Penner steals spotlight on slow deadline day

By Dan Di Sciullo
NHL Editor

Dan Di Sciullo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The NHL's trade deadline has become a holiday of sorts for fans, but there wasn't much to feel festive about during this year's edition of Hockey Christmas.

All told, there were just 16 deals on the league's final day of trading, making it the slowest deadline day since 2000.

The lack of trades at the 11th hour was not exactly surprising when one considers how busy the market was in the weeks leading up to the Feb. 28 deadline. Many big names (Mike Fisher, Tomas Kaberle, Alex Kovalev, etc.) were dealt earlier in February and that led to there being just one major trade on the actual final day for trades.

Since the Dallas Stars refused to lower the asking price for centerman Brad Richards, the most notable player to switch teams on Monday was power forward Dustin Penner, who, after spending the past several years wallowing in Edmonton, found himself in the spotlight once again.

Players like the 6-foot-4, 245-poound Penner, who combines his great size with goal-scoring ability, are usually in high demand this time of year and the Los Angeles Kings paid a pretty penny to land the big man's services. The Kings parted with a former first-round pick in defensive prospect Colten Teubert and also sent a first-round selection in 2011 and a conditional third-round pick in 2012 to Edmonton.

Dustin Penner now has a much better opportunity to return to the postseason.
Penner was often maligned during his days in Edmonton, but that is mostly because he was one of the highest-paid players for a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs since its surprising run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006.

Expectations were always a bit too high for Penner in Edmonton thanks to the way he was signed in the summer of 2007 by Kevin Lowe, who was the Oilers general manager at that time.

Lowe plucked Penner away from the Anaheim Ducks by signing the restricted free agent to a shocking five-year, $21.5 million deal. The offer sheet was designed to price out the Ducks, who were coming off a Stanley Cup title and were facing a challenging salary-cap situation. Of course, Anaheim was unable to match the offer sheet and all that was left for then-Ducks GM Brian Burke to do was take shots at Lowe and the Oilers through the media.

While it would be hard to refer to Penner's time in Edmonton as a success, it's not like he was stealing money either. He reached the 20-goal mark in three of his four seasons as an Oiler, including this year when he notched 21 markers in 62 games, and he set personal bests last season in both goals (32) and assists (31).

With Edmonton likely headed for a fifth straight year out of the playoffs, Penner now has a much better opportunity to return to the postseason. The 28- year-old hasn't skated in the NHL's second season since the spring of '07, when he helped Anaheim's cause with a couple of clutch goals.

The switch from Edmonton to LA not only brings Penner back to southern California, but also gives him a chance to move from a team that appears to be in the early stages of a rebuilding process to a young club that could be on the verge of something special.

The Kings are 18th in the league in goals per game (2.71) and desperately needed to add scoring depth. Penner's size and his skill around the net could make scoring easier for the likes of Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams and Dustin Brown.

But, before LA can grow into a dynasty like some experts are predicting, the team needs help getting to this year's playoffs. With 74 points, the Kings are four points out of first place in the extremely competitive Pacific Division and they are also tied for the sixth seed in the West. Although Los Angeles would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, the club is just nine points ahead of 13th-seeded St. Louis in the crowded West.

Clearly, the Kings, or any Western Conference team counting on a spot in the playoffs, are in for a dogfight over the last month of the season. Penner's size and strength make him a perfect addition to any club trying to get the most out of their stretch run.

Penner was always doomed to disappoint in Edmonton, but with the Kings he has a chance to regain the status he built for himself during his brief, yet successful, run in Anaheim.

After all, Penner was able to claim the spotlight on deadline day and the Kings are hoping he doesn't let go of it for the rest of the year.

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