There are only a handful of teams with enough salary-cap space to leverage additional assets from a trading partner to accept a high-salary player or bad contract. One of those teams is the Colorado Avalanche. And so it should be to no surprise that Pittsburgh Penguins trade rumors and reports centered on Colorado, Monday.
The first whisper came from PHN colleague Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now who reported Colorado was poking around Penguins backup goalie Tristan Jarry, Thursday night. However, the Penguins kept Jarry and waived backup goalie Casey DeSmith.
More Penguins trade rumors came from Paul Bisonette, aka Biz Nasty on the national Spittin’ Chiclets podcast. Bisonette said he was told Colorado would acquire Jack Johnson and additional assets from the Penguins.
The report is curious because of the previous goalie tie-in, but according to Dater, Colorado specifically wants youth. Johnson is a 32-year-old defenseman with four years remaining on his $3.25 annual contract. Should any team acquire Johnson for this season and buy him out next June, he would count $916,000 against the salary cap for six years, according to CapFriendly.com.
The Penguins may have gained some time and cap relief with Bryan Rust’s hand injury. The Penguins may place Rust on LTIR, which would grant the Penguins just under $3.5 million in temporary cap relief. After the Penguins placed DeSmith on waivers, they were approximately $40,000 under the salary cap. Being so close to the limit would maximize their relief if the club puts Rust on LTIR.
Johnson has been much maligned on social media for his defensive style, which is a relatively new career path. Johnson told PHN he was never accused of being a defensive defenseman but towards the end of his tenure in Columbus, he “had to figure it out.” Before then, he was an offensive defenseman who scored more than 40 points three years ago.
“Yeah, I mean part of that, I was the power-play guy. I got all five-on-threes and five-on-fours, empty nets and all those things. So I collected an extra 15-20 points just that way,” Johnson said. “But you know I would like to have more of an impact offensively and stuff.”
However, Juuso Riikola appears to have passed Johnson on the Penguins depth chart, for balance as much as Riikola’s play. Riikola is a quick skater and feisty defenseman who compliments right side anchor Erik Gudbranson more than Johnson.
The Penguins still have one roster move remaining to trim their roster to 23 players. The Penguins could place Zach Trotman on LTIR because he had sports hernia surgery this month. The final decision is between defensemen John Marino, Chad Ruhwedel and Johnson.
The Penguins have 13 forwards including Rust, so the team might need to send down two defensemen to clear space for a forward call-up.