PITTSBURGH -- After almost four years without having earned regular NHL work with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, Eric Tangradi will be given a chance elsewhere.
Tangradi, the 6-4, 221-pound winger who long has tantalized the Penguins with his size and apparent skill, was dealt to the Winnipeg Jets for a seventh-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft on Wednesday.
"He didn't ask for a trade or anything like that," Penguins general manager Ray Shero said before his team played the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night. "But he was getting scratched, and this was an opportunity for him to stay in the NHL.
"(The Jets) will put him right on their team and maybe we'll see him Friday (when the Penguins play in Winnipeg). He was a younger player; he needs to play. He wasn't in our plans moving forward, it would seem. So I think it's the right thing to do."
Tangradi, who turned 24 Sunday, opened the season in the highly-coveted spot as the left wing on a line with reigning Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin and reigning 40-goal scorer James Neal. But Tangradi did not produce a point in five games this season, eventually being demoted to the fourth line -- and then scratched altogether for the past eight games.
He was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks along with winger Chris Kunitz for defenseman Ryan Whitney in a 2009 Deadline Day deal. With Kunitz as their top-line left winger, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup four months later.
They long viewed Tangradi, a 2007 second-round pick, as a potential winger for either of their all-world centers, Malkin or Sidney Crosby. That never materialized, though. Over his four years in the organization, Tangradi produced one goal and four assists in 45 games at the NHL level (plus an assist in three Stanley Cup playoff contests).
"I don't know if it's going to be a top-six role for him (in the NHL); it might be a bottom-six," Shero said. "He just needs time and opportunity to find his confidence at the NHL level and see if he can find a role, not unlike all young players... It just seemed like there was some guys who were passing him by maybe, so it's a confidence thing with a young player and hopefully for him it will work out and a fresh start will be good for him."
The question lingers: Who will skate with Malkin and Neal? The past two weeks, that's been Zach Boychuk, who was claimed on waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes Jan. 31. He's had no points in six games playing mostly on Malkin's wing, though, and through the first period Wednesday, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was rotating wingers for Malkin.
"We'll see how it goes; we'll mix and match a little bit to try to find the right fit," Shero said. "Guys will move around and we'll leave that up to the coach, obviously, but up until the deadline, we'll always be looking to improve the roster."
One option -- Beau Bennett. Pittsburgh's first-round pick in 2010 has 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) in 35 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League in his first season as a pro. Bennett was in Consol Energy Center Wednesday, and Shero said it was because he was being evaluated by team doctors after a recent injury.
With the Penguins holding an empty NHL roster spot, could Bennett be staying in Pittsburgh longer than just for a doctor's visit?
"I'll have a chat with him (after the game) and kind of see going forward," Shero said. "He's been an impressive player down there (in the AHL); we don't want to rush him too much, he is coming back from injury but in practice and in the games he's been strong.
"So we'll wait and see. Beau's time is coming here at some point."