Acquiring Dustin Penner from the Anaheim Ducks for a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL entry draft is a steal for the Washington Capitals. It gives them a skater capable of playing top-six minutes while parking a 6-foot-4, 247-pound frame in front of the net — a skill that has been lacking this season.
Among Washington’s forwards with at least 100 shots taken this season, only Joel Ward has fired from a closer range during even strength.
That type of net presence will also help with the “dirty goals.” According to Sporting Charts, Penner has almost as many tip-ins (10) and backhanded shots (12) as the Capitals as a whole (12 for each), plus a high concentration of his attempts are generated in and around the goal crease.
Penner should also help drive puck possession, which has been a problem for Washington. Ignoring special teams and lead-protecting situations, the Caps have taken 48.2 percent of the shots on goal — only Montreal, Calgary, Philadelphia, Edmonton, Toronto and Buffalo are worse. The Ducks, however, have outshot opponents 207 to 160 (56.4 percent) with Penner on the ice. Only Eric Fehr comes closest to tilting the ice as much among Washington’s forwards, and he still falls short with the team outshooting opponents 220 to 212 (50.9 percent) in those same situations.
So what did Washington have to give up for this big-bodied, possession-driving top-six forward? Not much: only a fourth-round pick in the upcoming draft. Getting a bona-fide NHL player that late in the draft is always a crapshoot. From 2007 to 2010, just 16 forwards drafted in the fourth round have played 20 or more games, which is exactly how many Washington has left in the 2013-14 season.
This trade did not address Washington’s most glaring need (left-handed top-four defenseman) but it went a long way in improving a team that finds itself on the outside of the current playoff picture.