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NHL Trade Rumors

Path for Penguins to Trade Ryan Graves; Won’t be Easy



Pittsburgh Penguins trade talk, Josh Anderson, P.O Joseph

Ryan Graves was supposed to be the Pittsburgh Penguins’ plug-and-play replacement for Brian Dumoulin, the steady and reliable left defenseman who counterbalanced Kris Letang for a half dozen seasons. Dumoulin departed via free agency as the blue line shuffle was necessitated by Dumoulin’s decline and the Penguins’ need to get younger.

It didn’t work. Not even a little bit.

Not even Penguins president of hockey operations Kyle Dubas could put a positive spin on the situation during his year-end press conference earlier this month. Graves was bad this season, and it seemed to be an addition by subtraction when he left the lineup due to a concussion in the final weeks of the season.

Ryan Shea and Jack St. Ivany more than adequately handled the third-paid duties, as P.O Joseph rose to the occasion playing beside Kris Letang. The Penguins defense was better.

However, Graves is signed for five more years with a salary cap hit of $4.5 million, so this isn’t a short-term problem that can be easily fixed. It’s going to require one of two things: Graves improving his physical conditioning and game this summer or a Penguins trade.

The best-case scenario is Graves responds well and returns in the fall ready for the challenge.

Short of that, a Penguins trade should be a primary consideration.

A buyout would stretch a payment over 10 years. That’s almost unfathomable. Burying Graves in the minors would be a quick way to save $1.15 million on the salary cap, but it would also kill his trade value. While the possibility of stashing him in the minors has appeared in this space, it would be the “break glass in case of emergency” option.

While Graves himself did a pretty good job of destroying his trade value this season, a rival GM could hold some hope that he reclaims his capable game, which he displayed with the Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils.

However, a GM would also be saddled with Graves’s onerous contract. That’s not going to happen without sharing the risk with the Penguins. In other words, a team would want to dump a contract on the Penguins, or the Penguins belly up to the table, and eat a sizeable portion of the contract.

There is a bevy of undesirable contracts floating around the NHL, and that would be Dubas’s best option for dealing Graves and opening space on the Penguins’ blue line. In fact, some of those bad contracts could be bad fits on their current team, and with some luck and lots of analysis, perhaps Dubas could snag some lineup help in the process.

It bears repeating that Graves will most likely be back with the Penguins next season, but Dubas challenged the defenseman to be much better on the ice and even in the weight room.

Of course, nothing is out of the question. Dubas’s presser the day after breakup day began with the words, “You can’t dance around it…”

If a trade can be worked out, there is some salvageable talent with less time left on bad deals. We’re not playing armchair GM and suggesting trades with sweeteners, additional players, or salary holdbacks, but merely laying out the type of players who could be expected in a Graves deal.

It can almost be assured none of the players will excite you, but the get will be equal to the give.

Bad Contracts / Penguins Trade Potentials

Alex Killorn, 34, Anaheim Ducks. $6.25 million Cap Hit

Anaheim is still going nowhere fast despite a lineup loaded with talent. First, the downside of Killorn is his contract with a heavy cap hit. He has three more years. He’s 34 and had knee surgery in February.

The plus side is he was a reliable scorer and big man in the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup until signing the big deal with Anaheim last July. He had 64 and 59 points, respectively, in his last two seasons with Tampa Bay before slumping to 36 in 63 games with Anaheim.

Also, three more years is better than five. The Halifax, Nova Scotia native could be a warrior in the trenches and another big body for net-front traffic.

Josh Anderson, 30, Montreal Canadiens. $5.5 million

If there’s a less bad option on the list, circle this one.

The winger who can play both sides has three more years left on his contract with an enormous $5.5 million cap hit. He’s suffered through a pair of rough seasons with the Montreal Canadiens but stats weren’t why former Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin significantly overpaid him.

Anderson is a big forward, fast, and plays with an edge. He’s got hands–he’s scored more than 20 goals twice (2022-23, 2018-19) and had 19 goals in 2021-22. He’s overpriced, but when healthy, he’s eminently serviceable. On a talented team, he could be a bigger-bodied Bryan Rust.

However, Montreal has a truckload of young defensemen, which would only complicate this hypothetical scenario.

Ryan McDonagh, 34, Nashville Predators, $6.75 million

McDonagh still skates well though his offense has gone downhill. He’s a shutdown defenseman with Nashville and has only two more years left on his contract. Would Nashville GM Barry Trotz, who got a good look at Graves when coaching the New York Islanders, take on the wayward defenseman?

McDonagh would, on paper, be a good complement to Erik Karlsson for a year, maybe two, which is all the Penguins need.

Barclay Goodrow, 31, New York Rangers, $3.64 million

Goodrow hit the skids in New York this season with just 12 points in 80 games. However, Penguins fans have also seen the best of Goodrow, too. His gritty bottom-six play can create some offense and forecheck pressure.

He’s got three more seasons on his contract, and an overpaid bottom-six center or winger isn’t ideal. He’d be unlikely to hurt the Penguins. The Rangers also have “space” on their third pairing if they can reclaim Graves’s game.