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Takeaways: 2015 Free Agency Day 1

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pens were extremely busy on Day 1 of NHL free agency. They made the biggest trade splash in the league by acquiring Phil Kessel, Tyler Biggs and Tim Erixon from Toronto in exchange for Nick Spaling, Kasperi Kapanen and Scott Harrington (there were also draft picks exchanged: full details here).

Pittsburgh also saw much roster turnover. They signed Russian Sergei Plotnikov, David Warsofsky, Kevin Porter, Kael Mouillerat and Steven Olesky.

The Pens lost several players on the day, including defensemen Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff, forwards Craig Adams, Blake Comeau, Steve Downie, Maxim Lapierre and Daniel Winnik and goaltender Thomas Greiss.

Here’s a rundown on how the Pens’ roster has been altered positionally.

FORWARDS

What was gained:

The Pens no doubt won the day by acquiring the biggest name in Phil Kessel (although he was acquired via trade and not free agency). Kessel is a prolific scorer in the NHL and one of the league’s true superstars. He’s a dynamic winger with blazing speed and the ability to fill the net. The perennial 30-goal scorer should really do some damage skating alongside setup man Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

Tyler Biggs has impressive size at 6-foot-2 and 223 pounds. The 22-year-old, who was a first-round pick (22nd overall) in the 2011 Draft, is blessed with a lot of skill, nastiness and potential. He likes to play a physical, dirty game. But Biggs hasn’t been able to tap into his full potential yet. He’s spent his pro career in the American Hockey League with a brief stop in the ECHL. A change of scenery could be what he needs to finally take his game to the next level.

Sergei Plotnikov is a physical winger that likes to take the body. He’s a solid build at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, and can chip in offensively as well. He’s played his entire career in the KHL, he was a league All-Star last year, and is still young at 25 years old. Plotnikov has also played with Malkin on the international stage with Team Russia.

Kevin Porter and Kael Mouilierat help the Pens add organizational depth at the forward position.

What was lost:

Several Pens players were lost via trade and free agency on the day. Those signing today were Blake Comeau (Colorado) and Steve Downie (Arizona). Spaling and Kapanen were traded to Toronto. Craig Adams, Maxim Lapierre and Daniel WInnik remain unsigned.

DEFENSE

What was gained:

Tim Erixon will add depth to the Penguins defense. He has first-round pedigree (23rd overall in 2009 NHL Draft by Calgary). Tim, son of former NHL-er Jan Erixon, played for three different teams last season in Columbus, Chicago and Toronto. The American-born Swede will have a chance to compete for Pittsburgh’s roster.

David Warsofsky and Steve Oleksy will further help replenish the Pens’ organizational depth on defense. Warsofsky is mobile with a heavy shot from the point. Oleksy is a stay-at-home type that is sound in his own zone.

What was lost:

The Pens took a blow with the loss of defenseman Paul Martin (San Jose). He was a veteran team leader, minutes eater and arguably the team’s most reliable blueliner. Taylor Chorney, who filled in admirably last season for the injury-riddled team, also left for Washington. Prospect Scott Harrington was traded as part of the Kessel deal. Christian Ehrhoff remains unsigned.

GOALIES

What was lost:

Netminder Thomas Greiss signed with the NY Islanders. He was the team’s NHL backup last year, appearing in 20 games.

What was gained:

While the Pens didn’t sign a goaltender on free agency, they have plenty of options to fill in at the NHL level. Jeff Zatkoff is the leading candidate, having already served as an NHL backup during the 2013-14 season. Also, Matt Murray can make a play for NHL time after his spectacular 2014-15 campaign in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

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