TSN Insider Bob McKenzie appeared on NHL Live Wednesday night before the Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers game to discuss the deadline strategy and Penguins trade rumors.
While the Penguins have traditionally been active around the deadline, because GM Jim Rutherford has already made significant trades this season, McKenzie doesn’t expect any blockbuster moves.
“At this point, Jim Rutherford feels like he has done most of his heavy lifting for the season,” said McKenzie. “That’s not saying that he won’t make a depth move depending on what is available out there.”
This season, the Penguins already made three major trades and changed the roster significantly since opening night. The Penguins have acquired Tanner Pearson, Marcus Pettersson, Nick Bjugstad, and Jared McCann. In exchange for the haul, the Penguins have shipped out the equipment bags of Daniel Sprong, Derick Brassard, Carl Hagelin, and Riley Sheahan.
McKenzie also feels the Penguins are still feeling out how to utilize Bjugstad and McCann and that is a huge reason why no jaw-dropping move is imminent despite the team’s recent struggles.
“(Rutherford) like the idea of getting Bjugstad and McCann into the lineup, guys that are under contract and younger,” said McKenzie. ” He feels it makes them better.”
McKenzie feels the Penguins playoff hopes hinges on the success of team chemistry, Bjugstad and McCann, and the production from Crosby and Malkin down the stretch.
“What the Penguins want to see between now and the deadline is what they get from Bjugstad and McCann and how the team gels,” said McKenzie. ” of course this team will go as far as Crosby and Malkin will take them and with no Malkin tonight, that’s concerning.”
Malkin received a one-game suspension for swinging his stick at Philadelphia forward Michael Raffl. Malkin has dealt with scoring slumps, injuries, and a suspension so far this season.
The absence of Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta due to injury has led to speculation that the Penguins are in the market for defensive help. McKenzie feels such depth is already in house and close to returning to the lineup.
“There is a hole there, but Justin Schultz is close to coming back and playing,” said McKenzie. ” He could fill that role in the absence of Maatta.”
Schultz has missed time due to a broken leg but has been a staple at practice recently, and his return might come this weekend. Chad Ruhwedl took Maatta’s spot on the third defensive pairing tonight.
The NHL trade deadline is Monday, Feb. 25th and with the Eastern Conference playoff race tightly contested it appears the buyers market has shifted back towards the sellers.