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Should Rutherford Aggressively Seek Penguins Trade?

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Pittsburgh Penguins trade; GM Jim Rutherford NHL trade rumors

The wound is still fresh. The Pittsburgh Penguins suffered their worst loss of the season on Tuesday morning when All-Star winger Jake Guentzel had shoulder surgery. He will be out four to six months, and the Penguins will be without their best winger for the remainder of the season. The immediate outcry from fans was for a quick Penguins trade to salvage the season.

But is that necessary?

Guentzel isn’t just the Penguins best winger, he is far and away the biggest Penguins scoring threat beyond Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. His 40 goals last season put him in further rarified air. Guentzel was the first 40-goal scorer not named Malkin or Crosby since James Neal scored 40 in 2011-2012. Before that, it was Alexei Kovalev (44) and Jaromir Jagr (52) in 2000-01.

And so the Penguins are again left to regroup after an injury, but this time it’s for the rest of the season. As GM Jim Rutherford evaluates his team between now and the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline, Guentzel will not be a factor, but the hole he left behind will be.

At practice on Wednesday at the UPMC Lemieux Complex, head coach Mike Sullivan inserted Alex Galchenyuk in Guentzel’s spot on the top line with Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust.

Should Rutherford aggressively pursue a Penguins trade to fill the void, and what are the logistics?

A Penguins Trade: It’s easier said than done.

Rutherford is a horse trader capable of a hockey trade, like few of his colleagues. His Hall of Fame induction wasn’t unearned and a couple of recent Penguins trades, including the acquisition of defenseman Erik Gudbranson last February, came together within a week. Such quick deals are the exception, not the norm.

PHN learned Penguins kicked the tires on Nick Bjugstad for over a year. Our first report the Penguins liked Bjugstad was in the summer of 2017. He was finally acquired with Jared McCann in February 2019, after McCann became the object of the Penguins desires and Florida’s long term plans changed to include the pursuit of high priced Russian talent.

So, don’t expect a rapid turnaround deal to fill the Guentzel roster spot.

We’ve already dug through the rentals who may or may not hit the market. However, there are obstacles. Rutherford seems to have built up enough goodwill around the league with fair deals, so other GMs don’t seem to rake him over the coals when they have the chance.

Let’s be real. Who do the Penguins have available to deal?

Justin Schultz is a name which is gathering steam on social media, but let’s bring that into focus. Could the Penguins replace Schultz on the second pair with John Marino? Yes. However, that would eventually mandate the third pairing of Jack Johnson and Chad Ruhwedel and would put a lot of pressure on Marino on the second pair. Marino isn’t yet the point producer that Schultz has become.

Those are two negatives to dealing Schultz.

Kris Letang-Schultz-Marino is a far stronger right side than Letang-Marino-Ruhwedel. Oh, and Schultz is still on the training table, not the ice, so he’s off the board for the short term.

Follow me on this one. If Bjugstad is on the block, could the Penguins get a better winger than Jared McCann? If the Penguins deal Bjugstad, McCann would slide to 3C, and thus the Penguins would lose McCann the wing. And Bjugstad has been a better center than McCann, so the math is difficult; unless the Penguins can get a better winger than McCann, they would have a double loss by dealing Bjugstad.

There seems to be some revisionist history occurring. At center, McCann has one goal in his last 14 games. His advanced stats in the middle are also underwater. McCann’s great offensive awakening began with his move to the wing, last season.

Would Rutherford deal a prospect for a rental player? Or even for a mid-level winger? Conversely, would the Penguins prospects net a return of a mid-level winger?

If the Penguins deal a prospect for a winger, it is highly unlikely that winger will be a rental. Mortgaging the future for the immediate no longer seems to be in Rutherford’s purview.

Rutherford could package a prospect like 19-year-old defenseman Calen Addison who is currently with Team Canada in the World Juniors, or 20-year-old PO Joseph of the WBS Penguins with picks to acquire scoring help. Joseph is in his first professional season and has just six points (1g, 5a) in 23 games and is a minus-four.

But acquiring a player with salary for next season means those financial resources already earmarked for Jared McCann, Marcus Pettersson, Matt Murray and/or Tristan Jarry, and Justin Schultz or his replacement will be spent.

With all of those obstacles and logistical impediments, Rutherford has the challenge to add offense to the Penguins lineup.

So, should Rutherford move aggressively? No. His better play is to wait to see how the team with Crosby, Malkin, Hornqvist, and Schultz comes into focus. To see what players step forward in the absence.

