There has been plenty of speculation about whether the Penguins would be interested in trading for Senators center Derick Brassard prior to the Feb. 26 deadline. TSN’s Bob McKenzie even brought up the defending champs in a televised panel discussion about Ottawa putting players up for sale, but he made sure to throw a few grains of salt in with that observation.
As of Monday afternoon, though, we finally have an official report tying the Penguins to Brassard. Courtesy of TSN’s Darren Dreger, Jim Rutherford is “in the mix” for the 30-year-old center::
Brassard is an interesting target this week. Sens need to make a hockey deal. Multiple teams, including Pittsburgh, are in the mix.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) February 19, 2018
Brassard is under contract through next season at $5 million per. The lefty shooter is in the midst of his second season as a Senator, for whom he’s scored 74 points (31 goals) in 136 regular-season games. He had four goals and 11 total points last spring during Ottawa’s surprise run to the Eastern Conference final.
With the Rangers from 2013-16, Brassard averaged slightly more offensive production — 0.69 points per game with New York versus 0.54 in Ottawa — although most NHL scorers peak in their mid-20s so that curve lines up with the larger trend in the sport.
On the other hand, there’s an argument that Brassard has been held back by Sens coach Guy Boucher‘s conservative style of play and could flourish as the third-line center in Pittsburgh, where he’d assuredly get better matchups while playing behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
There’s another part of Dreger‘s tweet we should address, the bit about the “hockey deal.”
The Senators aren’t looking to simply dump salary, even though owner Eugene Melnyk has publicly cried poor in recent months. They’d want some present-day value in return, so young forwards like Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust or Jake Guentzel come to mind, although 32-year-old Matt Hunwick might find a better fit north of the border, too.
Hunwick carries a $2.25 million salary-cap hit over the next two seasons, while Sheary comes in at $3 million during the same span. That’s relevant considering the Penguins have less than $1 million with which to work under the cap currently.
With Ottawa out of contention, it doesn’t appear they’d be interested in adding pending free agent Ian Cole for the rest of the year, although Cole’s increased role lately indicates he might stick around anyway. His $2.1 million cap hit has made him a popular topic of trade speculation throughout this season.
But what about the rest of the Penguins’ defense corps?
Olli Määttä is owed $4.083 million per year over the next four seasons, while Brian Dumoulin makes $4.1 million annually for the next five. Either could fit into Ottawa’s rebuilding plan and simultaneously clear enough space for Brassard to fit under the cap in Pittsburgh. With Jamie Oleksiak appearing to be a good fit, perhaps the Penguins feel they could spare a young defender in exchange for loading up down the middle through 2018-19.