After the Pittsburgh Penguins get through their little COVID stream of bad news, their blue line will be healthy, at least for a little while. The insidious injury bug is never far away from these Penguins and the black cloud of bad luck hangs over them like a cloud of dust around Pig-Pen. Given the internally available options, it appearas the NHL trade market represents the best chance for the Penguins to solidify themselves for whatever comes next.
Marcus Pettersson and Chad Ruhwedel could be activated by Tuesday or Wedneday, because they went into protocol on Oct. 31 on Nov. 1. Howevrer, Brian Dumoulin will be out for another week so the pairings will remain jumbled.
Because of the bad luck, the Penguins will likely need more depth defensemen over the next 72 games and, if they’re fortunate enough, in the club’s 16th straight playoff appearance.
After training camp and a continuation over the past couple of games, it appears P.O. Joseph is not yet ready, and there are real questions if any permutation of Juuso Riikola will reach NHL regular status.The defenseman has played just 23 minutes over the past two games, which forced top-pair d-man Kris Letang to increase his already full workload.
The Penguins defense was already paper-thin before injuries and illness hit.
Depth Defensemen to Target on NHL Trade Market
Justin Holl, 29, Toronto, $2 million
Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet reported the Toronto Maple Leafs put a defenseman on the NHL trade block who could be right up the Pittsburgh Penguins alley.
Holl, 29, is an affordable minutes eater with a right-handed shot. He won’t light up the scoreboard and isn’t a hammer, but he is physical, and brings size. At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Holl can clear a path near the net and block shots, which the Penguins lack even with a healthy roster.
His $2 million AAV carries one season beyond this one and is affordable for a third-pairing defenseman. The Penguins might have to get a little bit creative down the road to add his salary, but Holl would be an immediate upgrade.
He’s currently playing more than 20 minutes per game with the Maple Leafs, but they’re trying to clear space for Timothy Liljegren. Holl has been a healthy scratch in recent games in favor of Liljegren.
There are conflicting NHL trade rumors on Holl. TSN’s Daren Dreger says a team will have to overpay for Holl. James Mirtle of the Athletic said a team told him the price wasn’t too high. Your call who to believe.
If the price tag on Holl is that of a top-four defenseman the Pittsburgh Penguins can keep shopping. But it shouldn’t be–players in the pressbox don’t command full value. There isn’t a market value for third-pair defensemen, past deals are over the place from NHL players to high draft picks. So, gauging his NHL trade value is tough.
The Maple Leafs put two defensemen on the NHL trade block. The other is LHD Travis Dermott, but he’s a lefty and not a threat to crack the Penguins top-six, long term.
An interesting Penguins trade chip who could interest Toronto (as one of multiple assets headed that way):goalie Louis Domingue. Penguins prospect goalie Filip Lindberg was the AHL goalie of the month in October, and Toronto is currently using Joseph Woll, who routinely ranks at the bottom of the AHL in save percentage, as their backup for the next four weeks while Petr Mrazek deals with anothe injury.
Hextall signed Domingue as NHL depth and he had a strong training camp. In the preseason, Domingue was the Penguins best player in a win over most of the Buffalo Sabres NHL roster. Toronto could use a goalie with NHL experience and a hunger to be there, unless they want to run Jack Campbell out there every game for the next month or more.
Mark Pysyk, 29, Buffalo, $900,000
Pysyk is unlikely to be available in the immediate but is worth watching.
The 29-year-old righty is an affordable option that is a step above Chad Ruhwedel and makes less than Juuso Riikola. After four seasons with the Florida Panthers, Pysyk skated 36-games with the Dallas Stars last season and signed with Buffalo this season.
He has just one assist, but he’s a standard third-pairing player who could even thrive in the Penguins system.
Currently, Pysyk is playing second-pair in Buffalo so he may not be so easy to pluck off the Niagara, but the Sabres will soon come back to earth and Buffalo would be smart to recoup assets for its rental players, like Pysyk.