The Washington Capitals are probably all but done in free agency after signing Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen to big deals. However, there is one huge question that still remains to be answered: who will be the Capitals top six forwards? Barry Trotz shed a little light in a recent article, stating that he wants to try Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov at center. Assuming both of them wind up being centers, the Capitals are lacking a left wing. Conveniently, an old friend is still a free agent: Dustin Penner.
But would it be worthwhile to bring him back? Despite what others might think, I’d say yes, it would be worthwhile for several reasons.
- Experience. The Capitals are a relatively inexperienced team, not just in age, but also as far as post-season experience. Dustin Penner is no stranger to the post season. He has been to the playoffs five times in his career and has won two Stanley Cups (one with the Kings, the other with the Ducks). Dustin Penner is a player who could help mentor young guys like Tom Wilson, Kuznetsov, and Johansson.
- The Capitals need a left wing. Currently, Eric Fehr is penciled in to be one of the top 6 forwards. I’m fine with this, as Fehr is an extremely underrated wing who can be efficient on either side of the ice. The other left wing, assuming Johansson and Kuznetsov are both centers, would probably be Brooks Laich. That’s a major problem. Dustin Penner would be a huge upgrade over Laich on the second (or first) line. Forget about his stats with the Capitals last season- Adam Oates had no clue how to properly utilize him. I’m no hockey expert, but I’m pretty sure Penner isn’t a fourth line caliber player. Barry Trotz would better utilize Dustin Penner.
- Physicality: The Capitals are currently lacking a bit in the intimidation/hitting/scrappiness department. Dustin Penner would help change that. Dustin Penner is a physical forward who isn’t afraid to throw his weight around, whether that be on the forecheck or in the defensive zone. He is not afraid to screen goalies and he is a physical presence in the crease.
There is risk involved with Dustin Penner, but at this point, I think if Penner is willing to accept a one year ~$1,500,000 deal, I’d happily take a flyer on him. That would involve having to get rid of Aaron Volpatti in order to facilitate his salary, but it would be more than worth it. Volpatti is at best a fourth line forward. Penner is a proven top six forward. Who would you rather have? That’s what I thought.
As always, let me know what you think in the comments!