No Move for Third Line Center was The Right Move

The third-line center position in the NHL has arguably been one of the most pivotal yet rapidly changing slots in a lineup. Since the “ roll three scoring lines’ mentality that moved it from being a line capable of shutting down the other’s team top offensive line the position has increased in value and majority of teams have paid the price to acquire players to fill this role.

All this being stated, it has been no secret for the past few months that the Pittsburgh Penguins are in the market for new center to occupy the third line since the departure of the Nick Bonino to Nashville. Bonino, who was a valuable cog in the machine that won The Penguins cups two years in a row and was a hybrid of the traditional attributes that are sought in a swing position such as the third-line center. He could kill penalties, center the second power play unit and seemed to mesh with both defensive checking wingers and ones with notable offensive prowess. Players like this are hard to come by and are usually costly in signing, hence the 4 year $16.4 Mil deal for Bonino, or acquiring in trades.

Since the first day of NHL Free Agency when Bonino was signed away, there has been an open void in the lineup for the team down the middle. One such void that was speculated to be filled via trade the past few weeks but on the eve of the NHL season and the Pens set to take on the Blues no trade has formed.

The role now seems to belong to Greg McKegg, a man who majority of fans probably know little about. McKegg, who was 3rd rounder draftee by the Maple Leafs in 2010 has a pedigree of scoring goals through his Junior and American Hockey League career and had a strong camp with compliments coming for his two way play and skating. A thin scratch through the surface seems like he fits the stereotype of a Pittsburgh Penguins third-line center.

Despite the belief in McKegg by the coaching staff, mainly Bill Guerin, there is still the idea that The Pens should have or still need to trade for a center. The main forums being thoughts of a Jordan Staal reunion or a dice roll on Riley Sheahan. This is where there should be a certain degree of trust put in Jim Rutherford and his ability to be the GM that had a huge hand in the past two Stanley Cups.

Throughout his career Rutherford has shown the ability to adjust the chemistry of The Penguins and add pieces that seem minor but have notable impact. Ex. Carl Hagelin, Ron Hainsey, and even everyone’s favorite Phil Kessel. Its this ability and the fact that The Pens still are a formidable offensive team without 3rd line contribution that make waiting for the trade market to sort out the right move.

The mystique with a new season opening is that all teams start out Carte Blanche and believe their chances to be competitive are very real and alive. No one wants to subtract from their team, only add and improve. This makes trades hard to swing due to the perceived value of talent or teams looking to be blown away with an offer.

It may be difficult now to agree with, but The Penguins not making a move this off season to get an external option at center was the right move and might be a reason why they will be in the mix come April to go for their third cup in as many years. If need be The Pens will upgrade their forward core maybe even third line but as of right now The Pens have more to lose than to gain by making a gut reaction trade to fill a void that might not even be a weak link depending how the surrounding assets play.