Connect with us

Penguins

Are the Penguins Needs Too Great to Be Aggressive at Trade Deadline?

Published

on

NHL return, Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Jared McCann

The little Dutch boy only had so many fingers to plug holes. It is about two weeks until the NHL’s Feb. 24 trade deadline, and the Pittsburgh Penguins are moving in the wrong direction. They are getting further away from their optimum roster, not closer. Injuries continue to make a Penguins trade a problematic proposition.

The loss of 40-goal scorer Jake Guentzel has loomed large over the lineup, and the Penguins haven’t been consistent since he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury on Dec. 30.

Adding to the Penguins troubles, defenseman Brian Dumoulin isn’t yet skating after he suffered severed tendons on Nov. 30. Center Nick Bjugstad, who is both a lineup contributor and trade bait, has recently stopped skating despite beginning an on-ice rehab on Jan. 8.

Dominik Kahun will help when he returns from a concussion, but he doesn’t solve the Pittsburgh Penguins need for a top-six winger.

Now, rookie defenseman John Marino who has been the second most productive Penguins defenseman behind Kris Letang, is presumably out for a good chunk of time after he suffered a broken cheekbone on Thursday night.

The harsh truth is the Penguins depth has been stretched beyond its limit. The team is rolling without a legitimate fourth line or third defense pairing.

Justin Schultz was playing on that pairing with fellow righty Chad Ruhwedel. The two righties weren’t very good together. On Saturday, Ruhwedel resumed his right-side third pairing role with Juuso Riikola on the left, but that pairing wasn’t very good in the weeks before Schultz’s return. It was terrible on Saturday.

The Penguins fourth line has been especially exposed in the last few games. Tampa Bay steamrolled past them, and the line received only five minutes of ice time. The match of AHL players and Alex Galchenyuk hasn’t worked well in some time. Saturday night, Sullivan benched Galchenyuk after the first period. He played only three minutes.

Oh, by the way, the Penguins top line with Jared McCann and Dominik Simon beside Sidney Crosby isn’t working either. In the past five games, McCann has two even-strength assists and is a minus-5. Simon has one goal and is a minus-seven. Crosby has managed five points (1g, 4a) in the same five games but is also a minus-5.

“He can score. He’s got good offensive instincts,” head coach Mike Sullivan said of McCann on Friday. “His ability to finish, I think is intriguing.”

Saturday night, Sullivan flipped McCann to the Malkin line after the Penguins top unit didn’t have a shot on goal in the first 20-plus minutes.

It’s not clicking, and there is no guarantee McCann, who was a fourth-line center in Florida just one year ago, will be the answer. Like many of you and the Penguins coaches, I too expected more from McCann on the top line.

If we view the NHL trade market as a store, the Penguins shopping list may be too long to get too aggressive. The Penguins need defensive depth, bottom line NHL players, and, most importantly, a top-six winger.

GM Jim Rutherford may also need at least one top-four defenseman.

One Penguins trade for a primary need, like a top-six winger and a secondary want like forward depth, is affordable. But to go after everything for one more Cup run would wipe clean the Penguins organization. A scoring winger, a top-four defenseman, forward help, and defensive depth will snap the Penguins budget like the injuries have broken their considerable depth.

In some semblance of healthy, the Pittsburgh Penguins are a special team and can hang with any team in the NHL in a seven-game series. As battered and bruised as the Penguins are, they can win single games, but a playoff march seems less likely.

Philadelphia, Washington, Tampa Bay, and Florida were able to get to the Penguins defensemen, create turnovers and mistakes. In praising what the Penguins have done well to win games, the inverse is also something on which the Penguins have also recently stumbled.

“It’s not any one thing, it’s a number of things that add up to (playing well). It’s everything from managing the puck the right way in different areas of the rink,” Sullivan said. “it’s working to reload in the offensive zone and stay above people so that if our defensemen pinches, he’s got support.”

