The NHL Draft is just over one week away, but the NHL trade chatter is still adding names, not yet zeroing in on teams that would be a great fit or can pay the asking price. Nor does it appear teams are getting close to making deals despite the impending gathering. The league also seems caught at a crossroads between this year’s slight $1 million increase in salary cap space and the following years of spiking cap space.
Lurking about is Kyle Dubas and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It’s too soon to tell if Dubas will take big swings this summer, but there are some good fits for the Penguins if he does. However, one major obstacle is the Penguins’ lack of depth; Dubas probably gets one, maybe two big swings on the NHL trade market before the Penguins are out of realistically tradeable options.
NHL Trade Rumors and Potential Fits:
Connor Hellebuyck: Proceed with caution
The Penguins need a goalie, and Hellebuyck fits the bill as a No. 1 guy who can be trusted. The downside is Hellebuyck said no to being part of a rebuild in Winnipeg. Presumably, the Penguins would need to prove their long-term viability to Hellebuyck, or he would be nothing more than an expensive rental.
Winnipeg cannot ask for the same price tag as Juuse Saros (two first-rounders and more) because of the expiring contract, but a first-rounder plus more seems in order.
Can the Penguins afford that? Yes, but not really, unless they get his name on a new contract.
Noah Hanafin: Interesting
The Calgary Flames are rumored to have put Hanafin on the NHL trade block. The all-around left-handed defenseman can play more than 20 minutes per night. He’s a smooth skater and puck mover but not great in any one area.
Hanafin is not a physical, stay-home defenseman, so he wouldn’t be a Brian Dumoulin replacement. He’s more of a second-pair defenseman, which might create problems balancing the blue line. A Hanafin-Jeff Petry pairing would be a pair of all-around d-men.
He does have size at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, and he scored 38 points (7-31-38) this season, so he has a little offense in his game. Hanafin is entering the final year of a six-year contract that pays $4.95 million annually, and Calgary is making changes to clean house after a disappointing slump to miss the playoffs (sound familiar?).
Would Calgary want a defenseman in return? A Penguins trade makes the most sense if the Calgary Flames are interested in one of the Penguins’ defensemen or veteran forwards as part of a hockey swap.
Mark Scheifele: Hmmm
Sportsnet’s Ken Weibe tabbed the Penguins as a sleeper in the potential Scheifele sweepstakes. At first blush, it only makes sense if Evgeni Malkin or Scheifele moves to the wing. Scheifele has all the tools but has been part of that disappointing Winnipeg environment.
He has a good shot, as evidenced by 42 goals this season. He can play between the dots because of his 6-foot-3, 207-pound frame. However, he also takes shifts that are too long, leading to chances against, and he isn’t always good without the puck.
Another positive attribute is his AAV. He makes only $6.125 million for one more season before he becomes a free agent next summer. Scheifele would probably balk at being a third-line center. It’s a nice idea, but one that doesn’t work in the current construct (though I’ve wondered about moving Malkin to the wing to prolong his career and improve his health while simultaneously providing more opportunities to unleash that powerful shot).
Travis Konecny: Yes, please
The Philadelphia Flyers are undergoing a major overhaul. It’s not quite a fire sale, but the result may be the same. New GM Daniel Briere has reportedly made Travis Konecny available.
The 26-year-old winger can play both sides and has boundless energy and a bit of sandpaper to go with his 31 goals this season. He’s only 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, but he plays bigger. Konecny’s cap hit is only $4.5 million for the next two seasons, making him affordable, too.
A deal would be predicated on Philadelphia accepting at least one NHL player in return because the Penguins don’t have the prospects to overwhelm others in the bidding process. Konecny would be an ideal replacement for Jason Zucker and cost less, to boot.
Perhaps the market was set when former GM Jim Rutherford paid a 16th overall pick for Kasperi Kapanen, but Konecny has much better stats than Kananen had at the time, so the 14th pick might be the cost, plus a little more. The Penguins would do well to push for a hockey trade involving NHL players instead.
If Dubas went hard on this one, he’d get no criticism here.
Scott Laughton: Very good fit
The Penguins need a legitimate third-line center. Scott Laughton, also of those hated Philadelphia Flyers, is a hard-nosed player. He is usually a winger but can play center.
Laughton was the type of player the Penguins needed to acquire at the NHL trade deadline. Feisty and good on the penalty kill, he also has some offense to give. The Penguins hockey ops would have to determine his viability as a 3C, but he also fits on the left wing.
This season, Laughton had 18 goals and 43 points in 78 games. He has three years remaining on a contract with a $3 million AAV.
Because he will not cost a first-round pick, there’s room to work here. However, will longtime Flyers Keith Jones (the new president of hockey operations) and Briere ask for a premium to deal with a rival?
John Gibson: Great fit, but…
Playing on a hockey team interested in the result will be the best thing for Gibson. His statistics place him well below Saros and Hellebuyck, but his talent puts him in their class. The Anaheim Ducks have thus far rebuffed his trade demands made over multiple seasons.
Anaheim holds the key here. If they ask for a fair price, which would be a prospect/high pick, and an NHL player, Dubas should go after it. If they hold a high price to keep Gibson, such as multiple first-round picks plus more, then it’s an easy no-sale for the soon-to-be 30-year-old goalie.