About a month ago, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford threatened his team with a roster shakeup if their play didn’t improve, quickly. Trade rumors were everywhere.
Perhaps Rutherford was bluffing because the only moves he made were, at the time, minor (Jamie Oleksiak acquired, Josh Archibald traded). In Rutherford’s defense, the Penguins performances have, by and large, improved lately.
With another small roster tweak or two, it’s conceivable Pittsburgh could find themselves back in the Cup conversation. Where those tweaks come, though, is the big question.
Riley Sheahan Fourth Line
Sometimes injuries turn out to be a good thing. Without Evgeni Malkin going down during the spring of 2016, Mike Sullivan never would have built the “HBK line” that primarily drove the Penguins to the first of two Stanley Cups.
While Dick’s shouldn’t start making the “KSR” t-shirts just yet, the combination of Tom Kuhnhackl, Riley Sheahan, and Ryan Reaves has worked very well since Carter Rowney sustained his injury. All three players have a goal in the last four games.
However, Penguins fans shouldn’t bet on Sheahan remaining on the fourth line. Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Rutherford has been pleased with Sheahan’s production regardless of which line he’s been on and doesn’t mind if Guentzel has to play center for the time being.
Read Jason’s work–based on the quotes, the urgency seems to be gone.
Is a Metropolitan 3rd Line Center on the Move?
A new third-line center appears to be hitting the market.
With injuries to Johnny Boychuk and Calvin de Haan, the New York Islanders need help on the blue line, and according to Elliotte Friedman, one player possibly available on Long Island is center Brock Nelson.
His numbers are down from previous seasons, but so is his ice time, as the Islanders have transitioned to former first round pick Mathew Barzal anchoring the second line behind John Tavares. While averaging just over 14 minutes in 43 games this season, Nelson has nine goals and 14 points.
Only five assists through half a season is obviously a major concern, but given the Penguins struggles to find a center, Nelson could draw interest around the league and provide the Islanders with blue line help.
Of course, a trade between division foes, who haven’t struck a deal since 2009, is unlikely. Heck, it’s been so long since the Penguins and Islanders made a trade, Jaromir Jagr was only 37 the last time it happened.
Evander Kane’s Buffalo Days Numbered
It may now be a foregone conclusion Evander Kane will not finish the season with the Sabres. Buffalo isn’t going anywhere, Kane is an unrestricted free agent this June, and it appears he won’t be re-signing in upstate New York.
It became abundantly clear Wednesday night when NHL Insider Bob McKenzie reported during an NBCSN telecast that Kane and Justin Falk “got into it” at practice. Words were exchanged, and Falk reportedly called his teammate “selfish.”
Buzzwords like “selfish” are a kiss of death for a hockey player. Just ask Phil Kessel, who was snubbed (in my opinion) in the All-Star voting this week, how hard it is to repair a damaged reputation.
Fortunately for the Sabres, McKenzie doesn’t anticipate this incident damaging Kane’s trade value.
“I don’t think so,” said McKenzie. “I think people will look at it and say he’s been a very productive player last year and this year. He certainly seems to have kept his nose clean and right now the Buffalo Sabres are looking for a high pick and a prospect for Evander Kane.
“I think this is a deal that gets done much closer to the deadline than now.”