Brandon Sutter realizes his role as a checking-line centre won’t be changing with his new team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. He does have reason to believe it’s a job that might have become a little easier.
After spending the past four seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes having to defend against Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Sutter now counts both as teammates.
“I can remember coming into Pittsburgh having to play against Crosby or Malkin, which wasn’t always a ton of fun,” Sutter said on a teleconference call Monday, three days after being acquired by Pittsburgh in a deal that sent Jordan Staal to Carolina. “I’m looking forward to being on the other side of that now.”
Another benefit in joining the prolific Penguins is the potential of a trickle-down effect Crosby and Malkin can provide in helping Sutter add a little more offence—something he found to be missing in his game Carolina.
“I felt there were times where I almost felt like I was stuck,” Sutter said, referring to how the Hurricanes regarded him mostly for his defence.
“I don’t want to be looked at as just a defensive player. I want to score goals and do things, too,” Sutter said. “Obviously, I don’t know who I’ll be playing with yet, but in terms of roster, their roster’s obviously deeper than what we’re used to in Carolina. And a chance to play with more talented players, too, can help.”
Though it took a few days for the shock of being traded for the first time in his career to wear off, Sutter is finding himself more excited about the opportunity to join a proven winner.
“I’ve still yet to play in a playoff game. For me, I’m a point now where it’s about winning,” he said. “And obviously, playing with two big guys down the middle, playing behind them, is going to be a great opportunity for me.”
Sutter was the key piece of the deal for the Penguins in finding a player who could immediately step in and fill Staal’s role. At 23, Sutter is a 2007 first-round draft pick who has spent the past four seasons establishing himself as a capable third-line centre.
Sutter had 17 goals and 15 assists in 82 games last year, with his best season coming in 2009-10, when he had 21 goals and 40 points in 72 games.
As part of the deal, the Penguins also acquired defenceman Brian Dumoulin and Carolina’s No. 8 pick, which they used to draft defenceman Derrick Pouliot.
Staal’s long-term future in Pittsburgh had become uncertain after the player rejected the Penguins’ offer of a long-term contract extension. Staal was looking for a chance to expand his role from beyond the shadow of Crosby and Malkin, and also interested in joining his older brother, Eric Staal, in Carolina.
Though they play the same role, Sutter wasn’t interested in drawing comparisons between him and Staal,
“I’m my own player. I don’t feel like I’m here to replace anyone,” Sutter said. “I feel like the Penguins had to make a deal. I’m glad they picked me. I’m going to a winning team where there’s opportunity.”