NHL Trade Rumors
Cap Space! New Penguins Trade Possibles at 3C
The Pittsburgh Penguins suddenly have money to spend. Based on GM Ron Hextall’s Friday press conference and the Saturday shocker when the St. Louis Blues claimed Kasperi Kapanen on waivers, we can redraw the Penguins trade landscape before the March 3 NHL trade deadline.
But they aren’t chasing expensive rental players. Probably.
The new parameters are clear. GM Ron Hextall reiterated on Friday that the Penguins wouldn’t overpay for rental players and the question of whether they need to affix significant assets to existing unwanted salaries seems moot after Saturday.
The surprise Kapanen claim off waivers and newfound $2 million in cap space should change Hextall’s calculus. The claim removed Kapanen and his $3.2 million AAV from the Penguins’ rolls.
And here’s where it gets fun. According to PuckPedia.com, the Penguins’ new salary cap number is $1.8 million today, and it will balloon to the equivalent of a full-season $2.1 million salary at the NHL trade deadline.
Should the Penguins send eighth defenseman Mark Friedman to the WBS Penguins, that number elevates to $2.9 million (We’ll debate Friedman’s status as the eighth d-man on another day).
Penguins Trade Deadline Math:
We’re using the full-season number equivalents rather than the smaller pro-rated numbers for ease of discussion. For example, if the Penguins traded Teddy Blueger ($2.1 million), or Brock McGinn ($2.75 million), the $2.9 million number increases by the exported salary.
Suddenly, the Pittsburgh Penguins can start talking about players in the $5-$5.5 million range without asking for a salary holdback.
Penguins Trade Deadline Parameters
Based on GM Ron Hextall’s words over two press conferences in the last month, we can begin narrowing our focus and circle new Penguins trade targets.
Hextall has narrowed the field, and if we parse his words correctly, the Penguins are chasing players with term.
And now that Noel Accairi is off the NHL trade board, there probably isn’t a player under $1.4 million who could significantly alter the Penguins’ bottom six, so we have to set our sights higher.
That means we’re hunting veterans with salary.
We should note the Penguins have most often been linked to defensemen in the trade season. The team is 31st in the NHL with 21 goals by defensemen, including Marcus Pettersson’s snipe against St. Louis. PHN recently reported that Jeff Petry and his $6.25 million salary were made available. The newfound cap space probably diminishes the need to use Petry, though we won’t yet close the door.
As we shop for third-line centers, a finite reality is apparent. There are very few options, and most of the options are rentals.
Also, thanks to the Penguins’ recent losses and inconsistency, the Eastern Conference bunching of would-be sellers in the wild-card race has lessened the pool. Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, and the New York Islanders are reasonably in the playoff fight.
For example, Jean-Gabriel Pageau would be an ideal target, but New York GM Lou Lamoriello won’t sell a center to the team, which could knock his team out of a playoff spot.
Pittsburgh Penguins Trade Possibles:
Max Domi / Jason Dickinson
Domi, 27, isn’t high on my whiteboard, but I trust Penguins radio analyst Phil Bourque. On 11 on the Ice Saturday night, Bourque said he likes Chicago’s middle-six center as a speedy, tenacious pivot who would fit Mike Sullivan’s system.
I lean toward his negatives as inconsistent and can play soft. There is some thought that Chicago will keep Domi because he has 46 points (17-29-46) in 57 games this season. It’s his best season in four years (he had 72 points in 2018-19) and should become the second-best season of his career.
We also know the Penguins have sent scouts, sometimes two, to Chicago.
If Domi is too expensive or not readily available, Jason Dickinson is my preference here. He made our original list because he greatly impressed by the couple of times we saw him in person. He could keep up with the Penguins’ skaters and countered with an aggressive and tenacious game. He has one more year on a contract that pays $2.65 million annually.
Dickinson, 27, has 21 points (8-13-21) in 54 games. This is our pick.
Domi is a pending UFA, so his match for the Penguins takes a hit unless the team knows his salary requirements or he’s not expensive.
Salary: $3 million, expiring.
A shifty, high-IQ center who’s a goal scorer but has decent playmaking ability. He appeared on our original list, and the increased cap space only makes this more plausible. He’s not large (6-foot, 188 pounds), but he’s a big game player who could fill in as a second-line center if needed.
This season, he’s a .5 points-per-game player with 33 points (19-14-33) in 57 games. The cost to acquire Henrique is probably close to a second-rounder and a prospect.
Salary: $5.8 million AAV carries through next season.
The Penguins and Capitals hooking up for a tough center? Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! At 33 years old, Eller is closer to the end and isn’t the sandpaper center he once was. However, since Washington is selling their UFAs to be, perhaps they’ll even accept an offer from their fiercest rival.
Eller has only 16 points (7-9-16) in 58 games. He’s probably more of a 4C right now, but you and I have seen him rise to the occasion and be a thorn in an opponent’s shoes throughout a seven-game series.
After former Penguins Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Justin Schultz, Conor Sheary, and Daniel Sprong rolled through Washington, perhaps it’s time one player went the other way.
Salary: $3.5 million, expiring.
The Arizona Coyotes forward has been solid this year. With an increased role, Bjugstad has 23 points (13-10-23) in 58 games and is a fantastic plus-7 on a terrible team. He didn’t fit well in Mike Sullivan’s system the first time, but he would significantly upgrade the Penguins’ current crater.
He’s an inexpensive rental, and he’s a righty, which moves this into plausible. Part of the downside to Bjugstad is that he doesn’t play a speed game, even though he has surprisingly good feet, and he’s won only 47% of his faceoffs this season.
Last season, he won 55% of his draws, but he’s a 49% career guy, and faceoffs are essential for the Penguins 3C.
Salary: $900,000 expiring.
He had a resurgence with the Montreal Canadiens, but he is injured. Whispers are that his foot injury will limit his effectiveness for any stretch run or playoff drive.
He would have been a solid target. If medical reports are available and his prognosis is good, he could again be a sought-after target. On their recent road trip, Monahan traveled with the team and practiced in a non-contact jersey.
In 25 games this season, the 28-year-old center scored 17 points (6-11-17).
Salary: $6.375 million, expiring.