Friday, February 6, 2009

Trade fakery: putting the Penner to paper

With the trade deadline about a month away, the crazies are coming out of the woodwork. Not to be out-crazied for one moment, Cycle like the Sedins will periodically try to dig up completely fictional (and sometimes farcical) trade rumors for giggles.

The sky might begin to fall if any of these come true.

Every now and again in sports, a player signs a contract that dwarfs their actual talent to the point of near-paralysis and franchise malaise. For example, in the NBA, the $100 million contract Juwan Howard signed years ago comes to mind. Howard seemed like a decent human being (and not a bad basketball player) but his albatross contract absolutely became a sad punchline. Allan Houston's contract with the Knicks is another example: when the NBA allowed buyouts without salary cap penalties some people referred to it as The Allan Houston Rule.

For years, the NHL's blunt answer to Howard and Houston was Alexei Yashin. His deal saddled the New York Islanders and was perhaps the worst move in an Stoogey Murder's Row of transcations made by Mike "The Pansifier" Milbury. In fact, that buyout still negatively affects the cap for the floundering franchise in Long Island.

Still, Yashin is gone to bask in his ludicrous riches and supermodel wife. To take his place is power forward in the making turned sour forward Dustin Penner.

Penner took advantage of a Stanley Cup run with the Anaheim Ducks and was offered an excessive offer sheet from Kevin Lowe in Edmonton, a move that would live on in infamy. Signing Penner destroyed Lowe's friendship with noted scholar and hothead Brian Burke, but worse yet: it's been pretty much a disaster for the Oilers.

Outspoken Oilers coach Craig MacTavish bashed Penner in November and criticized his play this month as well. It's been a pretty miserable stay in Edmonton for Penner (who makes $4.25 million per season on average), even though it seems a little unfair. His statistics actually have been pretty much the same as he was as a Duck.

Sometimes, you are what you are. Which pisses off the Oilers to no end.

So, it pretty much goes without saying that the Oilers would like to ship Penner out of town. But the problem has been: who would take him? Perhaps it would be fun to take a look at some deals that while admittedly Bruce Garrioch-like, could probably work in some bizarro world in which Mike Milbury still had a job:

Semi-ludicrous Penner deals that maybe aren't that crazy after all

Stars trade Sean Avery for Penner (similar cap values ... Penner makes about a half million more)
Trading a cancer for a floater; this trade would do what many have before it: reshuffling the chairs on the Titanic. Really, the main thing this would accomplish is to make both teams more interesting in NHL '10. Plus it would give us something to laugh about.

Penguins trade Ryan Whitney for Penner (nearly identical cap values)
Another laugh riot. From one of the Puck Daddy chats, it sounds like the Penguins aren't interested in moving Whitney which is marginally surprising. Still, this could work on some level: the Penguins need a big guy to play the Ryan Malone role and the Oilers could need an offensive D since Lubomir Visnovsky might be out for the season.

It scares me that this scenario almost makes sense, even though Penner lacks Malone's testicular fortitude and Whitney might not have any toes on that injured foot for all we know ...

Avalanche trade Ryan Smyth for Penner (Smyth makes about $2 million more per year)
The Avs need to get rid of Smyth's ugly contract. There probably wouldn't be too many takers, but the Oilers obviously have some pretty mushy feelings for a certain garbage goal specialist with that throwback mullet. The Avs would shed a few million, get younger and ... worse. Quite a bit worse. The Oilers would reclaim their former heart and soul.

Panthers trade Jay Bouwmeester for Penner and draft picks (J-Bo gets about a half million more on this, the last year of his contract)
This is where these faux trade rumors go from highly unlikely/dumb to flat-out cruel. It shouldn't be funny to imagine the downfall of a franchise, but that would be darkly comical. Going to stop now before the guy from The Litter Box murders me.

Thrashers trade Mathieu Schneider for Penner (Schneider's expiring deal is $5.75 million, about $1.5 million more than Penner's average cap hit)
A lot like the Whitney idiot-deal, but probably a) dumber and b) paradoxically, more realistic. Since just about no one wants to play in Atlanta, Penner could wallow in 40-50 point mediocrity with limited abuse. Schneider would fit that offensive D mold as the Oilers shoot for a playoff berth (and then he conveniently comes off the books).

Ugh, I could see that happening. No offense, hopefully, to HOTlanta fans (offense intended only for Don Waddell).
Again, keep in mind these trade rumors are willfully unfounded. I shudder to think how close this is to the process a beleaguered hockey beat writer goes through. Hopefully, my blind "throwing at pictures on a dartboard" method is just comic relief.

It's odd how easy it is to talk yourself into some bad deals, though, isn't it?


Kent W. said...

A Smyth for Penner deal would be hilarious. I think Edmonton fans would be relieved that they got Smyth back and outraged that the swap had to occur in the first place.

jamestobrien said...

The big question, of course: would he cry again - this time cheers of joy?