From the time he arrived in Washington following a March 4 trade from Anaheim, Capitals left wing Dustin Penner seemed to have one foot on a plane back to southern California.
So it was only fitting that Penner, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, had an early exit interview with Capitals coach Adam Oates and was on a flight back to the left coast Monday night.
“I was here for a short time, but it doesn't ease the pain of not making the playoffs any less,” said Penner, who won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 and the Los Angeles Kings in 2012. “I've been in the fight for the Stanley Cup the last few years. I've gotten used to it. It's not a welcome feeling."
Penner said the Capitals’ power play, which finished in a first-place tie with the Penguins at 23.4 percent, impressed him, but added the Caps relied too heavily on it. As to what the Capitals lacked, he quipped, “We didn't make the playoffs and we didn't win four rounds in the playoffs."
Asked to elaborate, he said. “I don't know. That's something for management and the coaching staff. I'm just a player. I'm a cog in the wheel.
“There are problems with 29 teams every year. I do have perspective, but I haven’t been here long enough [to share it].”
After arriving from Anaheim in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick, Penner started off on the Caps’ second line and top power-play unit, but quickly was dropped to a fourth line by head coach Adam Oates, who said Penner did not possess the speed to play alongside top-line forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.
In 17 games for the Caps, Penner recorded one goal and two assists and was a plus-3 while averaging 12:14 of ice time, much of it spent on the Caps’ fourth line. Those totals were less than what the Capitals anticipated from the 31-year-old forward, especially after seeing him record 13 goals and 19 assists in 49 games with Anaheim, primarily on a top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
“I’ve played fourth line on other teams,” Penner said. “I just play the position I’m given, I don’t worry about where I think I should be or where my Dad thinks I should be.”
Asked where his Dad thinks he should play, Penner smiled and said, “First line left winger.”
As for where Penner will collect his next NHL paychecks, which totaled $2 million this season, he was blunt.
“I need a job,” he said. “I’ll entertain any and all offers.”