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Dustin Penner To The Kings - The Trade Rumor That Won't Die

Photo by Lisa McRitchie, All Rights Reserved.
Photo by Lisa McRitchie, All Rights Reserved.

Like the beat of the old man's heart under the floorboards in Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart", the repetition of the Dustin Penner to the Los Angeles Kings rumors are ever-present, growing and maddening.  A quick search shows just how pervasive this rumor has become.   Reading through the blog posts, message board threads, and tweets is proof that hockey fans treat trade rumors and fake trade proposals like pornography.  The "rumored" (read:  proposed by random fans and executed on Playstation) returns for Penner include:

  • Wayne Simmonds
  • Wayne Simmonds and Colten Teubert
  • Waybe Simmonds and Thomas Hickey
  • Brayden Schenn
  • Colten Teubert and Thomas Hickey
  • Wayne Simmonds and a draft choice
  • Brayden Schenn and Thomas Hickey

The rumors were given a new and greater life by Elliotte Friedman in his weekly column:

There is a feeling around the league that Ales Hemsky (who has concussion issues) and Dustin Penner are available for the right price. Of course, the Oilers need what everyone needs - centremen and defencemen. A healthy Hemsky gets you more than Penner, but there is no doubt Penner's play on a bad Oilers team over the past two years has changed a lot of the negative perceptions about him.

Even the venerable Lowetide thinks "...there's a chance these two teams could do business again on the trade market."

The thing about moving Penner to the Kings is it doesn't make sense for either side if both sides were well-managed organizations.  I can't express the Oilers side of this any better than Pat at Black Dog Hates Skunks already has:

Here's the thing. If management has a very clear idea that either player is definitely not going to sign an extension then they probably have to move them and get something for them but otherwise they need to fullcourt press these guys and get their signatures on paper.

Why? Because when it comes to building a champion there is one model that stands above all others. Its a simple one. Accumulate good players. Keep them. Its what Detroit has been doing for two decades now and in that time period they have six appearances in the Cup Finals, four Stanley Cups and they have been a contender every single year.

Some might argue that Hall and Eberle will step into their roles and I think that absolutely the two kids are going to be outscorers and good for around thirty or more goals apiece but then who replaces those two spots in the lineup?

Emphasis mine.  Pat nails this one - unless management is dead certain they are losing Penner or Ales Hemsky to free agency, trading them is a mistake.  As sexy as prospects are, especially to a fan base already conditioned to accept any move in the name of a rebuild if it brings in prospects, and as salacious as big trades like this are, the Oilers need to retain good players.  They need someone to play tough minutes both on offense and defense.  Trading Penner and Hemsky set back and playoff run at least a year, more likely two years.  Even teams packed with prospects need real NHL players and veterans to play the toughs - Stu MacGregor alone will not bring a Stanley Cup to Edmonton - the CBA ensures this.

From the Kings' perspective, exchanging top-end prospects for a short-term fix makes no sense either.  The core of the Kings roster is either signed long-term or under control through restricted free agency.   At forward, Anze Kopitar is signed for the next five years, Dustin Brown for three.  Wayne Simmonds, Brad Richardson, Andrei Loktionov and Kyle Clifford are all restricted free agents.  On defense, Drew Doughty is still on his entry-level contract and his partner Jack Johnson is signed through the most of the decade.  Matt Greene is sgined for three years and Rob Scuderi is under contract for two.  In goal, Jonathan Quick is signed for two more seasons and Jonathan Bernier is still playing on his entry-level contract.

Essentially, except for Ryan Smyth, the pieces that Los Angeles are in danger of losing are those pieces brought in through trade or free agency and easily replaced through minor trade or free agency.  Michal Handzus, Jarret Stoll, Justin Williams, Marco Sturm, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Willie Mitchell - these types of players are available each year in the free agency market and have become less expensive in the last two years.

The Kings have a core group of prospects in Brayden Schenn, Derek Forbort, Thomas Hickey, Colten Teubert, Vyacheslav Voynov, and Tyler Toffoli who are expected to become impact NHL players.  As the Kings lose the players mentioned above, these prospects should slowly fill those positions not filled through free agency.  The Kings also have a number of boom-or-bust prospects in Maxim Kitsyn, Jordan Weal, Jake Muzzin and Brandon Kozun who should produce at least one regular NHL player.

The Kings have no incentive to wreck their prospect pool to take a shot at a short-term fix.  Because the Kings have long-term contracts in place, there is no short-term "window" closing on their hopes and no reason to make an immediate move to keep that window open.  However, all of this is moot if the Oilers allow themselves to lose a Penner trade - Simmonds straight up, or Simmonds and a pick, for example - in which the Kings don't have to lose impact players.