Do the Pens need a “True” Top-Six Winger?

With the trade deadline upon us, most armchair GM’s and rumor sites have linked the Pens with acquiring a top-six winger to play alongside either Sidney Crosby or Jordan Staal, on the “second” line. With the overwhelming success of both the Whitney for Kunitz and Tangradi, the Goligoski for Neal and Niskanen trade, and the trade to bring Marian Hossa here for a few months, Penguins GM Ray Shero has a history of making the moves to improve the Penguins top two lines. With names like Rick Nash and Ryan Getzlaf floating around the trade market prior to deadline day, this Monday, Penguin fans might be hoping that Shero pulls some magic to bring in a “true” top six winger to play with the Pens. Simply put, it’s not necessary.

First, lets look at what the Penguins currently have been using on the top two lines recently.

Neal – Malkin – Kunitz
Dupuis – Staal – Sullivan

Although the top line has been producing at an amazing clip, there has been a significant outcry that Dupuis and Sullivan are not the answer. Lets look at how the two players have been producing this year and their cap hit for this year.

Dupuis – 60 GP, 13 Goals, 21 Assists, 34 Points, Points Per Game Average: .57
Sullivan – 60 GP, 11 Goals, 18 Assists, 29 Points, Points Per Game Average: .48

Currently, only Malkin, Neal, Kunitz, and Letang have better production for the Penguins this year, but with only a yearly cap hit of 1.5 million dollars each. One important stat that is frequently used in calculating a player’s worth vs. cap hit is the points per salary cap hit figure.

Dupuis (1.5) = $44,117 per point.
Sullivan (1.5) = $51,274 per point.

Additionally, Dupuis is a huge component of the penalty kill, even contributing 2 shorthanded goals this year, while Sullivan has been a mainstay on the point on a vastly improved powerplay.

Now that we’ve looked at what we have, lets look at what’s been rumored to be available and linked to the Pens, by just about anyone.

- Dustin Brown (LAK)
– Ryan Malone (TBL)
– Chris Stewart (STL)
– Tuomo Ruutu (Re-signed) (CAR)
– Ales Hemsky (Re-signed) (EDM)
– R.J. Umberger (CBJ)
– Rick Nash (CBJ)
– Vinny Prospal (Re-signed) (CBJ)
– Ryane Clowe (SJS)
– David Jones (COL)

These ten players have been linked to the Penguins through either message board discussions, rumor bloggers, (ie. Eklund or The Fourth Period), or even respected NHL media (ie. McKenzie or Lebrun).

Now lets look at this statistically speaking:

Brown – 61 GP, 14 Goals, 17 Assists, 31 Points, Points Per Game Average: .51
Malone – 46 GP, 10 Goals, 20 Assists, 30 Points, Points Per Game Average: .65
Stewart – 58 GP, 13 Goals, 11 Assists, 24 Points, Points Per Game Average: .41
Ruutu – 57 GP, 17 Goals, 13 Assists, 30 Points, Points Per Game Average: .52
Hemsky – 47 GP, 5 Goals, 21 Assists, 26 Points, Points Per Game Average: .55
Umberger – 56 GP, 10 Goals, 15 Assists, 25 Points, Points Per Game Average: .45
Nash – 61 GP, 20 Goals, 22 Assists, 42 Points, Points Per Game Average: .69
Prospal – 61 GP, 10 Goals, 28 Assists, 38 Points, Points Per Game Average: .62
Clowe – 53 GP, 10 Goals, 24 Assists, 34 Points, Points Per Game Average: .64
Jones – 52 GP, 14 Goals, 13 Assists, 27 Points, Points Per Game Average: .52

And lets look at salaries and cost per point:

Brown (3.175) = $102,419
Malone (4.5) = $150,000
Stewart (2.875) =$119,791
Ruutu (3.8) = $126, 666
Hemsky (4.1) = $157,692
Umberger (3.75) = $150,000
Nash (7.8) = $185,714
Prospal (2.5) = $65,789
Clowe (3.625) = $106,618
Jones (2.5) = $92,592

So after looking at this years statistics and the cost per points of the player, what is shown is that only Malone, Nash, Prospal, and Clowe have a better Points per Game Average than Dupuis and only Stewart and Umberger have a worse Points per Game Average than Sullivan. Although, looking at that stat alone, it would seem that Dupuis might be a good fit, while Sullivan might not be the greatest fit. One of the most important factors that GMs consider during the trade deadline is the numbers attached the players, which is why its important to not only consider the production, but what that production costs. The Penguins are not a team with a lot of cap room floating around this year, unless of course, the status of Sidney Crosby becomes significantly clearer before Monday, which limits what they’re able to do before the trade deadline.

For similar production levels, Dupuis and Sullivan fill the top-six role for the Penguins at what should be considered a huge discount. For $3,000,000.00 combined, Dupuis and Sullivan each put up numbers comparable to those each making $2,500,000 and up. While its fun for fans and the media to speculate about the possibilities of filling a spot or two alongside Crosby or Staal, its not necessary for the Penguins to go out and give away picks, prospects, or even roster players to acquire more expensive players with similar production levels.