There are only hours remaining before the NHL Trade Deadline and the 3 p.m. feeding frenzy which will leave a few teams bleeding and few others sated. This is the last chance teams have to solidify their Stanley Cup hopes and the last chance other GMs have to pilfer an extra asset for their rebuilding or retooling effort. While fans may be hoping for a big Penguins trade, the odds and logistics are not in their favor.
Due to a lack of cap space and draft picks, the Penguins may not have much of a deadline strategy unless you count hope.
We’ll assume the Penguins have a better idea of Kris Letang’s health by now. There was a legitimate concern in the Penguins organization in the immediate aftermath but no information is yet known. We might see Letang skating at practice this afternoon but for the trade bait list, we’ll use both the best and worst case scenarios.
Before the debacle Saturday night, Pittsburgh Hockey Now was told the Penguins inquired about New Jersey LW Marcus Johansson. Our source offered pessimism on the potential outcome (so we didn’t run the story immediately) but there is no denying Johansson with his slick hands and quick feet would be a sweet treat for the Penguins top-nine.
However, sweet treats can have bitter costs and it seems the Penguins were white-whale hunting with that call, but they were also whale hunting in their chase for Derick Brassard (regardless of that final outcome).
Also, Pittsburgh Hockey Now has learned some in the Penguins organization are very open to the idea of standing pat and letting this season stand alone but that is not a unanimous opinion.
As for needs, the Penguins wingers have gone colder than the air at Lincoln Financial Field. Tanner Pearson, Phil Kessel, and Patric Hornqvist have a combined ONE goal in February. So, the Penguins could use a little juice beside their centers and at very least they could use some defensive depth.
A sidenote–because the Penguins have already traded their pending unrestricted free agents, they have no urgency to deal any player for picks unless they’re attempting to clear salary. Every player they have today, they will also have in June but would have a potentially wider market. In other words, a Phil Kessel trade isn’t plausible.
As the trade targets dwindle, here is what the Penguins have to offer. It could be a tough sell:
1. Tanner Pearson. LW. $3.75 million. Signed through 2020-21.
Pearson has gone sideways this season. He had just one assist in his first 14 games this season, all with the LA Kings. He had a quick start with the Penguins, but has cooled considerably and spent last weekend as a healthy scratch.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now has polled colleagues and insiders regarding Pearson’s value. The general consensus is the Penguins would not be required to give additional assets for a team to take Pearson, but nor could the Penguins recoup a real asset for him.
If they need to clear space, perhaps they can find a taker. Look for a team in the Western Conference which has cap space and remembers his 24-goal season just 18 months ago.
2. Dominik Simon. LW/RW. $750,000. Signed through 2019-20
Simon is an inexpensive complimentary piece. He could be flipped for a buried prospect or seventh defenseman type. If the Penguins go big, perhaps he could go with their first-round pick as the necessary sweetener.
The speedy winger is good in the corners and has playmaking ability. A team like Edmonton which is searching for a reboot should look at him as he could easily fill a spot with McDavid for a few moments, as needed. Until recently, Simon’s advanced stats were off the charts. His playmaking skills make his centers better and his salary means he fits anywhere.
The Penguins may be able to find a team in need of speed to offer a little something.
3. Calen Addison. D. Lethbridge Hurricanes. ELC not yet activated.
A team with a barren cupboard is in no position to trade away defensive prospects. However, pending the return, it can’t be ruled out. Addison has a few inherent flaws, notably his size but he may also be tempting to a rival GM who likes or needs offensive defensemen in the system or a GM who is rebuilding.
If the Penguins were able to land a winger or defenseman with term, it makes sense.
Pittsburgh fans love prospects, but Addison is not a sure thing for the NHL. The Penguins could gamble with him and plug their hole on defense by selling his promise.
4. Teddy Blueger. LW/C. RFA
Blueger figures to be a spark plug type player in the Penguins bottom six, probably the fourth line. While fan excitement probably outpaces his ceiling, Blueger could attract interest because his offensive game has improved ever.single.year.since.college.
Right now, he is blocked in the Penguins system. Next year, he figures to be a strong candidate for fourth line center or winger, but perhaps another team will see him as more, now.
If the Penguins go big-game hunting or have a lead on a defenseman, Blueger could be a necessary inclusion for a defenseman capable of playing legitimate, hard minutes.
5. #1 Pick
Batten the hatches and log off Twitter if Rutherford deals his top pick again. The Penguins have been able to kick back and watch the first-round festivities for the past few years.
If they deal the top pick, they’ll need maximum value. It can’t be a rental or gamble.
How desperate are the Penguins? We may find out.