Sutter all about making his point with Penguins
Brandon Sutter knows all about the role he'll be filling with the Penguins.
He has done it before, and he's completely comfortable with it.
But that doesn't mean he won't try to modify it a bit.
Sutter, acquired Friday in the trade that sent Jordan Staal to Carolina, was the Hurricanes' third-line center, and he'll handle that duty for the Penguins, too.
Indeed, the deal was contingent on him being included, so Sutter could step into the considerable void created by Staal's departure.
But while it is Sutter's checking ability and penalty-killing talents that most appealed to the Penguins, Sutter figures he might be able to contribute a bit more than that.
Maybe a lot more.
Not necessarily so much that Staal becomes remembered in these parts primarily as Jaden Staal's older brother, but enough that people come to realize there's more than one dimension to his game.
During a conference call Monday, Sutter said flatly that "I don't want to be stuck just playing defense every shift" and made it clear that under the right circumstances, he can be a reliable point-producer.
"I don't want to be looked at as just a defensive player," he said. "I want to score goals and do things, too. ... If you can combine the two, you turn yourself into a good player."
Staal is a pretty fair example of that. He has been one of the NHL's best defensive forwards and a quality penalty-killer since breaking into the league with the Penguins in 2006, but is just beginning to gain real recognition for his offensive skills.
He scored a career-high 29 goals as a rookie, but Staal's offensive game truly has begun to mature the past few seasons. He had 25 goals and 25 assists in 62 games in 2011-12.
Those numbers weren't going to allow him to bump Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin off the top two lines, but they might have helped to persuade Staal that he should move to a team that would give him more offensive opportunities.
Which, in an intriguing twist, is how Sutter looks at going to the Penguins. Unlike Staal, he doesn't see himself moving into a top-six spot, but he seems confident that new teammates and a new system might have a positive impact on his personal stat sheet.
"It's a roster that's obviously deeper than what we're used to in Carolina," he said. "A chance to play with more talented players ... can help."
Sutter, 23, had his finest offensive season in 2009-10, when he had 21 goals and 19 assists in 72 games. He had 17 goals and 15 assists in 82 games last season.
Staal has averaged 0.58 points per game in six NHL seasons. Sutter has averaged 0.37.
And even though Sutter will move into the lineup spot Staal vacated, he was adamant that he won't put pressure on himself to match Staal's productivity.
"I'm coming in to do what I've done," he said. "I'm my own player. ... Hopefully, one day I can try to find that level he was at, in terms of offensive numbers.
"I think I can. But I don't want to feel like I'm replacing someone."
Sutter said he was at a friend's house Friday when he received a call from former Penguin Ron Francis, now Carolina's vice president of hockey operations.
The message he got -- that he had been traded -- was not something Sutter expected.
"I really didn't see it coming at all," he said.
The shock is easing, however, and Sutter is beginning to focus on the pluses of his new situation; on moving to a team that might give him an opportunity to diversify his game a little; on going from a franchise that's trying to build a contender to a team that has been one for quite a while now and figures to be for the foreseeable future.
"I'm four years into my career now and I'm yet to play in a playoff game," Sutter said. "For me, I'm at a point now where it's about winning. That's what I want to be there for. I want to help with that."
NOTES -- A team official with knowledge of the situation said that contrary to reports, the Penguins have not spoken with Phoenix about acquiring defenseman Keith Yandle and are not soliciting offers for defenseman Paul Martin, although teams have called about him. ... Decisions on whether to try to re-sign potential unrestricted free agents such as Steve Sullivan, Arron Asham and Richard Park are not expected until after staff meetings later this week. Both sides appear to have interest in Sullivan returning, though. ... As expected, the Penguins extended qualifying offers to restricted-free-agents-to-be Matt Niskanen, Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Strait, Alex Grant, Carl Sneep, Eric Tangradi and Keven Veilleux, but not to Cal O'Reilly, Mattias Modig, Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Alexandre Picard or Boris Valabik.
First Published June 26, 2012 12:00 am