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Trade Deadline: Could Penguins Add LW and Stack Four Lines?

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Pittsburgh Penguins trade target Alex Iafallo
ST. LOUIS, MO - JANUARY 24: Los Angeles Kings center Alex Iafallo (19) during an NHL game between the Los Angeles Kings and the St. Louis Blues on January 24, 2021, at Enterprise Center, St. Louis, Mo. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire),

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.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Justin W
Justin W
6 months ago

Love four stacked lines but that grit piece that Burke wants isn’t there. From Sullivan’s system standpoint, the only downside is it takes the speedy Freddy G out of the lineup. Although when everyone is healthy, I’m not sure there is a place for him anyway. I just think there is something to be said about the importance of a right handed centerman who kills penalties as well as FG does. Love this idea though.

Scott Maloni
Scott Maloni
6 months ago

Trade ZAR for Deslauriers

J Lami
J Lami
6 months ago
Reply to  Scott Maloni

Terrible idea Zar brings game Deslauriers would just anchor the 4th line and Mess the whole 4 line flo up.
I’d like to see Adam Lowry brought in I believe he is a free agent end of the year
so there is a chance he would be a good fit

Dave Heyl
6 months ago

get a physical d man priority #1 without it a repeat of the last 4 years, plain & simple

Dan Novak
Dan Novak
6 months ago

Hextall and Burke are always talking about a hockey trade…instead of a rental.If you think about it and have watched the last 4-5 games the one guy they might move to get a good return is Zucker…Man he just doesn’t seem to fit any line…I’m thinking that’s your trade assets…Also the Blueger situation is a little scary…he practices then isn’t cleared to play…Possible concussion issues…Also Kapanen looks like a high ankle sprain..hard to tell when he’ll be back

Ether
Ether
6 months ago
Reply to  Dan Novak

Make that probable concussion issues from a Marchand cheap-shot cross-check to back of head while down. Friedman the same–hit his head on boards then kept playing and got brained again–not a good recipe for speedy comeback and should never be allowed to happen in modern game! Pretty sure Kappy got hurt from puck so don’t think sprain. As for other comments and article–4 stacked lines is the white whale. The search will always continue with injuries and cap and never quite be realized. Better to think in pairs on lines and rotations for injuries. 12 healthy forwards for any length… Read more »

Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
6 months ago
Reply to  Ether

Jared…

Ether
Ether
6 months ago
Reply to  Mark Fisher

Yeah woops my bad–Jared “McCannon” McCann! Always want to call the guy Jake for some reason. Maybe the snipe in him.

Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
6 months ago
Reply to  Ether

I always forget his first name altogether. Just knew it wasn’t Jake. Lol.

Jay95
Jay95
6 months ago
Reply to  Ether

Ether, I agree that McCann would be a much better for with Malkin than Zucker is. But, he’s also a MUCH different player than Neal. He’s a lot faster, and though he has a great shot, it’s not quite at Neal’s level. I believe that McCann has the potential to be a much more well rounded player than Neal… But very different play styles.

crazyhorse87
crazyhorse87
6 months ago

Andreas Athanasiou is only 1.2 million, plays center for the Kings, it’s the speed that I like. Maybe he can click with the Pens, the Pens tend to get players that don’t work out elsewhere that seems to workout for them. Just a thought.

Dan Novak
Dan Novak
6 months ago
Reply to  crazyhorse87

Not a big physical winger..rinse repeat

crazyhorse87
crazyhorse87
6 months ago
Reply to  Dan Novak

Neither is Iafallo, same team. Since a lot of people aren’t liking Jankowski, Athanasiou might be a better option over him.

Dan Novak
Dan Novak
6 months ago
Reply to  crazyhorse87

They have no shot at Iafallo

crazyhorse87
crazyhorse87
6 months ago
Reply to  Dan Novak

I was talking about Athanasiou and Jankowski, not bent on the idea of Iafallo. This guy has speed, the Pens are about speed. From what I gathered, Jankowski is very disliked and doesn’t appeal to the fan base. It was just a thought.

Steven Kalabokes
Steven Kalabokes
6 months ago
Reply to  crazyhorse87

I like Andreas Athanasiou. He’s speedy and can score. And besides that, I believe him to be my second cousin once removed.

ErieOttersFan
ErieOttersFan
6 months ago

Hey Dan!
“…more teams trying to purge their overpriced assets than there are teams who can afford them.” So therein lies the challenge. Your proposal of Alex Iafallo could go something like this: 1. Makin shoots from everywhere and anywhere. 2. RW, someone not named Zucker as he has found his dancing partner in McCann, shoots from everywhere and anywhere. 3. Iafallo casually lurks around the cage and taps in whatever rebounds come from #1 and #2. If this can be done with salary cap voodoo, then in the words of Jean-Luc, “Make it so.”

Jay95
Jay95
6 months ago
Reply to  ErieOttersFan

I’m pretty sure that the Pens now have the cap space to fit Iafello in as is.

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