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Latest Penguins Rumors with Gusev, Bjugstad Don’t Make Sense



Sometimes I hear things which don’t comport with things I understand to be true. Sometimes what I’m told doesn’t jive with publicly stated goals. And so the latest batch of Pittsburgh Penguins rumors which have fans stirring has me just a little, or a lot, skeptical. You may also thank me as I’ve written this sentiment twice before and within 48 hours of each publishing, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford made a move, though his moves made sense.

The first of the Penguins rumors which are percolating in several fanbases across the NHL involves acquiring Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights. Several fanbases think their team OR the Penguins will snatch the KHL MVP from Vegas.

It would be fair to say there is a little buzz in the Penguins organization about the possibility, too. Perhaps they get as excited by rumor mill sites as everyone else. But it doesn’t fit. Gusev would require something between $4-$6 million to sign. Even on the low end of the spectrum, the Penguins would need to deal two of the following: Bryan Rust, Jack Johnson, and Nick Bjugstad. Though we could toss Alex Galchenyuk on the list, too?

The Penguins would need to clear at least four million, make a deal with Vegas, AND then find enough money for Marcus Pettersson, Zach Aston-Reese and Teddy Blueger. What would the Penguins lineup look like after that? Here is one current iteration set against what it would it could look like with Gusev.

Expected Penguins Lines

Jake GuentzelEvgeni MalkinBryan Rust
Dominik KahunJared McCannBrandon Tanev
Alex GalchenyukJoseph BlandisiDominik Simon
Zach Aston-ReeseTeddy BluegerSam Lafferty

Penguins Lines with Gusev

Jake GuentzelSidney CrosbyDominik Kahun
Nikita GusevEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist
Alex GalchenyukJared McCannBrandon Tanev
Zach Aston-ReeseTeddy BluegerDominik Simon

Another possibility is the Penguins also have to deal players like Blueger just to make it all work. The team could leave itself perilously thin.

Moving past that fear, there is a significant falloff in the third line with Gusev. Jared McCann’s offensive outburst and sparkplug play were from the wing, not the pivot. As a center, McCann is conservative, defensive and careful. On the wing, he went for it, with a smile on his face.

As a third line center, Nick Bjugstad controlled the play and the game. The goal results were not abundant but the possession and opportunities were. If Patric Hornqvist is back to his old self, that duo could both dominate play and post healthy offensive numbers.

With Gusev, is that lineup as tough to play against, or would Sullivan again have multiple defensive liabilities?

RedBeard's Pittsburgh

Also, we haven’t even factored what it would cost the Penguins to acquire Gusev. Vegas can’t take salary in return or they must take less salary than they send out. The Penguins have a first round pick and a couple of very interesting kids they snagged in the draft. Each has a high ceiling. Vegas GM George McPhee would be crazy to not demand the inclusion of one.

So, the Penguins would need to clear $7-$9 million in total to get Gusev into their lineup and be able to make the deal with Vegas.

That one just seems well beyond Jim Rutherford’s magic.

More Rumors

Nick Bjugstad’s name has come up recently regarding the Penguins efforts to move salary. The backup plan would be Jared McCann in the third line center role but wasn’t that tried last season? And didn’t the Penguins decide there was a significant advantage to Bjugstad in that role?

The answer to both questions is yes.

We’ve been over the advanced stats and praise for Bjugstad-Hornqvist. Here and here. Oh, and here too. The pair often had a Corsi rating well above 60% and scoring chance ratio to match. They scored 72% of the goals (8gf, 3ga) at even strength.

There was nothing to indicate that was a fluke. Bjugstad is a not physical but he is strong on the puck and good on the wall. His long wingspan and deceptively fast skating allow him to be a suffocating forechecker. Sometimes he was too aggressive and barged into the zone as the second forechecker before looking behind him (as was his former team’s system). It mostly worked in his and the Penguins favor.

Bjugstad does make $4 million and having that off the books would help, but it would cost that much to fix the hole which would be created.

One more thing in the Penguins rumors: Jack Johnson back to LA.

Ok, that one makes sense.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.



