The entire league seemed to take a holiday sometime in October when the coming NHL season was in more doubt than a Sydney Powell lawsuit. Free-agent discussions ceased. The uncertainty halted NHL trade talks as GMs were constrained from a lack of salary cap space and unsure about the future. Now that the NHL is set to return in January, Pittsburgh Penguins trade winds are again blowing.
However, don’t get too excited about Penguins trade talks yet. General Managers are starting over and having a lot of preliminary conversations. The chatter volume is high, but it is too early to call anything serious.
There is also some talk of compliance buyouts returning to the GMs’ toolbag, which could create a flood of transactions, new free agents, and probably a couple of subsequent blockbuster trades.
Multiple sources told Pittsburgh Hockey Now the Penguins are interested in a pair of big-name players who have big-time salaries. One of those names is Vegas Golden Knights LW Max Pacioretty.
On Wednesday afternoon, PHN confirmed with a well placed Penguins team source told PHN that Rutherford recently circled back on Pacioretty and is waiting to hear back.
The talks could be classified as exploratory.
The winger has three-years remaining at $7 million AAV per season, and everything about the Penguins acquiring Pacioretty would seem to be both economically impossible and lineup implausible. As an expensive and offensively productive LW, Pacioretty is a top-six winger, and the Pittsburgh Penguins are full up on the left side.
But it does make sense for Rutherford to poke around. The Penguins made the initial call and are waiting to see how the situation evolves.
Last season, Pacioretty lit up the scoreboard with 32 goals and 34 assists in 71 games. The 6-foot-2, 215 winger is not a physical presence but a scorer.
Pacioretty is a pure sniper with good speed and offensive instincts. He can also play defense.
Currently, Vegas is over the $81.5 million salary cap and must find a way to move salary. The Penguins are up against the cap and have about $1.3 million in cap space, though they could create an additional $1.4 million by moving depth players to the AHL roster.
However, that is a long way from $7 million.
The NHL trade chatter will pick up over the coming weeks, though the Christmas holiday roster freeze is likely still in effect. Though not yet official, the Penguins training camp will reportedly begin on Jan. 3 and last for 10 days.
Expect the NHL trade and UFA dominos to fall after the NHL officially announces the return to play. Given the compressed timeframe until camps begin and the coming compressed schedule, general managers probably won’t doddle.