The Pittsburgh Penguins are preparing a revolutionary fourth line for the 2015-16 season. It will be Beau Bennett on the left, centered by Beau Bennett with Beau Bennett on the right side too.
And he does not even have a new contract yet.
Kidding aside, the Penguins are searching for a fourth line center and have been for quite some time. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s staff reported back on July 2 that the Penguins were in the market for a No. 4 center. This is because they have only one player who looks to play on the fourth line under contract.
It was also confirmed that Maxim Lapierre would be moving on from the Penguins and that loss is minimal. An internal option that is available is Oskar Sundqvist, but we’re previously discussed why expectations should be tempered for the rookie.
But general manager Jim Rutherford has given a vote of confidence for Sundqvist and told Dave Molinari and Jenn Menendez this:
We may or may not do something immediately, it depends on whether we think the right guy is there in free agency for different reasons. If not, we’ll just be patient. The ideal candidate is a guy that can kill penalties and is good on faceoffs and is good in the room. Sundqvist is a very strong candidate. He had a good camp and he’s not far away. But even if we got a center and Oskaer’s ready to go, we’ll just move one of them to the wing. I don’t want to close the door on Oskar. He’s going to be a real good player.
There’s a lot of information in there; let’s dissect it and see what Rutherford truly means.
Since Rutherford spoke on this topic a few days ago, and that’s an eternity in NHL free agency, it seems they’re opting to be patient. From what Rutherford has said it appears that the Penguins are going to give Sundqvist the first chance at the fourth-line center spot and watch him closely at their development camp.
It seems that if the Penguins are impressed, or at least satisfied, with what they see from Sundqvist, they will move into the season with him filling that role. But if he fails to meet their expectations, don’t be surprised if a free agent center is signed rather quickly.
If Rutherford truly does want “four lines that can score” here’s a combination that fits his desire. Conor Sheary at left-wing, Sundqvist at center and Beau Bennett on the right-wing.
We’ve discussed Sheary before and are among the few who see a very legitimate NHL potential in the undersized forward. In theory, this line is made up of three forwards capable of scoring, killing penalties and playing in just about any situation. Well, Sheary and Sundqvist can kill penalties, Bennett is not really built to do so.
Assuming that Sundqvist does not prove to be ready, there are still free agent centers who could fill that role.
But the two who look to be the most likely to join the Penguins are Eric Fehr and Mike Santorelli. Both are effective bottom-six centers and although their perceived asking price might be higher than the Penguins are able to go, given their salary cap constraints, the longer the offseason goes and they do not have a contract, the lower their asking price will fall.
Development camp is going to be crucial for Sundqvist and we’ll know shortly if he is NHL ready or if a free agent is coming to the Penguins.