On Saturday, Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall had to admit his team would like to add toughness. Hextall couched it and added caveats but admitted the core tenant. The Penguins lack a player or players who can physically impose themselves on their opponents, and the only short-term option would be a Penguins trade.
Hextall also conceded he would like his team to be more consistent. The New York Islanders’ spanking of the Penguins on Sunday evening only underscored both points. They could also use a spark.
On Saturday, Hextall said he would like to add more toughness, but it is difficult.
“I think every team in the league would like to have that type of player. There’s not a whole lot of them, and you’ve got a short roster size. It’s tough,” Hextall said. “If we could find someone to certainly play that role and give us a more physical element, we’d certainly look at it.”
The Penguins are two points behind the Philadelphia Flyers, who also have two games in hand, and the Penguins are three behind the New York Islanders for a playoff spot. At least the Penguins have one game in hand on New York.
The Penguins fourth line centered by Mark Jankowski has been abysmal this season. The combinations of Jankowski, Colton Sceviour, Sam Lafferty, and Drew O’Connor have largely been on the wrong side of the puck and typically well underwater. Head coach Mike Sullivan has been reticent to use the line.
The fourth line presents the Penguins an opportunity to add because it has not provided an energy boost, been tough to play against, or been able to defend the opponents’ top lines as Teddy Blueger did last season.
However, Hextall doesn’t have many assets to work with. Nor will he sacrifice this season to acquire future talent. Right now, we’ll focus on the few players who could become available and fit the Penguins’ needs.
We’re going to focus on struggling teams that could become or already have become sellers. We’re not going to include Sam Bennett on the list, but there are some issues with doing so. First, Bennett wants a greater role. The Penguins currently have that to give, but Jason Zucker will eventually return. Then what?
If Calgary proceeds with a trade, they will not let him go cheaply. Also, more than a couple of teams will be in the queue.
We’re also intrigued by the potential availability of Bobby Ryan in Detroit, but this is about finding toughness.
The Penguins could use a player who can kill penalties, too. The team has plenty of space in the bottom-six to add a center or a winger. And, of course, any Penguins trade must include affordability. It’s a needle in the haystack, but we’ve started looking.