So Brandon Pirri’s Days in the Doghouse are over: the center was traded to the Panthers last night for.. well, not very much. The price for Pirri is a 3rd Round pick in this years’ Draft and a 5th Rounder in 2016 which is chump change for an NHL-ready player who has been tearing the AHL apart when not up at the big club. Clearly the Hawks can’t afford to take on more salary than strictly neccesary, being tight enough to the Cap as it is, but this seems like they took the first deal available to get rid of a player whose face no longer fits. Why this should be, I don’t know.
Pirri largely impressed on his various stints with the Hawks this year, or at least impressed those of us who don’t have a large moustache. He had injury problems at the start of the year and some clear development issues that he was working through, not least a tendency to get knocked off the puck and some defensive lapses. Maybe he would never have turned into the 2C that we all wanted him to be but he never really got the chance to prove himself: he was demoted to 3C which, on this team, means drastically reduced TOI and a general sense of being in the doghouse.
The recent acquisition of Peter Regin seems to have been the final nail in the coffin and Pirri himself seems relieved to be getting out and getting a chance under the GM who drafted him, Dale Tallon.
This seems to be Stan Bowman cutting bait having realised that Quenneville, for whatever reasons, simply will not use Pirri properly. It’s hard to see any upside to this deal, except for Florida who have now acquired Dylan Olsen, Jimmy Hayes and Brandon Pirri from the Hawks with a couple of picks and Kris Versteeg coming back (and how we laughed at how Stan had fleeced Uncle Dale on that one.. guess it’s not his fault that Versteeg has been invisible). I can’t imagine they’re especially happy in Rockford either, where Pirri has been on a tear as the Icehogs make a credible push for their first post-season appearance in four years.
The big issue now, is how the Hawks look at Forward and especially at Center. Toews, Regin, Shaw, Handzus and Kruger. Assuming that Toews and Kruger bookend the lines, as they have been doing, that’s leaving a marginal-NHLer, a converted winger and an old and slow facoff specialist who doesn’t take draws anymore to rotate the other two roles. This is not good and is one injury, at the end of long season after a short summer, away from being a disaster area.
I know there are two Center alternatives being spoken about excitedly among the fans but I really can’t see either happening. First, to obtain Kesler they’ll need to shift some serious salary and Mike Gillis isn’t known for undervaluing players (remember when his ridiculous demands lead to Dave Nonis, of all people, not returning his calls about Luongo?). So, much as I’d love to see Kesler centering Kane, I wouldn’t hold my breath. The other rumour concerns Teuvo Teravainen as Jokerit prepare to enter the SM Liiga post-season (in a lowly seed going through an initial qualifying round, by the looks of it). There is talk of him arriving in April and going straight into the 2C role. I don’t think so, somehow. He’s still too light, still learning the men’s game and still almost wholly innocent of the vagaries of Hockey in North America. If he does come over this season, expect him in Rockford if they are in the Playoffs, and thence to the IIHF World Championship.
My intinct is always to trust Stan Bowman on these things. His track record speaks for itself. But you feel that this puzzle is incomplete, in terms of mounting a defence of the Cup. I’m expecting another shoe to fall before the deadline.