Dominik Kahun, Alex Galchenyukk or others will get a chance. And perhaps one or both of those players will be as good as anything the Penguins could acquire without weakening their lineup or sacrificing future gains.

But, if the right deal comes along in the meantime, another Penguins trade certainly couldn’t hurt.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Ricardo58
Ricardo58
1 year ago

My 2 cents is no. Stay the course. Keep the young assets and 1st round selection. Especially no to a rental type player in exchange for assets.
87 is the best player and obviously the 1 center. However, just purely speculative, the Pens roster remains intact and you replace 59 with 87 while keeping 71 as the center, maybe the productivity could remain. 71 has been a horse. I’m sure 87 could play wing quite effectively.
Go Pens.

Hatrick Pornqvist
Hatrick Pornqvist
1 year ago

It’s not a dire situation by any means but if the price is right, why not go get a winger. The team is about to get Sid back and there’s no reason to panic, but who knows if we are ever going to be near full health this year. Adding a reinforcement seems like a no brainer especially if we have the cap space like we do now to play with. Kreider would look perfect on this roster and could step right into Jake’s spot. What it ultimately comes down to for me is this: You’re Jimmy Rutherford. You’ve got… Read more »

Paul Katz
Paul Katz
1 year ago

What is the estimated cost the Rangers would demand and what is the xpected cost a team would have to give for Kreider? What would it cost Pittsburgh to acquire Kreider?

Edgar
Edgar (@edgar)
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Katz

I think Pitt should simply offer our first round pick and a decent, but not top prospect for Kreider. If they say no, they say no. If we wanted to add some defenseman we don’t want to keep, that’s fine as well. But, only 1 major piece. He’s not going to set the world on fire during the regular season. But, he’ll be a valuable playoff performer, that, if we are at full health (minus Jake of course) could put us over the top. IMO, of course.

David
David
1 year ago

Shop MM. Seriously. The Pens would be fine. Not sure what they could get, but he would probably bring the best return of any available player on the team. He is due for a big contract after this season.

Herman
Herman
1 year ago

Agree the Rutherford should stay the course for now but shouldn’t he at least kick around the idea of a low risk option in signing Kovalchuck (at the very least to help with the PP)?

Jeff
Jeff
1 year ago

Matt Murray is the obvious choice. He is overpriced, injury prone, and not nearly as good as his 2 stanley cup trophies imply. Jarry is a cheaper and better goalie. There are plenty of teams out there that would love Murray based on his playoff record alone.

Edgar
Edgar (@edgar)
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff

You’ll be selling him quite low. I mean, he’s overpriced, injury prone, and not nearly as good as his 2 Stanley cup trophies imply.

David
David
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff

Absolutely. Do it for the cap problem it will cause to resign him alone. But they can get someone decent for him. I appreciate his contributions to 2 Stanley Cups. But in all honesty, he has been average since.

Del Scott
Del Scott (@del-s-in-sav-ga)
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff

If Murray is, as you state, “overpriced, injury prone, and not nearly as good as his 2 stanley cup trophies imply”, then wouldn’t other teams have figured that out as well?

Cal
Cal
1 year ago

I dont really agree with the point producing Schultz to Marino. Schultz points are down and Marino’s are on par with Schultz career average so there is argument there. YOu have to give something to get something and the best trade chips we have that the team can survive (gulp) with out are Schultz, MM, and Gally. (Simon is too cheap $$). Mind you it looks like Gally may get his shot with Guentzel out –big ouch on that–lets hope he does well as his trade value is low right now. Dont make a trade for the sake of a… Read more »

Thomas
Thomas
1 year ago

I disagree 27 has been better C than 19. Maybe at the beginning but as of late 19 is a better C than 27, plus hes always healthy. I C who is never in the lineup isnt a good C. 27 I agree, good possession guy and might have some really good stereotype attributes as a checking C but #1 he can’t score and #2 when hes in lineup the pens speed decreases. 27 also not much utility worth. Not very good on pk and not good on pp.

BIG B
BIG B
1 year ago

I have used a few Lord of the Rings quotes lately so i hope we don’t trade for Sheary or i will have to breakout the old “Find the halfling find the halfling”.In all seriousness i am guessing Buffalo trading Scandella ad gettig Frolik means Chucky to Buf is dead.
Murray still has a ton of value especially to a team like Detroit with no goalie hope.

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