Welcome to the second Pittsburgh Hockey Now Q&A. We open the floor for you to direct the conversation and dig for details I don’t want to give, or stories we haven’t published. The Pittsburgh Penguins trade winds are blowing, and Matt Murray is likely the next move, but Penguins GM Jim Rutherford must also patch holes in the lineup, which will not be filled in a goalie trade.
There were gobs of questions about Nick Bjugstad and Patric Hornqvist, and I’ll get to those. Many others asked some variation of, “what player can the Penguins get…”
I wish I could answer those questions with specificity. The stark reality is the Penguins can barely afford a free lunch, and there are players who will be available that are not yet available. There will be some surprise free agents and a few players will hit the trade block, whom we don’t expect.
Before another Penguins trade, Rutherford must make a couple of decisions and dominos are going to fall, but it does not appear he has yet made some of those decisions.
Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, the PHN Q&A:
What would be the pens looking for in a trade with Murray? A buy out or maybe a high draft pick.
— JP (@PucksterPyro) September 10, 2020
A1: PHN has done the analysis of all starting goalie trades since 2013. There are some highwater marks (Philip Grubauer), and some low marks (Ben Bishop), but the general rule is a high draft pick and a prospect. Cmon, JP, you gotta read PHN every day!
The template for the Murray trade will be a second-round pick and a second-tier prospect. However, Pierre LeBrun of TSN implied Rutherford is asking for a No. 1.
outside of the coaching change. what’s the PP need? Bonus question is B. Rust 1) amazing or 2) fantastic ?
— Simon hargus (@stickmanpolitik) September 10, 2020
A2: The power play needs speed, decisiveness, malicious intent with the puck, and a little scheming to avoid increasingly aggressive PK units. Bonus answer: Rust is good.
If you were GMJR and could make any move(s) you wanted, what would they be and why?
Also, how do you clear the log jam on the blue line to get POJ in the lineup? Bury Johnson in the minors like the did with DeSmith for minimal cap relief?
— Just A Math Teacher… (@adventures_math) September 10, 2020
A3: Johnson won’t be buried in the minors this season. He’s a primary penalty killer, and one of the defensive presences on the blue line. Excitement is building for P-O, within and outside the organization, but my gut says he’ll need a bit more salt in the AHL before he’s truly ready for unsheltered minutes.
The real question is Juuso Riikola. He’s got all of the tools necessary to be a good defenseman, but he needs ice time. However, he also needs the right defensive partner. I don’t think Chad Ruhwedel is that partner. Johnson needs a slick partner, while Riikola needs a stable partner. Perhaps the Penguins can slip Riikola through waivers now that he has a two year deal with an annual salary over $1 million.
As for what I would do? I’m saving that advice for the team that gives me a seven-figure paycheck. It is fair to say, I would have started my offseason differently than Rutherford, and would have held the first-rounder.
Is there any real interest in Bjugstad and Hornqivist?
— Jeffry Y (@jyanc98) September 10, 2020
A4: We haven’t heard of much talk around either, but the Murray deal is sucking the air out of the market. The Penguins may need Bjugstad to be their third-line center. Or they may need to repurpose his salary. I don’t get the feeling there are firm decisions, yet.
As for Hornqvist, the Penguins can’t afford to trade him and they can’t afford to pay him. Rock meet hard place, hard place meet rock.
What is Rutherford going to do with Bjugstad? Is he happy with him being the third line center or a winger? Would Buffalo want him b/c of there center problems?
— Christian Bohon (@ChristianBohon) September 10, 2020
A5: We don’t yet know. We’re not sure Rutherford knows. Bjugstad showed pretty quickly upon his arrival in Pittsburgh that he is a center, at least with a quick team like the Penguins. Perhaps he could return to the wing in a more lateral system, but Bjugstad is a pivot in the Penguins vertical game.
I don’t think there is much of a market for Bjugstad. A team may take a flyer on him with some salary holdback, but Bjugstad’s 13-game season and spinal surgery did not warm the market.
There is hope if the Penguins keep Bjugstad. He and Hornqvist, with Dominik Simon, dominated the puck and scoring chances in 2018-19. The trio was above 60% share of shot attempts and scoring chances when they were on the ice.
Chances of Hornqvist being a Penguin by the end of the 2020-2021 season
— Medina Zerishnek (@MrsMMZ_2018) September 10, 2020
A6: 50/50. Other decisions will affect Hornqvist’s status. If the Penguins can keep him, I suspect they will. You don’t find players like him.
I know the Pens are against the cap…but say GMJR makes some trades to free up some room. Any (realistic) UFA’s they’ll be targeting?
— Pens Press (@pens_press) September 11, 2020
A7: There are some inexpensive options at RD, including Trevor Daley. The forward crop is thin and not really beneficial to the Penguins, at least in the Penguins price range.
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Your analysis is refreshingly reasonable and astute. Much appreciated.
— David Staples (@dstaples) September 10, 2020