As this keyboard begins clacking, there are slightly more than 48 hours to go before the NHL trade deadline. The annual feeding frenzy that would make stockbrokers in a free-fall blush is somewhat depressed this season by a flat salary cap and more teams trying to purge their overpriced assets than there are teams who can afford them. Through the noise, one left winger just hit the market who could make sense as a Pittsburgh Penguins trade target.
GM Ron Hextall is well connected to him, too.
The Penguins trade targets are still somewhat shrouded as the organization has buttoned up since Brian Burke and Hextall took over following Jim Rutherford’s surprise resignation in January.
We know Burke wants physical, and Hextall thinks center depth is important.
However, the Penguins’ recent play, combined with the emergence of Frederic Gaudreau, has lessened the Penguins trade need for another pivot. They will soon have five centers, and Jared McCann can move from LW to C and back again.
What if the Penguins decided to keep McCann at center when Evgeni Malkin comes back? PHN remains firm in the belief that LW Jason Zucker and Malkin do not mesh. Not even a little. But Zucker, McCann, and Evan Rodrigues have formed a solid trio with speed, tenacity, unrelenting puck pressure, and some offense.
If the Penguins acquired a left wing, head coach Mike Sullivan could keep the McCann trio together as a whiz-bang third line. Zach Aston-Reese–Teddy Blueger–Brandon Tanev would then become the best fourth line in hockey. The Blueger line was a fourth-line defensive wall last season, and this season they’ve added more than a dash of offense, too.
Stacked second, third, and fourth lines with players who actually fit the roles (no Derick Brassard sagas) are good ways to win a Stanley Cup.
That’s a game-changer. Adding to the possibility, one affordable LW hit the market this week. We’re still watching players with sandpaper, such as Calgary’s Sam Bennett, or bigger hammers like Nicolas Deslauriers, but circumstances and availability also dictate actions.
New Potential Pittsburgh Penguins Trade Target
Alex Iafallo, 27, LA Kings $2.425 million AAV. UFA
Iafallo was not on any trade boards or mentioned as a trade candidate because the LA Kings had every intention of re-signing him. However, according to national reports, contract talks stalled, and the formerly undrafted free agent is headed for unrestricted free agency.
This season, Iafallo has 24 points (10g, 14a) in 38 games, including seven power-play points (3g, 4a). The winger often plays with LA top-line center Anze Kopitar, so he knows how to play beside talent.
On paper, Iafallo would be a good sidekick for Malkin. Iafallo skates well enough but is not a speedster. He scores his goals around the net and knows how to take care of his own zone. His 2019-20 highlight reel is full of rebound goals and deflections near the net.
This season has been no different.
He is also one of the players who LA head coach Todd McClellan sends out when the opponent’s net is empty.
Iafallo has 20 hits in 38 games, so he won’t fill Burke’s hope for a mean streak, but he could be the inexpensive option that allows Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan to roll four stout lines.
This week Iafallo rocketed to No. 5 on the TSN Trade Bait list, but he’s a poor man’s top-six winger, making him perfect for Malkin.
After the Philadelphia Flyers fired Hextall in the middle of 2018-19, the LA Kings rehired him as a senior advisor until Hextall got the Penguins’ call this season. He should be well acquainted with Iafallo.
Cost? Given the depressed market, we think a third-round pick (the Penguins do not have a 2021 third-rounder, but the team does have a 2022 pick). Or perhaps an underused Penguins piece that LA thinks has potential.