaged 16 goals per 82 games in his NHL career) isn’t going to get a “100 cents on the dollar” return despite being 23-years old.

The fact is the Oilers don’t really have a lot of value to trade this year. From the blue, Souray and Visnovsky have struggled with injury and Gilbert and Grebeshov have struggled full stop. They’re pure chaos in goal and up front Horcoff isn’t close to covering the bet and the kids are miles from truly helping a winner.

WHY would the Oilers trade Penner? It’s a tough sell, I’ll give you that much. Penner rules the boxcars and the new math would built a monument if it could, in fact #27 leads pretty much all the important categories at this time: Goals, Assists, Points, Plus-Minus, ES goals, PP goals, shots on goal, time-on-ice for forwards, Corsi, 5×5 points-per-60 and on it goes. He does not lead in quality of competition (Horcoff) or quality of team (Gagner).

WHY would the Oilers trade Penner? Two reasons:

  1. Rebuilding: Penner makes 4.25M and is a UFA in summer 2012, and so is likely to spend two seasons in Edmonton during what we can probably agree is going to be a complete rebuild. Right? MPS and Eberle join Taylor Hall next fall and the Oilers maybe move Hemsky at the deadline in 2011 and flush 2006 (almost) completely. This isn’t something the Oilers can avoid, they’d need to be Superman and go back to 2006 summer. No use wasting these big seasons on a team that can’t get it done.
  2. Selling High: Unlike Souray (who has value but injuries are taking their toll), Dustin Penner’s arrows are all pointed in the right direction. He’s the team leader in runs, hits, rbi’s, home runs, OBP, SP and is a smart baserunner.

If this team had a slight chance of turning this mess around in a calendar year then it wouldn’t make sense, but the fact is that both Penner and Hemsky will be “in the window” of free agency by the time this club gets good (or a goalie).

Which teams would be interested? Pretty much everyone with a puncher’s chance at going deep in the playoffs. Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Los Angeles, the list is extremely long. The return? A mixture of young NHLers and first round picks. The key to the deal would be an established, young NHL player who is miles from unrestricted free agency. St. Louis just made a change, has cap room and some nice young assets (Oshie, Perron, etc) that might come in trade for Dustin Penner.

Call it a modern scorched earth policy, call it starting over again, call it whatever you want. The fact remains that the Oilers have a few contracts that need to burn before they can get better, and there aren’t enough Penner’s and Hemsky’s on the roster to hold back the tide. They can hope for the Gagner’s and Cogliano’s to develop but if the club ends up with Hall (or Seguin) at the draft this summer you’re waiting two more years to get the party started.

Something to ponder.

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