Pittsburgh Penguins Betting On Intangibles With Maxim Lapierre Acquisition


Nov 29, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; St. Louis Blues forward Maxim Lapierre (40) against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Blues defeated the Wild 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

An encouraging victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night was immediately followed by news that the Pittsburgh Penguins had traded center Marcel Goc to St. Louis for forward Maxim Lapierre.

In terms of offensive production, this trade is close to a wash. In terms of puck possession and goal prevention, it looks like the Pens got worse in the deal.

But general manager Jim Rutherford had some enlightening things to say regarding the reasoning for this bottom-six swap.

From Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-GazetteRutherford described his newest acquisition:

"“He’s a big guy. He plays with energy. He plays with an edge at times…It certainly seems that we’re getting into more physical games than I would have expected. He will help that group of guys that we already have.”"

Rutherford also made sure to compliment the versatile Goc on his way out the door, calling him a “good team guy.” At the same time, the Pens’ first-year GM noted that Lapierre can fill Goc’s former spot on the penalty kill, as if to preemptively refute that he was opening a hole on the roster with the deal.

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I admit to being a fan of Goc’s game. He won faceoffs (54 percent this season), didn’t get scored on and generally did what you want a fourth-line center to do.

However, Goc was never going to intimidate anyone and he rarely mixed it up physically during his short tenure in Pittsburgh. Lapierre will do those things, and that was enough for Rutherford to finalize a move he was working on for the past couple of weeks.

The Penguins are clearly betting on Lapierre’s intangible qualities to provide a noticeable bump at some point. Rutherford mentioned Lapierre’s past playoff experience late Tuesday night, reinforcing the time of year when the 29-year-old agitator has arguably done his best NHL work.

Realistically, if Lapierre hangs out with the likes of Craig Adams and Zach Sill for the rest of the season, he likely won’t make a significant impact. Part of Goc’s problem was that he had to lug replacement-level skaters up and down the rink on a nightly basis.

Fortunately for Lapierre, Rutherford might not done shaking up this team. He has about five weeks to put the finishing touches on the 2014-15 Penguins.

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