If the Pittsburgh Penguins and GM Jim Rutherford can’t snag their top target before the Feb. 24 NHL Trade Deadline, there are some under the radar options Rutherford could choose and probably acquire at less cost, too. The Penguins trade intentions appear to be set, but in a slow-moving market, much is still unsettled.
On the 31 Thoughts podcast of Jan. 25, Sportsnet reporter Elliotte Friedman stated the Penguins made a standing offer to Minnesota GM Bill Guerin. Minnesota is still in the playoff chase, and Guerin reportedly wants to let his team go for it before he makes sweeping changes.
There’s also been more speculation than available information regarding the Penguins trade potentials. New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider remains the top trade target on the open market, but the coming bidding war for the Rangers veteran will be intense. Other top-six wingers such as Andreas Athanasiou and Mike Hoffman could also command a pretty penny in return.
The Penguins need a winger, or two, and here are three possibles which could be stealth Penguins trade targets:
Craig Smith, 30, Nashville Predators. RW
We’ve put Smith on previous trade target boards, but things are a little different now. Prospects are emerging in Nashville, and the Predators are teetering on the edge of the playoff race. The word around the league is Nashville may deal Smith for a second or maybe even a third-round pick.
Smith blossomed with a 25-goal outburst in 2017-18 and 21 goals last season. This season, the 6-foot-1, 208-pound winger has slumped to just 11 goals and 11 assists in 52 games. In his career, Smith has cracked the 20-goal plateau five times.
Smith is in the final season of a five-year contract that carried a cap hit of $4.2 million per season.
Andreas Johnsson, 25, Toronto Maple Leafs. LW
Johnsson is, in some ways, Jake Guentzel-lite. The young winger nicknamed “Mango” is a creative, high hockey-IQ player with good speed and a knack for getting to open areas. The prevailing thought is Toronto cannot keep both Kasperi Kapanen and Johnsson because of salary cap constraints. Johnsson signed a four-year, $13.6 million contract last summer, so he would be a long-term acquisition.
The Penguins trade bait also includes something Toronto desperately needs: Backup goaltending.
As a rookie last season, Johnsson potted 20 goals and 23 assists. This season, he’s well behind that pace with seven goals and 12 assists in 38 games.
Jesper Fast, RW, New York Rangers
Fast probably isn’t a top-six winger option, but he could fit well with the Penguins scheme. The 6-foot-1, 191-pound, Swedish winger is one of the fastest skaters on the ice but has never reached the 20-goal mark. His best season was 2017-18 when he had 13 goals and 20 assists. Fast has 22 points (8g, 22a) in 50 games this season.
Fast would be a bottom-six player, but the Penguins could end the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton shuffle with a solid contributor like Fast. He is in the final season of a three-year contract with a $1.8 million AAV.
Editor’s Note: The original version of the story included incorrect contract information for Johnsson.