The Pittsburgh Penguins are annually active at the NHL trade deadline. Jim Rutherford is a horse trader with uncanny creativity to get the player he wants at a price he wanted to pay. And now we’re going to see Rutherford in a rare situation: The 2019 trade deadline is a buyers market.
More than half of the teams in the NHL are currently selling. That is the Penguins opportunity. But it also makes Rutherford’s job more difficult.
The Penguins issue is rival GMs can compare anything the Penguins choose to sell with several other teams. Defenseman X from Team Y, or Defenseman A from Team B? It could be chaos as teams are forced to make hockey trades and figure out their best return.
Saturday evening and into the wee hours, Pittsburgh Hockey Now spoke with sources around the league. One name which is drawing mixed signals is Derick Brassard.
On the Penguins side, it now appears likely Brassard will not be a Penguin beyond the trade deadline. Multiple sources confirmed the Penguins have moved from “could” deal Brassard to expecting to deal the center.
Previous Brassard suitors, Colorado and Winnipeg eyed the Penguins forlorn center again this season. However, sources familiar with the thinking of both teams were unable to verify continued interest.
Brassard has not lived up to expectations in his Penguins tenure. The team skipped his line in crunchtime against Anaheim, and he has only played in the 12-minute range in each of the past two games.
The general sense is that as the trade winds blow, teams are shopping around. The deep market may provide a better deal, better fit or something entirely better. For some, Brassard could be that “better fit” or the deep market could lure suitors in different directions.
“Mixed signals,” was the recurring theme of one conversation regarding a Central Division team.
The Penguins will soon have nine healthy NHL caliber defensemen. In theory, the Penguins could solve their problem by sending Chad Ruhwedel and-or Juuso Riikola to the WBS Penguins. Ruhwedel would have to clear waivers, while Riikola is a rookie on his ELC, so he is waiver exempt.
That solution could also help the Penguins in the offseason as Riikola is arbitration eligible according to CapFriendly.com, but it doesn’t seem to be the path the Penguins prefer as Riikola could have been sent down numerous times this season.
And so the Penguins will have an overcrowded house in which someone is likely to find a new home. Early in the season, Olli Maatta’s name was mentioned as a possibility the Penguins would consider, but Maatta has been a top-four defenseman since.
The situations from Brassard to defensemen are not entirely in the Penguins control. There will be more than a few teams who get stuck with an asset or are forced to take lower than expected market value. And no one is quite sure who will be left without a chair when the music stops.
The deep market also means Carolina is unlikely to get their steep asking price for Michael Ferland, who seems a perfect fit for the Penguins. Ferland is a rugged winger who can score. He reportedly wants a contract similar to Tom Wilson’s deal in Washington.
The originally reported asking price included a first-round pick and more. Such an ask would most likely preclude the Penguins, but the broad market could drop the price to something more affordable. However, it’s unlikely Vegas will facilitate another deal to keep a perfect fit away from their competition. So the Penguins probably have to go this one alone.