There are just hours before the NHL trade deadline and as fans reach a fevered pitch as if only one big score could earn their team a downtown parade and day drinking, general managers are burning cell phone data like an Instagram fashion star. The Pittsburgh Penguins find themselves in an uncharacteristically unsettled position and their GM Jim Rutherford is kicking tires on several lineup additions.
And the Stadium Series game in Philadelphia had to leave a mark on Rutherford and potentially throw the Penguins plans into chaos.
The Penguins were physically assaulted and didn’t have an equal answer. San Jose also physically confronted the Penguins. And of course, the Penguins could also be left without dynamic defenseman Kris Letang, as he suffered an upper-body injury in the scraps which followed Philadelphia forward Wayne Simmonds launching himself into the upper body of Brian Dumoulin.
The last two games are also unsettling because in the prior games the Penguins looked like they had their game figured out. They beat the New York Rangers with a six-goal outburst including three in the third period. They cut through New Jersey on Tuesday night with the same line configurations. Confidence and optimism were rising, rapidly.
And then the Penguins no-showed against the San Jose Sharks, Thursday and everything was back to square one.
Pending the severity of Letang’s injury, the Penguins may be forced to spend assets on defensive depth, rather than getting better. They may be learning the answer and their plans today.
How badly do the Penguins need scoring from the wings? Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, Dominic Simon and Tanner Pearson have a combined one goal in February. That’s how little the Penguins are getting from their sidecars.
This week, the Penguins were linked to several names which are now off the market. However, Pittsburgh Hockey Now was told Saturday the Penguins have inquired about Marcus Johansson and he is firmly on their wishlist.
Marcus Johansson. New Jersey Devils. LW. $4.583 Million Cap Hit. UFA
MoJo has become a quiet belle of the trade ball. Our sources close to the Penguins front office indicated the Penguins had contacted New Jersey about Johansson. However, the source expressed some pessimism the Penguins could advance into serious talks because of the volume of suitors and the Penguins lack of available resources–both cap space and offerable assets.
According to Daren Dreger of TSN, New Jersey wants a second round pick, which the Penguins don’t have until 2021.
At first glance, the Penguins would necessarily be forced to move Tanner Pearson as part of that deal or in a related move. And the closest thing they have to a second round pick are the two 2018 second-round picks Calen Addison and Filip Hallander.
Zach Kassian. Edmonton Oilers. RW. $1.95 Million Cap Hit. Signed Through 2019-20
For those who watched the Edmonton Oilers vs. Nashville Predators Round Two series in 2017, it was Kassian’s re-emergence on the big stage. He was a physical nightmare for Nashville and nearly swung the series for his team.
The Penguins shouldn’t expect Hercules if they acquired him, but he would immediately add a high level of physical pushback with competent hockey skills. He has 16 points (8g, 8a) in 54 games, which is on par with his 19 points last season and 24 points in 2017.
Kassian is fast, heavy, and fearless. He dominates the corners and wall work. He could be a good fit for the Penguins attempt at more low play and puck possession. And–he will stick up for his teammates, rather than watching the Penguins talented hands do it themselves.
Reports out of Edmonton (Mark Spector) are the market is dropping for Kassian because of the extra contract year. The Penguins might need to push that envelope. Columbus is coming on Tuesday and they’re not going to set an extra place for tea.
Save the “He’s not good at hockey” speech for superstars who don’t have to do their own dirty work. Could Edmonton see Tanner Pearson or Dominik Simon as attractive?
Tyler Toffoli. LA Kings. LW. $4.6 Million Cap Hit. Signed Through 2019-20
Just like Johansson, the Penguins would need to move Tanner Pearson to make it happen, but LA probably isn’t a landing spot for Pearson (you know, since LA traded him for Carl Hagelin in November). Toffoli’s contractual control make him more valuable than a rental and everyone is having a down year in LA. Perhaps the Penguins could sneak in for a steal on this one.
This season, Toffoli has only 27 points (12g, 15a) in 61 games.
Toffoli, 26, might indeed be worth a Penguins prospect if LA is willing and the Penguins able.
Alex Chiasson: We still think he could fit with Penguins but Edmonton is overvaluing him.
Valeri Nichuskin: No goals in 43 games but perhaps a fellow Russian center could kickstart his career. He is signed through next season at $2.9 million but is a big frame with good wheels and a good shot. If the Penguins want to swap Tanner Pearson, this may be their chance. Dallas would certainly need to help a little with the salary, too.