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Penguins Blog: Trade Options; McDavid to Pass Crosby?



Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby ties Wayne Gretzky scoring record. 19 seasons with a point-per-game; Penguins trade talk

It surely seems that Monday night Connor McDavid will lift his first Stanley Cup, finally earning his membership to a very small club of the greatest players of all time. As great as McDavid is, the glaring omission on his resume is that elusive championship. If or when Commissioner Gary Bettman awards McDavid is awarded the silver chalice, more than a few Pittsburgh Penguins fans may not like the chatter that comes next.

Sure, the pedantic will argue McDavid was already among the greatest of all time, but unless a player lifts his team to a championship, there’s always one thing missing. Tuesday morning, the shocked postmortem (if) the Florida Panthers blow what was a 3-0 series lead will be eclipsed only by the howling praise for McDavid.

And many of the chattering hockey class will begin to place McDavid ahead of Sidney Crosby in the hockey pantheon. Crosby, after years of being short-shifted by the same community, has finally earned consensus as one of the five best ever. The four horsemen of hockey, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, and Gordie Howe, are untouchable.

It is the fifth spot that is up for grabs. For several years, that spot has been ceded to Crosby for three Stanley Cups and a career that could see him approach 2000 points. That recognition is well deserved, and no player among the top four were as dominant into their mid or later 30s than Crosby.

But McDavid has built on Crosby’s introduction to the next generation of hockey. Despite Crosby being a coach’s dream who plays with equal intensity on both ends of the rink on every shift and dominates the game by sheer force of will, McDavid is different. After nine seasons, his skating is still lightyears ahead of NHL defensemen’s, and his omnipresent creativity and aggressive threat to score have allowed him to put up points thought impossible just a handful of years ago. He has enthralled a new generation, changing the game in ways that perhaps no one else ever has.

However, in assessing that fifth spot, McDavid is about to own the greatest comeback in NHL history. You and I don’t necessarily need to agree but brace for it. If Edmonton wins on Monday, you’re about to hear a lot of, “Crosby is all-time great, but…”

Penguins Trade Options

I’m coming to believe that Penguins president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas is going to have a sleepy off-season. Because Dubas is trapped between the now and the future, each move must serve both objectives.

Perhaps Dubas can pull off a bold move, but it will not be the premier get like his Erik Karlsson trade. Perhaps he’ll be able to get Patrik Laine from Columbus, or another discounted dented can of NHL talent, but it appears Dubas is playing the long game now.

The cold reality is that the Penguins do not have valuable but expendable trade chips. Dubas can’t remake the team, at least not this summer.

But he will have the option to remain patient, perhaps becoming a vulture next season. Signing Alex Nedeljkovic to a two-year contract could open up a trade window sometime in the next 12 months.

The key will be for Joel Blomqvist to prove that he’s NHL-ready. He’ll get a good look in the preseason, and the statistical odds are that either Tristan Jarry or Nedeljkovic will miss time with an injury next season. The best-case scenario for Dubas is for Jarry to begin the season with a chip on his shoulder and have a solid first half of the season while Blomqvist reaches a level of dominance in the AHL.

There aren’t enough goalies to go around this summer, and a team or three will be left wanting.

Despite the relentless nattering nabobs of negativity who have affixed an emotional investment into criticizing Jarry, he’s been a competent NHL goalie. He’s had injury issues and late-season struggles, but he also has a .912 career save percentage and is coming into a goalie’s prime (late 20s, early 30s).

One might say Marc-Andre Fleury didn’t hit his stride until 2014 or 2015, more than 10 years after his draft day. Plenty of goalies have revamped their careers in the same age range. Linus Ullmark (one year older than Jarry), Jacob Markstrom, and Jordan Binnington are prime examples.

Jarry was excellent until late February last season. The Penguins had big problems. Jarry wasn’t one.

Marcus Pettersson might be the only other trade chip Dubas has to play, but trading him would create a pressing need on the blue line, at least until Ryan Graves proves himself to be worthy of a Penguins sweater every night.

Next summer is going to be a much different story, with prospects such as Brayden Yager and Ville Koivunen getting closer. Blomqvist presumably reaching a ripe stage.

Finding creative ways to change what didn’t work this season remains the unmet challenge. There are six days until the NHL Draft and nine days until July 1 free agency.