For the second straight summer, the Pittsburgh Penguins have traded away a young player who had contributed greatly to their 2009 Stanley Cup championship.
But while last June’s Jordan Staal deal really moved the needle in the hockey world, Sunday’s trade of Tyler Kennedy to the San Jose Sharks accounted for a mere ripple in a wave of NHL Draft news. That’s not surprising considering Staal’s reputation around the league, which is still elevated even after a down year in Carolina.
Kennedy, meanwhile, is regarded as more of an interchangeable part. That assessment isn’t entirely unfounded, as Kennedy’s lot in the NHL has been mostly that of a third-liner with offensive upside, as demonstrated by his 21-goal, 45-point output in 2010-11 when Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin missed significant time.
Much like Staal, the 26-year-old Kennedy wasn’t at his best in 2013, scoring just 11 points in 46 games. He wasn’t terrible in Corsi, rating near the break-even point in the possession-oriented stat even though he was a minus player for the first time in his six-year NHL career.
Still, despite Kennedy’s mostly-effective postseason play, Penguins general manager Ray Shero shipped the right-handed shooter to San Jose to acquire the Sharks’ second-round pick, which Pittsburgh used to select goalie Tristan Jarry. In that sense, the exchange was forward-looking, with an NHL veteran leaving and a promising youngster added to the prospect pool.
However, the loss of Kennedy makes the Penguins slower and less tenacious. Plus, if Pascal Dupuis, Craig Adams and/or any of the Jarome Iginla/Brenden Morrow/Douglas Murray free-agent trio stays in Pittsburgh, Kennedy’s departure also leaves the Pens older.
For a team that was already the league’s oldest by average age (29.5) before it added four thirtysomethings at the trade deadline, that’s not great. Of course, if players like Beau Bennett (21 at start of next season), Simon Despres (22) and Robert Bortuzzo (24) stick with the big club in 2013-14, that aging effect will be mitigated. But there are no guarantees coach Dan Bylsma and his staff embrace the organization’s young blood.
Kennedy was frustrating to watch at times, with his predictable offensive-zone habits and occasional delusions of grandeur regarding his limits. On the other hand, he was also dependable for a certain level of production and was seemingly a good fit for Bylsma’s preferred straightforward style.
For his part, Kennedy expressed confusion about the trade to the San Jose Mercury News, alluding to his negative exit interview with Penguins staff and being scratched often during the playoffs. I concur, even when factoring in his likely $2 million salary, which San Jose will have to pay if it signs the restricted free agent.
Kennedy may have fallen out of favor with the Penguins this season, but there’s something to be said for relatively-young, relatively-reliable veterans. With very little in the development pipeline in the forward department, Pittsburgh could easily be looking back on Sunday’s trade with some remorse.