The Penguins forwards have struggled with those aspects of staying on the right side of the puck and above their opponents. The recent number of odd-man rushes

Sunday morning, the Penguins find themselves in a much worse position than just a week ago. Without Jake Guentzel, the Penguins haven’t been the same team, but hope was lurking via trade for a top-six winger. But Dumoulin is not yet skating, and Bjugstad has apparently stopped skating as Sullivan’s recent updates have specifically omitted on-ice work.

There are only so many heroes available, and the Penguins are asking a lot of players to play above their paygrade.

A scoring winger might cure a lot of ills, but the Penguins will also need some luck on the trainer’s table if this season is to be special. Before Rutherford goes all-in at the trade deadline, he must be sure the Penguins have a reasonable chance to be their best version. Otherwise, discretion may be the better part of valor.

Of course, at least one of Rutherford’s presumed primary targets, Jason Zucker, has three years remaining on his contract.

Subscribe to PHN+

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.

22 Comments
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
22 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ryan Driscoll
Ryan Driscoll
1 year ago

the window for this team is 2 years with malkin and crosby if the thought is go for broke while they are together the time is now to make a splash and get a top 6 winger and a solid but unspectacular dman. im guessing GMJR believes he owes it to this team to make a splash. it may be time to dangle Jarry/Murray and Poulin and use their #1 pick.

Randy894
Randy894 (@randy894)
1 year ago

I would agree to go for broke, but I think of the remaining bad taste of the Brassard trade.

Ricardo58
Ricardo58
1 year ago

I’m in the minority probably, but I think you hold fast and keep the team’s assets. IMO, a complete rebuild isn’t necessary going forward in the coming seasons. I offer to mold the team around 87 and determine what player(s) to trade to support and aging 87 who’ll still be a top 10 center the next 2-3 years.
Marino is obviously not available as well as 59. I’d like to think 71 would remain. But, everyone else is fair game.
Go Pens.

Dean
Dean
1 year ago

The pens do not need to over react! They need to stick with the long term plan and add the correct young support to a team that has 3 superstars and 2 strong goalies. Even with this level of injuries they have a good enough team and enough points that they will make the playoffs. Their goal should be to enter the playoffs healthy. With the injury to Marino they may no longer be able to afford to trade Schultz. They still have Galchenyuk and our first round pick to take a chance on an underperforming young top six forward… Read more »

E.J.
E.J.
1 year ago

I don’t want to hear excuses. The Stanley Cup window will close in a couple or three years. There is no prohibitive favorite right now.

GMJR should be all in for a first-line sniper (Hoffman? Zucker?), lefty d-man (Martinez?) and all-purpose center (Pageau?) Needs to fill the first two needs at least. I would not trade Poulin or Murray/Jarry, but all the usual suspects should be in play.

King Penguin
King Penguin
1 year ago
Reply to  E.J.

Acquire Pageau and Borowiecki from the Sens, and GMJR fills two needs in one fell swoop.

jessevereb
jessevereb (@jessevereb)
1 year ago

a little dramatic don’t you think. They should do whatever they need to get Zucker. He is who they wanted he has term and would fit well. As for the defense they could get a cheap rental but… marino will only miss a few games. dumo will return at some point. and Schultz is a top 4 dman. They are still a top 5 team…… go for broke but for a player with term.

The Binker
The Binker
1 year ago
Reply to  jessevereb

If you believe Letang, Dumo, Schultz and Marino will not have another injury this season, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news . . .

E.J.
E.J.
1 year ago

Tanev, Blueger and ZAR make for a cute, little story, but they’re not a legit third line. None of them can finish and Blueger sucks at face-offs.

The third line should be remade around a center who can score, defend and win face-offs in that order. Then move the No. 3 line down to No. 4 where it belongs.

jessevereb
jessevereb (@jessevereb)
1 year ago
Reply to  E.J.

blueger is excellent at faceoffs hes taken them at certain times with Crosby on the ice.