  1. Evan

    July 6, 2019 at 9:47 am

    It could be possible, find someone willing to take Johnson, and hope they could use him rather than just absorb a contract to get a small asset in return, like a lower pick in next draft (possibly Ottawa? Since they’re under the cap floor and only have 6 defenseman under contract) then take the gamble on Puljujarvi from Edmonton, (with the star caliber players we have here in Pittsburgh, there is no way he can’t blossom a little). Previous rumors stated rust for Puljujarvi, well it’s been 3 weeks and Edmonton still has no takers, maybe Edmonton throws in a lower pick to sweeten the deal? So Puljujarvi and a low pick for rust, and with the “hopeful” departure of Johnson’s contract, that opens up close to 6 mil plus the rough 1.5m we have now. Then package the low pick from the Ottawa and Edmonton deals with ZAR’s rights (one less person to have to resign) and Tristan Jarry’s rights (needs to be dealt, and Vegas could be in the market for a back up since being in a cap crunch and unsure what to do about Subban. So jarry could be a cheap back up plan) to Vegas plus whatever Vegas might need to finish off the deal for Gusev, and should have just enough room to sign Blueger and Pettersson.

    Line structure could be as such:

    Guentzel Crosby Kahun
    Gusev Malkin Galchenyuk
    McCann Bjugstad Hornqvist
    Simon Blueger Tanev

    • Dean

      July 6, 2019 at 1:27 pm

      Don’t need Gusev and you left Puljujarvi out of your line-up. I would take my chance on the 6′ 4″ Puljujarvi all day long over Gusev.

      Guentzel Crosby Puljujarvi
      McCann Malkin Galchenyuk
      Kahun Bjugstad Hornqvist
      ZAR Blueger Tanev

      Simon 13th

  2. Dean

    July 6, 2019 at 10:33 am

    Dan, another good one!

    I looked at that trade every way possible and just could not see how it makes us better. Plus I couldn’t agree more on Bjugstad. He is who we need and $4M is the going rate for good 3rd line centers.

    That trade would have also cause additional problems in the future and we already have enough.

    For now, I would love them to move Johnson even if it cost us a high pick or a good prospect, clear the space and give this team a chance.

    Next year will already bring it’s own problems. If Galchenyuk turns it around with the pens, which I think there is a great chance since he never played with skill at this level, Kahun continues to play like he did in Chicago or better, and McCann continues playing the way he has so far with the pens or better, the pens simply can not afford them all.

    The other trade I would consider is getting Puljujari. 21 year old 6′ 4″ forwards with that level of talent are just not made available that often and with the log jam of free agents next year, I would be taking a chance.

  3. Matt

    July 6, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    Grossly overlooked is the absence of a competent face-of option to help take the load off Crosby especially late in games. Malkin, Bjugstad, McCann, Galchenyuk and Blueger all are below average or worse in that area. This is a glaring weakness that needs to be addressed at some point.

  4. Jay95

    July 6, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    I don’t think that the Pens want to move Bjugstad, I just think it’s what other teams are asking for. But, the Pens made Rust moveable with the signing of Tanev. I think that was the idea. I could easily see them moving both Rust and Johnson in a salary dump…then picking up Gusev with picks, prospects (Hallander looks like a prime candidate to move). The dump of Rust and Johnson leaves enough to sign Gusev, all 3 RFA’s, adds talent, and keeps organizational depth.

    The one issue is who replaces JJ actually. Riikola is first up. But, let’s not forget about Joseph. His tool’s all look like they’d fit well with the Pens. We point to his lack of size, but remember that Petterson was equally as diminutive and played well for the ducks in his first pro season. Also, with Gudbranson as a partner, he doesn’t need to be physical, just smart…which he is.

    • Dan Kingerski

      July 6, 2019 at 1:21 pm

      I’ve also been thinking about the pairs without Johnson. The easy solution is to slide Pettersson forward but that would be a weak, soft pair with Schultz. Riikola could easily hold the fort with Gudbranson.

      • dean

        July 6, 2019 at 1:30 pm

        Dumoulin Letang
        Pettersson Schultz
        Riikola Gudbranson


        Carry all 3 goalies

      • Hatrick Pornqvist

        July 6, 2019 at 3:23 pm

        The only issue I have with this is the idea that we are one injury away from having Riikola and Ruhwedel in our lineup full time. That scares me. When you look at what the D did last year when injuries hit, they played fantastic.

