The Penguins have been making some big moves over the past few days, trading Brandon Sutter and signing Eric Fehr. The former Washington Capital has harassed the Penguins for the last few seasons and if you can’t beat em, sign their players. This is now the fourth player to switch teams between Washington and Pittsburgh. The three before him were Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and Taylor Chorney who all joined the Capitals.
Now the Penguins have begun to return the favor as they signed Fehr to a three-year, $6 million dollar contract.
The #Pens have agreed to terms with forward Eric Fehr to a three-year contract. Details: http://t.co/TSZq7YPte7 pic.twitter.com/7DzNyYIX1q
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) July 28, 2015
Not only is Fehr a better player than the guy he could replace, Sutter, but he’s a lot more versatile too. That versatility is key and why this addition is extremely good for the future of the Penguins.
Why is Fehr’s versatility something to be applauded when his underlying numbers are so good? Consider who the Penguins got in return for Sutter from the Vancouver Canucks. They acquired center Nick Bonino, who’s known for playing an offense-first game.
Fehr can, and has, played all three forward positions and it looks like he will help to solidify the Penguins third or fourth line center spot and that’s why his versatility is extremely important. He’s a big body, standing at 6’4″ and 212 pounds, and he’s capable of working the penalty kill the power play and skating on both wings. Despite how flawed the plus/minus statistic is, Fehr’s been a plus-49 skater throughout his career, and considering he plays in the bottom-six, it’s quite an impressive feat.
He is not without concerns as well. It should be known that Fehr is coming off of elbow surgery and most likely will not be ready to start the season. His surgery was on June 3 and the doctors have given him a recovery window of 4-6 months, so don’t expect to see him in the opening night lineup.
If the Penguins want to give prospect Oskar Sundqvist a chance as their fourth-line center, Fehr can move to a wing and Bonino will center the third line. Whichever way you slice it, the Penguins are starting to have a lot of viable forward depth. This could be the deepest team that Pittsburgh has sent to the ice in many years.
Both Fehr and Bonino are great depth forwards and the best part is that when combined they only earn $600,000 more than Sutter did against the salary cap, which the Penguins are about $167,000 away from already.
#Pens have $167K in cap space after Fehr signing and Bonino trade. Fehr ($2M) can be placed on LTIR if necessary: http://t.co/rp0umLgmDD
— Mike Colligan (@MikeColligan) July 28, 2015
There’s no question that the Penguins are going to make some moves to get under the cap, especially when you consider the five-defensemen fiasco at the end of last season. However, they have turned one 20-goal scorer, into two 20-goal scorers.
The Penguins are turning a corner and it’s safe to say this is no longer former general manager Ray Shero’s team. Gone are players like Craig Adams, Robert Bortuzzo, Marcel Goc, Brian Gibbons and Zach Sill and their replacements are quite a bit better.
For the first time in the last few years, there’s a reason to be excited about hockey in Pittsburgh once again. The narrative has been broken and the organization is finally starting to make smart hockey moves.