In less than three hours, Penguins general manager Ray Shero reshaped his hockey organization in a major way in order to benefit his club in the present and future.
Shero was very busy man at the 2012 NHL Draft at Pittsburgh’s CONSOL Energy Center Friday night. In all, he pulled the levers of power to add center Brandon Sutter, prospect defensemen Brian Dumoulin and Harrison Ruopp, goaltender Marc Cheverie, a 2012 third-round pick (81st overall) and drafted two blueliners in the first round: Derrick Pouliot (8th overall) and Olli Maatta (22nd overall).
The Penguins traded long-time center Jordan Staal
, Shero’s first-ever draft pick with Pittsburgh, to Carolina in order to net three players: Sutter; Dumoulin; and the eighth-overall pick (Pouliot). Shero then sent blueliner Zbynek Michalek
to Phoenix, the team with which he broke into the NHL, for Ruopp, Cheverie and the third-round pick.
The moves were done to help the Penguins in the now and long-term. Sutter, the “key to the deal” as Shero said, will fill in the role as the team’s third-line center, keeping in tact the club’s successful “three-center model.”
“We’ve got three centers. We’ve got Brandon Sutter, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin,” Shero said. “Those are three really good NHL centers. That’s the strength of our team. We’re looking forward to having Brandon be a big part of that group. It was pretty important to me in terms of building this team to have a young center like that to go with Crosby and Malkin. It makes our team a good team still and in the future moving forward.”
Sutter, 23, is a durable, two-way center who can play the power play and penalty kill. Sutter, the 11th-overall selection in the 2007 NHL Draft, comes from a long bloodline of hockey with nine family members, including himself and his father, Brent, playing in the NHL.
“Those center icemen are difficult to find,” Shero said. “He’s the key to the deal for us and we look forward to having him for many years.”
Dumoulin, 20, was an excellent prospect acquisition by Shero. And it took a little bit of lobbying with Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford to include Dumoulin in the deal.
“That was a player at the end that Jimmy was reluctant to put into the deal,” Shero said. “As a manager if you have a chance to get Jordan Staal you have to include (Dumoulin) in the deal.”
Dumoulin is a classic defensive defenseman cut in the mold of former Penguin Rob Scuderi, even down to their alma mater. Dumoulin, the 51st-overall pick by Carolina in 2009, played the past three years with Boston College where he twice won the NCAA national title (2010, ’12) as well as being a two-time Hockey East Best Defensive Defenseman (2011, ’12).
“He’s a big defenseman, 6-foot-4. Our scouts have really liked this kid,” Shero said. “He signed a contract with Carolina so that transfers to us for next year. We’re looking forward to having him at training camp and development camp this summer and turning pro next year with the Penguins.”
With the acquired eight-overall pick, the Penguins snatched Pouliot. They then added Maatta with their own pick (22nd overall) to continue their burgeoning stockpile of young, talented defensemen (a group that includes first-round picks Simon Despres, 2009; Joseph Morrow, 2011; and second-round pick Scott Harrington, 2011).
It was that immense defensive depth that allowed the Penguins to move Michalek and his $4-million dollar salary.
“We have some young defensemen coming,” Shero said. “We cleared some cap space with the Staal and Michalek trades. We’ll see where that leads us. We drafted a lot of defense. People write this a lot. It’s time for these guys to play.”
In the late-night trade with Phoenix, the Penguins added yet another great defensive prospect in Roupp, the 81st-overall pick in 2011. Roupp, 19, is a player the Penguins had their eye on during last year’s draft.
“We really, really came close to taking (Roupp) last year in the second round,” Shero said. “Our guys really like him. He’s a big kid, 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, plays an aggressive game, skates well.”
In the bigger scheme, the Penguins have freed up $8-million dollars in salary. And thus giving themselves some cap space and leeway to possibly make more moves.
“We’ll see what happens over the next little bit. We’ll see what the market will be,” Shero said of possible further deals. “We made quite a few changes here (Friday) for the Penguins so we’ll see where it takes us the next little bit.
"We will see what happens July 1st."