        We go down to 5 d for two periods, I’m terrified for the blue line.

        For all the flack the Internet likes to give to Johnson, he is a guy who can give you 25 solid minutes and hold the Fort when then team buckles down in front of him. Ruhwedel, Trotman, Riikola, I don’t know about that.

        Injuries will hit. They always do. I for one would like to keep names like Ruhwedel, Riikola, et al as reserves for when we need ONE of them to be in the lineup, TEMPORARILY.

        And Id like to see Petterssen brought along at his pace on the third pair rather than thrust into a bigger role with 20 minutes a night. I think he’s fantastic but I’m not sure he’s ready for that ice time over 82 games plus the playoffs.

        If the team chemistry and back check improve and we can get those issues out of the way, I think Johnson and Schultz could be just fine as a second pair, eating minutes for Letang and a Dumo while letting Guds and Petterssen do their thing. That to me is worth at least waiting to see in the regular season before making a move that puts regular AHLers into key roles. At least give the team a chance and see if we can carve out Sully’s desired identity first. I think that’s a lot less of a gamble than simply moving out a guy like Rust. With The additional wingers we’ve added I think missing Rust is a lot less dangerous than moving JJ. Johnson played well on the left side and if we get a solid 200’ system I think he’s fine.

        • Dan Kingerski

          July 6, 2019 at 3:26 pm

          A+ comment. I disagree a bit on Riikola–I think he could be a solid third pair NHL’er and perhaps more. For a kid who switched continents, ice surfaces, languages, and style of play, he did remarkably well in his rookie year.

          • Hatrick Pornqvist

            July 6, 2019 at 3:35 pm

            I thought Riikola played well with the puck on his stick and have high hopes for him for sure. Down low in his own end I thought he was pushed around pretty easily and rushed a lot of plays. He’s great at breaking out with speed and the things people instantly notice. But the little things with him need a lot of work. The full time job part scares me. He will get in as soon as an injury happens. With our luck he plays 50-60 games anyways while guys heal up.

      • Matt Luda

        July 6, 2019 at 9:59 pm

        Pettersson has to be paired with Gudbranson for his own safety. Not long after he came aboard, opponents targeted him on a regular basis. Didn’t happen nearly as often with Gud around. But leaves that Schultz with Riikola, which is why the Pens need to keep Johnson or add a cheaper veteran.

  5. Cal

    July 6, 2019 at 6:17 pm

    If it comes down to keeping either Rust OR Bjugstad it a no-brainer. Keep Bjugstad hands down.

  6. Matt Luda

    July 6, 2019 at 9:47 pm

    Rust and Johnson for Puljujarvi and a second-rounder (which basically is a late first-rounder because the Oil Spill figures to suck again).

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  8. Matt Luda

    July 6, 2019 at 10:03 pm

    Or Rust and Jarri for a similar package.

  9. André Vargas

    July 7, 2019 at 9:47 am

    You forgot about Simon. The 3rd line was awesome last season:
    Simon – Bjugstad – Hörnqvist

    I’d try to move Jack Johnson with Aston-Reese attaches to him to sweeten the pot a bit. If we are not able to do this trade, Rust should be a candidate.

    • Dan Kingerski

      July 7, 2019 at 7:43 pm

      Didn’t forget Simon–and no one took more crap than I did over defending his presence last season–but he’s the 13th forward now

  10. RuthlessBurgher

    July 9, 2019 at 11:27 am

    How about a Three Way Trade?

    Pittsburgh Gives Up: F Bryan Rust, D Jack Johnson, G Tristan Jarry, and 2nd round pick in 2020.
    Vegas Gives Up: F Nikita Gusev and a 3rd round pick in 2020.
    Edmonton Gives Up: F Jesse Puljujarvi and a 4th round pick in 2020.

    Pittsburgh Receives: F Nikita Gusev and EDM’s 4th rounder in 2020.
    Vegas Receives: F Jesse Puljujarvi, G Tristan Jarry, and PIT’s 2nd rounder in 2020.
    Edmonton Receives: F Bryan Rust, D Jack Johnson, and VGK’s 3rd rounder in 2020.

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