LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 13: Dustin Penner of the Los Angeles Kings holds the Stanley Cup as the Kings appear before the game between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 13, 2012 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Dustin Penner loves delicious pancakes. Presumably, he also loves money. At some point after 11 am central time on Sunday Penner is going to have a lot of money with which to buy delicious pancakes. Might he get the money for those pancakes from the Stars?
It's certainly possible. Penner is a big left shot right winger at 6'4 and 245 pounds. Penner has scored over 20 goals four times in his career and he's a career 12.5% shooter. He's coming off of a season where he scored only seven goals though so his value can't be particularly high.
The question that arises is "Does Penner's offensive upside warrant significant free agent interest?". The Stars have a definite need for at least two top six forwards. After the jump we'll dissect what happened to Penner last season to determine if it was a fluke, and try to figure out what Stars fans can expect should they sign Penner. Most importantly we'll try to figure out if the Stars should even have interest in the first place.Dustin Penner had a mediocre season. The Kings didn't trust him very much defensively. 53% of his starting assignments were in the offensive zone, and amongst all Kings forwards who played in at least twenty games Penner saw the 8th most difficult defensive matchups. With those minutes it would be reasonable to expect a player to get the puck up the ice, especially on a team like the Kings who dominated the league in Fenwick percentage following their midseason coaching change.
He didn't though. He was roughly average. For every shot generated for the Kings with him on the ice they allowed one. His goal scoring numbers are definitely misleading though. As a career 12.5% shooter Penner only shot 5.9% last season. He averaged 18 minutes per game in his previous two years where he scored 23 and 32 goals. In 2012 his ice time was cut to 14:19. Half of that cut is on the powerplay where he saw his minutes fall from three a night to 1:30.
With that being said, those factors don't excuse his mediocre performance at even strength. I think it's reasonable to think that the fluctuation with the Kings roster of the offseason played a large role in his decline in production. In 2011 the Kings gave Penner a much more prominent defensive role at even strength, and generally used him in a way to suggest that they felt he was a core player. 2012 was a much different story. He was basically a third liner.
Given a more prominent role it's reasonable to think that Penner could return to the 20 goal plateau pretty easily. The problem then is whether or not Penner will be worth the contract he's going to receive. Coming off the poor season he had with the Kings it's hard to pin down how much money he can expect. He seems like a prime candidate for a one year make good deal that would allow him to re-enter the marketplace for the 2014 season. With the Stars copious cap space a one year deal for 3.5 miliion dollars that allows Penner to prove last year was a fluke makes sense for any team.
If he's motivated to prove last year was a fluke Penner could actually be a good fit for the Stars. The Stars want size. They need offensive ability. Penner has proven in the past that he can be trusted defensively, even if the Kings didn't last year. The Stars could put Penner on the left wing with Jamie Benn and Michael Ryder to use him as a big body in front of the net while those two do their thing.
As unsettling as the prospect of giving Penner such a prominent role is, if the Stars really feel like there are no free agents worth doling out huge contracts to then someone like Penner is going to end up being a prime candidate for the Stars top six openings. As I wrote this I slowly talked myself into the possibility, but I'm still unsure. His reputation isn't the best, and the pancake-related trauma jokes, while hilarious, would get old pretty quickly.
What say you?