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Jeff Petry Personifies What Penguins Needed on Defense

Jeff Petry isn't the perfect piece, but he checks a lot of boxes for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Heading into the opening of free agency, many questioned the Penguin's roster as it appeared they were setting up to bring back the same roster as last season. Less than a week later, general manager Ron Hextall has put that notion to bed by shuffling the deck on his blue line with two trades over the weekend. 

The most notable player brought back in those trades was defenseman Jeff Petry. Petry exemplifies everything the Penguins were looking for in their pursuit of a sixth Stanley Cup. The 34-year-old defenseman brings size (6'3" 201 pounds) and offensive touch from the back end.

Petry's addition gives the Penguins something they've missed since before Justin Schultz fractured his leg early in the 2018-19 season, a true two-way right-handed defenseman behind Kris Letang. 

Most recently, John Marino, whom the Penguins traded over the weekend, has filled that slot on the roster. However, during his three seasons in Pittsburgh, Marino failed to grow what still seems to be an untapped offensive skillset. 

Petry outranks Marino in multiple areas, but especially in creating offense. During the last three seasons, Petry has outscored Marino in goals (29 to 10) and total points (109 to 64). He also out-chanced Marino by 525 scoring chances (2,126 to 1,601). Marino struggled to remain on the Penguin's second power play unit, whereas Petry will likely have that spot solidified. 

Defensively, Petry brings something to the table that most Penguins defensemen do not, physicality. The Penguins were one of the worst teams in the NHL at clearing out their net front last season. Adding Petry and Jan Rutta should help fix that issue and allow goaltender Tristan Jarry to see more shots cleanly.

Petry finished last season with 140 hits, which would've accounted for the fourth highest total on the Penguins behind Zach Aston-Reese, Kris Letang, and Chad Ruhwedel. 

Speaking of Letang, this acquisition should help him out as well. Petry averaged 22:07 of ice time with the Canadiens last season, just under 90 seconds more than John Marino in that same spot. 

Add on the fact that Petry has experience playing against the opposing team's top talent, and the Penguins could lower Letang's usage this season, making it easier for him to remain healthy and fresh throughout the year.

It isn't all positive on Petry, however, as his acquisition comes with a large cap hit of $6.25 million, making him the highest paid Penguins defenseman for the next three seasons. Pair that with him being 34 years old, and you could have an ugly situation by the final year of his contract.

However, the best chance for the Penguins to win another Stanley Cup in the Sidney Crosby era is the next chance. The addition of Petry should help the Penguin's back end considerably next season and will most likely continue to pay dividends the year after. Petry's age and contract are gambles that Hextall was willing to take to give the Penguins the reliable right-handed defenseman on the second pairing they have been missing. 

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