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Bennett could benefit from Tangradi trade

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 5:12 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Forward Eric Tangradi plays against the New York Rangers on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Penguins traded Trangradi to the Jets on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013.

Beau Bennett soon may begin his career with the Penguins.

The Penguins traded 24-year-old left winger Eric Tangradi Wednesday to Winnipeg for a 2013 seventh-round draft pick.

Also a left winger, Bennett attended the Penguins' game Wednesday against Ottawa at Consol Energy Center.

Team physicians examined a lower-body injury that kept Bennett out of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton lineup for two weeks before he returned last weekend.

General manager Ray Shero did not dismiss the possibility that Bennett would remain with the Penguins.

“We're going to address that,” Shero said. “We'll talk with him after the game. More importantly, it's just a matter of seeing what the doctors say. We just want to make sure he's 100 percent.”

Shero is aware that the Penguins are struggling to locate a productive winger for center Evgeni Malkin.

Bennett, the 20th overall pick at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, is a candidate to fill a top-six forward spot provided he is and can stay healthy.

“We'll see,” Shero said. “We'll see.”

Team officials originally believed Bennett needed a full season of professional hockey, especially after two injury-plagued campaigns with the University of Denver from 2010-2012.

Bennett has been Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's most productive forward with seven goals and 25 points in 35 games. The Penguins considered keeping him following January's abbreviated training camp.

“He's been an impressive player down there,” Shero said.

Five players had failed to produce playing beside Malkin and right wing James Neal through 13 games this season.

Tangradi was among that group, and the coaching staff responded by making the former top forward prospect a healthy scratch in eight consecutive games before Wednesday's trade.

Tangradi, who would have needed to clear waivers for an AHL assignment, did not possess a clear future with the Penguins He had one goal in 45 games with the Penguins over parts of three seasons.

“He didn't ask for a trade,” Shero said. “He was getting scratched. This was an opportunity for him to stay in the NHL. He needs to play. He wasn't moving forward, it seemed.”

Tangradi never complained about his role.

“I'm pumped,” Tangradi told reporters in Winnipeg. “I'm just really excited. I don't know what opportunity awaits me and whatnot, but I think it was time for a change of scenery for me. I do believe I'm an NHL player but wasn't getting the opportunity in Pittsburgh.”

Tangradi was acquired from Anaheim on Feb. 26, 2009, along with left winger Chris Kunitz in exchange for defenseman Ryan Whitney.

There once was a time when the Penguins believed Tangradi could become a power forward on a line with Malkin or Sidney Crosby.

Shero acknowledged that he now views Tangradi in a third- or fourth-line role.

“I don't know if it's going to be a top-six role for him,” Shero said. “It might be a bottom-six role. I just think he needs an opportunity to find his confidence at the NHL level. It just seemed like there were some guys passing him by.”

Along with figuring out who will play alongside Malkin — and whether Bennett is ready to play in the NHL — Shero has some decisions to make with more than a quarter of the truncated season already concluded.

“We'll see how it goes,” he said. “We'll mix and match to find the right fit (on the second line). We are still contemplating whether we're going to keep seven or eight defensemen.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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