Over the past 12 months, Winnipeg Jets scouts and their director of scouting have visited Pittsburgh more often than most. The Pittsburgh Penguins known trade chips align almost too perfectly with the Winnipeg Jets reported wants, but in the words of Adam Sandler’s Billy Madison, it takes two to tango. There are definite possibilities between the two clubs, but Winnipeg would need to feel a pinch to pull off a blockbuster. And therein is always a problem.
According to Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun, Winnipeg is in the market for a left-handed defenseman and a second line center.
Gee, who do you know who is selling those assets?
As Pittsburgh Hockey Now reported yesterday–almost a confirmation of what we all suspected–the Penguins expect to deal third line center Derick Brassard, who has long been a valuable second line center until his arrival in Pittsburgh.
And the Penguins will have nine healthy NHL defensemen soon, six of which are left-handed.
If Winnipeg wants size on their blue line, the Penguins have that in Jamie Oleksiak. If they want steady, stay-at-home defense, the Penguins have that, too with Olli Maatta. The Penguins even have inexpensive youth and speed with Juuso Riikola, but that is a rare find and usually tough to let go (though Maatta and Riikola are the same age, one is at his peak while the other seems to be just finding his professional stride).
The Penguins check all of the boxes for Winnipeg; like a one-stop shop.
Last month, the Winnipeg Jets director of scouting took in a few Penguins games. We assume he wasn’t here for the soft pretzel rods and pressbox nachos, though they are spectacular. To be clear, the presence of Winnipeg’s scouting staff last month is all Pittsburgh Hockey Now can confirm regarding contact between the teams.
But are the Jets a good fit for the Penguins?
The Penguins belief in Riley Sheahan will shape their strategy. The Penguins have publicly stated they believe Sheahan could be a third line center. If the Penguins genuinely think Sheahan can handle third line center duties with Phil Kessel riding shotgun, they’re more apt to seek an additional scoring winger, which likely downgrades Winnipeg as a trading partner.
If the Penguins question Sheahan’s ability in the 3c role–he is playing left wing on the fourth line–then receiving a third line center in a Brassard deal or pieces to set up a subsequent deal would be imperative and Winnipeg is back in the conversation.
Winnipeg has a plethora of versatile forwards who are natural centers but can play on the wing with some scoring flair. A player such as speedy and slippery Mathieu Perreault would be a good fit with the Penguins. Perrault was one of the best Winnipeg forwards when they lost to the Penguins on Jan 4. His offense is down this season with just 18 points (9g, 9a) but the Jets bottom six offense is down overall.
Winnipeg also has thunderous center Adam Lowry, who could be a valuable asset for the physical brutality of the impending playoff series with the Washington Capitals. Unfortunately, the 6-foot-5, 210-pound center is not generating enough offensive production. He has only 13 points (7g, 6a) in 43 games. If the Penguins decide to beef up for a ground-and-pound assault on the Eastern Conference elites, Lowry would certainly be a fit.
However, Lowry has only 59 shots in 43 games. That lack of offensive push just doesn’t seem to fit with the Penguins scheme. Further, could his playmaking skills make Phil Kessel happy?
Plenty of teams can drool over Kyle Connor but forget about it.
There is a deal to be made, but from the Penguins side, it would likely involve other pieces which would be a setup for another move. Winnipeg doesn’t meet the Penguins needs nearly as well as the Penguins meet Winnipeg’s. So, for now, we’re going to close the book on a Penguins-Jets trade match. It made much more sense one year ago than it does today.