As some of my National Hockey Now colleagues are wildly scrambling to keep up with their teams’ activity, the Pittsburgh Penguins trade inquiries are poking around on a few positions of need but not doing so with the urgency which scrambled the NHL trade market on Friday afternoon.
The Vancouver Canucks got much better by dumping dead weight Louis Ericksson, bottom-sixers Jay Beagle, and Antoine Roussel with their first-round pick (9th overall) for Coyotes captain, offensive defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and highly sought RFA Connor Garland.
It was Christmas in July for Vancouver, but fans accustomed to failure were already worried about the 30-year-old Ekman-Larsson’s remaining five years at $8.25 million AAV. Sometimes you have to relax and enjoy a win, and Vancouver won.
The Chicago Blackhawks finally pried defenseman Seth Jones from Columbus Blue Jackets and inked him to a hefty eight-year contract worth $9.5 million per.
The Philadelphia Flyers made the day’s first big splash on the NHL trade scene when they heaved the 13th overall pick, a 2023 second-rounder and defenseman Robert Hagg at the Buffalo Sabres for helmet-cracking defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.
The Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t major players on the NHL trade market. They poked around on a high-priced goalie with impeccable credentials, who also hails from Pittsburgh (John Gibson), but a Penguins team source said there was no traction as of Friday afternoon. No increased chatter. No traction. Don’t get your hopes up.
The National Hockey Now network has heard John Gibson’s name mentioned by several sources around the league in conjunction with NHL trade chatter, but never to a specific team–which usually means the calls are coming in but not necessarily getting any traction.
However, the Penguins’ source further confirmed what PHN has reported for several weeks. GM Ron Hextall has added a 1B type goalie to the Penguins trade board.
“A guy ‘like’ Darcy Kuemper” was how the source phrased it. So–we can’t report the Penguins are in on Kuemper, who is in the final year of his two-year, $9 million deal with the Arizona Coyotes–be we can confidently say the Penguins are exploring options “like” him.
Arizona appears to be cleaning house (again).
Last month, we broke the story the Penguins were watching pending free agent, Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederick Andersen as that type of goalie. However, recent reports from local Toronto media put Andersen’s contract ask near starting goalie money, which would seemingly price him out of any Penguins plans.
Pittsburgh Penguins Want “Sandpaper”
It will come as no great shock to anyone, but the Penguins source who spoke to PHN on Friday evening also reiterated the Penguins want: sandpaper.
The Penguins want to acquire “players with sandpaper.”
Especially after losing Brandon Tanev to the Seattle Kraken, the Penguins brass feels they badly need to be tougher to play against.
Pittsburgh Penguins Free Agency
On Thursday, Hextall subtly hinted the Penguins would look for bargains as free agency opens on July 28 and more than likely not be a player until August.
“…It’s really hard to say what the market’s going to be,” Hextall said. “And I suspect there will probably be players in August that aren’t signed. So we’ll just evaluate things on a day-to-day basis as we move along.”
Read it as you will. Hextall’s answer to PHN sure gave me the impression the Penguins expect to be buyers on the second and even third free-agency wave.
So, take a deep breath. Names are out there. Hextall hasn’t put down his phone. But the Penguins’ situation and circumstance are, at best, limiting. A 1B goalie and sandpaper. That’s the Penguins’ trade shopping list.