Reassessing Penguins Trade Chips; Which Have Value?
The faceplant-type loss by the Pittsburgh Penguins to the lottery-bound San Jose Sharks at the front of the bye week and NHL All-Star break underscored the inconsistency and egregious error-filled first 49 games. The NHL trade deadline is now 27 days away, and unless the team pulls it all together with a bit of rest and mental awakening, they have real need,s but the Penguins’ trade chips aren’t all in high demand.
The team has dipped in every phase, from top-six success to bottom-six production, defensive coverage, and goaltending.
To address needs, trades cost assets. In this NHL trade environment, moving salary also costs assets, which puts GM Ron Hextall firmly behind the eight-ball, unless unlikely catastrophe strikes and Hextall becomes a seller.
What does Hextall have to work with to improve his team?
Updated Pittsburgh Penguins trade bait values:
At the beginning of the season, his value was a couple of draft picks, like many stay-home defensemen. By November, his value had eroded to a negative, requiring an asset to move him.
Dumoulin’s recent rebound probably makes him more valuable to the Penguins than he would be on the trade block. If you want to get, you must give, but Dumoulin is likely safe from the coming frenzy.
Carter, 38, has a no-movement clause. Moving past that, his niche was unique. Carter’s trade value before the season was a veteran presence with good hands who could help a young team take a step forward. However, his declining play and production, combined with a $3.1 million cap hit, means a Penguins trade would cost an additional asset; the going rate is a first-round pick or equivalent prospect.
Kapanen is a similar anti-trade chip. It would cost the Penguins an asset to move the 26-year-old winger with a $3.2 million cap hit through next season.
The difference is Kapanen could net a fellow struggling player or older player on a contract with term (players like Mike Hoffman in Montreal, et al.).
The Penguins’ zippy center, who has been the backbone of successful fourth lines and penalty kill for the last three seasons, has struggled this season. He has just one goal and seven points. Perhaps worse, the Penguins’ PK has fallen to 10th, and Blueger isn’t finding success on the third line, either.
Blueger, 28, is pending UFA, which limits his value, but plenty of teams need what Blueger has been. His recent dip is a bad season, perhaps requiring a reset or the cliche “change of scenery.”
Ryan Poehling makes Blueger expendable. He has value on the market in a player-for-player deal or with another asset for a third-line type player. Montreal was previously intrigued.
Blueger counts for $2.2 million against the salary cap. Moving his salary would allow Hextall to at least tinker before the NHL trade deadline. If there is an odds-on-favorite for a Penguins trade, it’s Blueger.
Penguins 1st Round Pick
High value. The potential for the Buffalo Sabres or Florida Panthers to catch the Penguins in the playoff race pushes the value higher. The deep draft makes it even more valuable.
The likeliest scenario is this pick will need to be pried from Hextall’s hands with a crowbar, but if he puts it on the table, he could find real talent on the market or move significant salary.
He probably shouldn’t. He won’t. But he surely could.
McGinn has sagged with the implosion of the Penguins’ third and fourth-line struggles. His $2.75 million salary is affordable to a team who needs his speed, tenacity, and grit. However, those things seemed to be lessened with the Penguins this season.
In 49 games, McGinn has 15 points, including 10 goals.
He has two more seasons with that cap hit. He won’t bring back increased value, but he could be a lateral move in a “change of scenery” move. His salary corresponds to a backup goalie like Adin Hill or Laurent Brossoit.
P.O Joseph / Ty Smith
In an ideal world, both remain Pittsburgh Penguins. However, if Hextall plans to go for it, there aren’t better Penguins trade chips beyond the first-rounder.
Until the last couple of games he played, Ty Smith showed promise on the Penguins’ blue line. He was improving before an unraveling game in Ottawa. He was then scratched in favor of Mark Friedman.
Smith, 22, ran the Penguins’ top power play in Kris Letang’s absence and formed a competent pairing with Brian Dumoulin.
Joseph has maintained his spot in the Penguins lineup for good reasons. He’s been solid and improving. He has speed and flashed offensive skills. Over the summer, PHN confirmed multiple teams had interest, including at least one Metro Division team — though that was under different circumstances as Joseph teetered on the edge of waivers.
As a 23-year-old d-man beginning to scratch the surface of significant talent, Joseph’s value is still more projection than tangible. Like Smith (863k), Joseph’s low salary (825k) increases his value to other teams but makes it harder for the Penguins to trade without including a veteran with a significant salary in the deal.
The defensemen present multiple scenarios to improve, from acquiring additional picks to attach to veteran salaries to attaching with veterans or even a lateral deal for commensurate talent.
Both could net legitimate bottom-six help, though both are worth more in the long run.