I wish I was 6’4″ and 240 pounds with a good stride and soft hands. I would pummel opposing forwards and defensemen and my ass would be planted in front of the goaltender every time we had the puck in the offensive zone. I would dare other defensemen to try and move me. In each zone, if someone so much as looked at Kopitar, Brown, Williams, Doughty or Voynov with a menacing glare, I would invite their face to meet my fist. Love my teammates. Hate my opponents. Be the heart and soul player my Hockey God given talents allow me to be.
That boys and girls is what we unfairly want out of Dustin Penner. We have asked Penner to be playoff Dustin Brown and Tomas Holmstrom with an infusion of Milan Lucic. It’s not who Dustin Penner is. Dustin Penner is…Dustin Penner. A big, skilled, lovable enigma who could become one of the best power forwards in the NHL but isn’t…because he’s Dustin Penner.
And Dustin Penner is the perspective from whom I want to look at the free agency that, as I write this, is less than twelve hours away (9am, Stanley Cup Champion time). Forget Dean Lombardi, the L.A. Kings and what they want. What does and should Dustin Penner want?
He wants to stay. He has told us as much and I believe him.
He has indicated he may even take less money to stay. I believe him.
But how long should Dustin Penner wait before he actively looks elsewhere? If he is looking at Dustin Penner’s best interest, not long.
Penner’s performance during the last 15-20 games of the season as well as the playoffs has washed away the sins of the season and a half that preceded it. His divorce, which likely contributed to his head and heart being in another place, has commenced and, if it’s not over yet, should be soon enough. He has built a nice momentum for himself and he fits on any team that looks to add a big and skilled power forward for a $3.5 to $5 million cap hit…which is about 29 teams in the league by my count (sorry Philadelphia, you don’t get him). That means he will be coveted by (a) any team that is not in the Zach Parise sweepstakes and (b) any team that strikes out on the Zach Parise sweepstakes. With the Kings showing that size matters if you want to win a Cup, what better way for a promising or contending NHL team to attain that size than take the biggest player on our team?
That means Dustin Penner is in short supply and there should be a high demand with one but…he is having wrist surgery. This will make some GMs pause. We know little to nothing about the nature and extent of the surgery but the words “soft hands” and “wrist surgery” don’t collide well. If his surgery is not serious, and I am Dustin Penner, I don’t wait. I actively shop my services starting on July 1. Why? Because I would know what I am worth in the market, whether Dean Lombardi is serious about signing me, pressure Dean Lombardi to make a decision or lose me and maximize my chances of returning to the team with whom I just won a Stanley Cup and want to stay. To delay the signing (especially if the L.A. Kings are serious about trying to land Zach Parise which I still believe they are despite all of the malcontents who claim otherwise) would cause the teams that are not in the running for Parise to fill their holes. Demand comes down. Supply stays the same. Good for Lombardi. Not good for Penner. See Alexander Frolov for a similar scenario.
How will Dustin Penner resolve this dilemma? Don’t know. But unless we actually land Parise, I sure as hell hope Penner stays. I would miss him.