February 26, 2009.

That’s the day the Penguins traded Ryan Whitney to the Anaheim Ducks for Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi. That was nearly four years ago.

Since that day, Eric Tangradi has been the most discussed and debated prospect within the Penguins organization. Four years removed from that trade, though, it’s time for the talk to end.

Considering the Penguins’ still ongoing search for a top-six winger, it’s little wonder why there’s been so much talk over the years. After all, Tangradi seems to possess the all tools for success in a prominent scoring role at the NHL level. He’s got enviable size at 6’4”, 221 lbs. While not the fleetest of foot, he is tough along the boards and a physical presence in front of the net. Plus, he’s got a proven track record, scoring 168 points in 176 games as a junior and 121 points in 178 AHL contests, to date.

For all the promise he exhibited in the minor leagues, though, Tangradi’s play simply has not translated to the NHL.

Putting it mildly, there’s been nothing to talk about.

While now in his fourth year of professional hockey, Tangradi has appeared in just 40 games of regular season NHL action, recording a paltry 5 points (1g, 4a). In that time, he’s played mostly bottom six minutes, failing to convince the coaching staff that he was ready for more than that. Throw in his -8 rating and meager 41 shots and it’s safe to say that nothing has been memorable about his play in the NHL.

So this is where the discussion has ended up…A lot of talk about a player who has demonstrated a top-six forward pedigree as an AHL prospect, yet one who is seemingly unprepared for that role as an NHL pro.

So when I heard that Tangradi was getting the first crack at filling the hole alongside of Malkin and Neal in training camp, you know what I thought?

Good.

It’s 2013. It’s time for Eric Tangradi to make an impact. It’s time for him to be ready.

Time to see what all the fuss is about.

You see, I’ve heard all the arguments… He’s shown promise on the AHL level… You have to be patient with young power forwards… He’s just 23 years old… He just needs a little more time…

And I’m done with every single one of them. My patience has run out.

As the old saying goes, the time is now.

The bottom line is that Penguins GM Ray Shero didn’t trade for Eric Tangradi to dwell in the minors, living on a mirage of promise and potential – he acquired him to make an impact as a big-time NHL player. The organization has given him four years of coaching, guidance, and patience. Now, more than ever, it’s time to see some return on investment.

Time to put up or shut up.

Or maybe, it’s time to ship out.