Hatrick Pornqvist
Hatrick Pornqvist
1 year ago
Reply to  jessevereb

They put the Blueger lone out in their own end in key defensive situations but it’s not for Blueger’s face off prowess. He’s around 47% I think. It’s because the line is the most defensively responsible. It’s a checking line pure and simple. Blueger needs to keep working on his draws. Even Malkin is at 50% I think.

E.J.
E.J.
1 year ago

A lost face-off can cost you a playoff game, and a game can cost you the series. I want someone like Pageau in those situations — a proven veteran who can score, play against the other first line and win draws consistently.

Edgar
Edgar (@edgar)
1 year ago

What about adding a defenseman from NYR in addition to Kreider? They have a ton of them, and if they were actually willing to trade with us (probably better for them to trade with us than Boston) that might fill both needs. Kreider+ Skjei, or one of their young unproven D-men? Just a thought.

The Binker
The Binker
1 year ago
Reply to  Edgar

The Rangers won’t touch their young core. Also seriously doubt that Kreider will be traded to a division rival.

Edgar
Edgar (@edgar)
1 year ago
Reply to  The Binker

I don’t see how it benefits them much more by trading Kreider to Boston. And they have so many young defensemen, there’s no room for them all. So, they are most likely going to deal 1 or 2 eventually. But, I don’t think we have enough to get one of them.

E.J.
E.J.
1 year ago

Blueger has a 46.2 percent success rate. Excellent? LMAO.

Spencer
Spencer
1 year ago

Guys look at the redwings, kings, and blackhawks right now. You see where they are on the standings and where they’ve been in the last few seasons? This is what happens when a good cup contender starts to age, panics, and then starts trying to make trades and sacrifices the future of the organization. This team is winning games right now. Sure they don’t look incredible doing that but that doesn’t matter. 3 of the 4 wins in the 2017 finals against the preds were some of the ugliest wins I’ve ever seen and yet after game 6 they still… Read more »

Billy Rof
Billy Rof
1 year ago

They can trade a number 1 pick for a top six winger, package Galchenyuk with a 3rd,or a 4th, or a 5th round pick for a third paring dman. They will get number 8 and number 6 back in the line up by the playoffs, also Bjugstad and Kahun. This team will be fine, Rutherford does not have to sell off the farm team! I would reach out to the Ducks to propose Galchenyuk and 5th round pick for Erik Gudbranson. Then shop my 1st rd pick for a top six winger maybe throw in De Smith. Just off the… Read more »

Paul
Paul
1 year ago

Just watched Colorado vs Minnesota. One game only but Zucker very unimpressive.

You know who was very impressive? Ian Cole.

I pass on Zucker . Sorry .

Tony G.
Tony G.
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul

Hoffman > Zucker.

paul
paul
1 year ago

Hoffman would require a First Round pick,the only one beside Kreider. I would love Kreider,but much rather Hoffman than Zucker. Also while Mike Sullivan is applauded , rightly so,as a great coach he does have a stubborn streak that has and is costly. Ian Cole would be great on this team Reaves was a great acquisition by GMJR,but Sullivan wanted his identity. The 2nd Round exot two seasons ago was a result IMO of Reaves being gone. Gudbranson was a surprisingly decent player,liked and needed IMO. Gone. Simon on the PP and on SId’s line. Yes Sid wants him but… Read more »

Tony G.
Tony G.
1 year ago

Not to disagree, but the second-round exit in 2018 was the direct result of a monumental Letang meltdown in the third period of a very winnable Game 5 at Washington. Maybe the worst period by an established player in a big game in team history.

Join PHN Extra!

Join PHN+ today for exclusive content from Dan and Shelly plus a completely Google ad-free experience.

PHN+

Or enter your email below to sign-up for our mailing list.

Thank you!

Something went wrong.

No thanks. I don't want.