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NHL Trade Rumors

Penguins Thoughts: Rumor Squashed; Could Pens Pursue Tanev?



Pittsburgh Penguins, vs. Calgary Flames

What makes sense is not always true. The Pittsburgh Penguins submitted one of their hardest-fought wins of the season Thursday by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning. Could a swing through the NHL city closest to Cape Canaveral launch the Penguins season in the right direction? Could the NHL trade market help?

The Penguins, with president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas and coach Mike Sullivan, seem to be building toward something. The maddening inconsistency, patching lineup holes, finding new faces — it’s the type of aggressive movement not seen in these parts in a while.

John Ludvig, Ryan Shea, Drew O’Connor, and Radim Zohorna. That’s four guys in their mid-20s who are being elevated in the lineup or getting their first taste of regular NHL action. Yes, Zohorna is 27, and O’Connor played his 100th game on Thursday, but this is Zohorna’s longest NHL run, and O’Connor is getting a shot in the top six.

Sullivan began experimenting with O’Connor in the top six even before the team placed Rickard Rakell on LTIR.

Sullivan hates young players! Can we officially stop that now? Sullivan likes to win, and if the young player–in his estimation–offers a better shot at such, then they play. If they do not–players such as Alex Nylander or Valtteri Puustinen–they do not get called up or play.

Occam’s razor.

But that’s not the squashed rumor. However, Ludvig and his potential emergence as a right-side defenseman does have some bearing on the news we chased this week.

A trusted source told us that the Penguins were “in” on right-handed defenseman Ethan Bear, who is rehabbing from shoulder surgery after suffering the injury at the 2023 World Championships.

Bear, 26, is skating and could be ready around the Christmas break. Last season, he played for the Vancouver Canucks. Before that, he played one season for the Carolina Hurricanes after three seasons of shuttling between the AHL and NHL with the Edmonton Oilers.

The right-handed defenseman is a mobile d-man who can move the puck but not provide a lot of offensive numbers.

While we looked for confirmation, a source with first-hand knowledge told us the team was interested in Bear under the previous regime, but the Penguins, under Dubas, were not one of the teams kicking tires on the UFA blue liner.

There is still time to get involved. The organization has a scarcity of rearguards of the righty-handed persuasion. Ludvig is a lefty and admitted it can be tough playing on his off-side, though his performance this week was eye-opening.

Sullivan moved Ludvig to the top four with Kris Letang during the win over Tampa Bay. Ludvig held his own, especially at the net front. My impression, based on the tone of voice and willingness to answer quickly, was that Sullivan was impressed with Ludvig.

I like to think I know the difference between Sullivan’s stock answers and the genuine thing. I think his praise of Ludvig was the latter (but it will become a stock answer this weekend when he’s asked the same question a few times).

So, don’t be surprised if reports surface the Penguins are interested in Bear. It makes good sense, but as of now, they have not expressed interest.

Chris Tanev, NHL Trade Block

Ludvig is a lefty. He brings grit and physicality to the Penguins blue line. So, too, has Kris Letang, who is adjusting his role and adopting it with aplomb.

But the Penguins blue liners, as a group, could be harder to play against.

The Calgary Flames are open for business, and their names are filling the NHL trade rumors. The Toronto media are connecting the Toronto Maple Leafs to Chris Tanev, a tough shutdown RHD who checks a few boxes for Toronto.

Tanev, who will turn 34 in a few weeks, would also check a few boxes for the Penguins. The defenseman is in the final year of a contract that carries a $4.5 million salary cap hit, so any team that pries him out of Calgary will have to find a way to balance the books.

Calgary did not want to hold back salary when they traded Nikita Zadorov to the Vancouver Canucks. They will likely have the same policy this time, though Tanev’s pending UFA status and the potential return could always change GM Craig Conroy’s thinking.

The Penguins do have some assets that could interest Calgary and not cripple the current lineup. And Tanev’s rental status might be a selling point to Dubas, who is already set to have north of $10 million for a potentially All-Star caliber free-agent class next July.