The Pittsburgh Penguins have made a move to shore up their blue-line depth, acquiring Jordan Leopold from the Florida Panthers in exchange for a second round draft pick.
Leopold was originally tagged as an offensive defenceman when he entered the league after recording two point-per-game seasons with the University of Minnesota. He set career highs in goals (9) and points (33) with the Calgary Flames just prior to the NHL lockout, but his offence has dropped off since and he’s turned into a defensive player who makes a good outlet pass.
This year with the Panthers Leopold has played tough minutes, leading the defence in quality of competition and settling in near the bottom of the team in quality of teammates. He’s also started in his own end far more than the offensive zone (56.5/43.4 split). Despite those numbers, he’s managed a very respectable minus-7 rating.
While Leopold is capable of playing against top opponents, he is more suited to a third pairing role, and that is likely where he’ll slot in for the Penguins. He’ll join a very capable group of puck-movers that includes Sergei Gonchar, Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang. Pensburgh points out that this gives the Penguins eight defencemen and puts them close to the salary cap, and thus they speculate that Martin Skoula might be bound for the waiver wire. I would agree that Skoula’s certainly the logical candidate for replacement.
As for the trade itself, Florida gets a late second round pick for a pending free agent, so it’s a win for them. The Penguins gave up a fairly significant asset to get a pretty good player in Leopold, but I think the upgrade from Skoula makes this a worthwhile move on their part, especially since Leopold can move up the depth chart if injuries become a problem.