The NHL trade deadline is just 14 days away. The buyers have lined up like desperate TV shoppers outside Best Buy in the wee hours of Black Friday, but many sellers still entertain visions of playoff revenue. And so the only movement on the NHL trade market thus far has been the Toronto acquisition of a backup goalie and down-line grinder. Perhaps no contender in the NHL has a longer list than the Penguins trade needs.
Injuries have created holes throughout the Penguins lineup.
General Manager Jim Rutherford is left with a decreasing number of assets to complete a Penguins trade. And therein lies another problem. The Penguins needs are growing, but their asset pool is shrinking.
Rutherford is one of the best in the game, but the slow-moving 2020 NHL trade deadline is a complex puzzle. Elliotte Friedman reported it on Jan. 25, the Penguins have made an offer to Minnesota which was available anytime Minnesota GM Bill Guerin chose to accept it. A quick look at the NHL standings on recent days shows Minnesota hanging close to the Western Conference wild-card.
A handful of teams thought to be sellers are within legitimate striking distance of the Western Conference wild-card, which is the primary factor for the slow deadline.
Penguins Trade Bait
Penguins 1st Round Pick
There are a few rentals on the market, including the New York Rangers Chris Kreider, who has become so popular that he will fetch a first-rounder and a prospect. PHN doesn’t believe the Penguins are in a position to lose both for a rental. However, the first-round pick is in play for a player who will stick around.
PHN gut feeling: Minnesota will eventually get this pick if they want it.
Injuries may have robbed Rutherford of an asset. We will find out later Monday if Bjugstad has yet resumed skating. He initially began skating on Jan. 8, but has recently not been seen on the ice nor has head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed him to be skating. As the deadline is just two weeks away, Bjugstad’s return in time is questionable, at best.
The Penguins large centerman represented the Penguins best chance to complete a hockey trade without dipping into picks and prospects. Bjugstad’s injury means any team looking for immediate help at center will not be able to count on Bjugstad or get a good look at his health.
PHN gut feeling: Bjugstad will be a Penguin after the deadline unless he quickly returns from to the lineup.
PHN has heard whispers several teams like Riikola and would count him as a prospect rather than an eighth defenseman. Riikola has been on a roller coaster with the Penguins. He was the training camp sensation last year but didn’t get to play in the NHL with any regularity until mid-season. Then, he was sent down to the AHL later in the season.
He needs regular playing time but has value because he’s not yet been put in the right situation to thrive. His physical skills are unquestioned. He’s fast, has some grit, and can be a power-play point.
PHN gut feeling: A rebuilding team will be able to accept Riikola’s growing pains. Look to teams like LA or Anaheim, which need reinvigoration. However, unless the Penguins acquire veteran defensive help to replace Riikola, he’ll be sticking around.
Justin Schultz: X
Schultz is a pending UFA, and there was a little bit of chatter that he could be used on this end of the Penguins trade for a needed asset because John Marino had more than adequately filled the second pairing role. However, until the Penguins know more about Marino’s health and long term prognosis after suffering a broken cheekbone on Thursday night, Schultz is absolutely staying put.
PHN gut feeling: Penguins can’t entertain the idea of losing Schultz unless Marino will soon be back in the lineup, and the Penguins acquire a legitimate NHL defenseman to helm the third pairing.
The Penguins goalie prospect is intriguing to some teams even as he struggled this season to adjust to the North American game. He is the closest thing to a tradeable prospect the Penguins possess.
PHN gut feeling: If a team insisted Larmi was the prospect coming the other way in a deal for a top-six winger, the Penguins would have little choice. We do believe at least one team used his name in discussions with Rutherford.
Sam Poulin, Calen Addison
Nope. The top Penguins prospects are racing towards their NHL life, and the Penguins would need to be blown away by an offer to include the kids. No gut feeling required. Keep the kids.
Addison showed very well at the World Juniors. Poulin was red-hot through February. He had five straight three-point games and was back-to-back QMJHL player of the week.
Of course. He won’t fetch much return, but it’s painful for all involved to watch a talented player sink to these depths. Throw the towel. Call the fight. It’s over. Galchenyuk played three minutes on Saturday night in Florida, and he’s a candidate to be a scratch moving forward.
PHN gut feeling: He’ll bring a mid-round pick or be a deal sweetener. His salary is onerous, so his trade value is almost nothing right now.
Simon probably has more value to the Penguins than he would bring in return. However, in return for a top-six winger, he could be a useful add-on.
PHN gut feeling: Simon is a Penguin on Feb. 25.
Life is cruel. DeSmith signed a three-year deal, bought a house in Pittsburgh, but didn’t get to live there this season. Last week, Toronto chose Jack Campbell over DeSmith. The trade set the going price for a backup at a third-round pick. So, if the Penguins need an asset equivalent to a third-rounder, DeSmith could be on the move.
Interestingly, the Penguins may have every reason to keep DeSmith as both Tristan Jarry and Matt Murray will be RFAs. Do the Penguins want to keep both into next season?
PHN gut feeling: DeSmith isn’t given the respect of an NHL backup goalie, despite his solid numbers in 50 games played. He’ll remain a Penguins goalie and be part of the summer discussion.
As you can see, the Penguins don’t have a lot of good options. The first-round pick is likely a goner if Rutherford can get a good return. Forward depth should not be hard to acquire for middle-round picks or even a player in WBS like Adam Johnson. 2021 picks may also be in play.
Expect a scoring winger, or at least the best option the Penguins can afford. The Penguins can then decide between forward depth and depth defensemen, but unlikely both unless the dip into the prospects pool for capital.
Of course, Rutherford in the Hockey Hall of Fame because he generally exceeds predictions and expectations.