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Penguins Deadline Day: Rutherford Needs Another Miracle

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By Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Anaheim Ducks shipped Brandon Montour, the object of the Pittsburgh Penguins desires to the Buffalo Sabres for a first-round pick and a developing, solid prospect defenseman. The pick will be in the 21-30 range because it originally belonged to the San Jose Sharks (or Anaheim can choose to take Buffalo’s other first rounder which belonged to St. Louis if it falls into the 21-30 range) but the market is set. And that is why there are few credible Penguins trade rumors: The Penguins are cap strapped and asset poor.

Our DMs are full, but the reality is stark.

Barring a miracle in which General Manager Jim Rutherford turns water into prospects and multiplies his cap space, the Penguins deadline day will be filled with empty baskets and hungry fans.

The Penguins included a second rounder in the Brassard to Florida deal. That pick looms large as second picks have become currency like cigarettes in prison.

Late Sunday night, Gustav Nyquist waived his NTC for Detroit to trade him to the San Jose Sharks for a second-round pick and a conditional third pick, next year. Nyquist has 48 points (15g, 33a) in 61 games. He could have added some scoring to the scoring desert which has become the Penguins wingers.

But the Penguins couldn’t afford even that low cost. They have neither the second or third-round pick needed.

New Jersey dealt RHD Ben Lovejoy to Dallas for talented but unsteady defensive prospect Connor Carrick and a third-round pick. Even that was too rich for the Penguins blood.

Ottawa traded winger Ryan Dzingel to Columbus for a second and third-round pick. Again, the Penguins couldn’t afford that.

Has the point been made, yet?

If Rutherford were up for sainthood, he could already claim three miracles. First was dealing Rob Scuderi for anything, let alone the immensely serviceable Trevor Daley. Rutherford also ditched bone dry David Perron for Carl Hagelin, whose speed helped to lead the Penguins speed revolution and was an integral part of the Penguins Cup runs.

And Rutherford resurrected Mike Sullivan’s head coaching career with a gig in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Perhaps Penguins Jesus is still reviewing getting Marcus Pettersson for stumbling prospect Daniel Sprong.

Perhaps this year will be Rutherford’s great temptation when he flirts with mortgaging the future but realizes his team needs more help than what little he has to give can buy.

Bluntly Rutherford used up his coffers when he shipped Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan to Florida for Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad. Straight up, it would have been a good trade for the Penguins, however, Rutherford sweetened the holy water with that second-round pick and two fourth-rounders.

Today would be a much different day with that second rounder.

Pending the severity of Kris Letang’s injury from Saturday night–it could be nothing or it could be bad news–the Penguins may need significant defensive help. Even if Letang is healthy, the Penguins have been rolling with Chad Ruhwedel as their third pairing defenseman.

In the NHL, the poor are not blessed and the Penguins are decidedly poor. Their top prospects are 24-year-old Teddy Blueger who showed well in his limited NHL run but is a bottom-six player and rookie Finnish defenseman Juuso Riikola.

Without a second-rounder, the Penguins are down to a first-round pick, one fourth-round pick, a fifth and a seventh. Nor do the Penguins have a defensive prospect at any professional level (And that includes the sudden fan favorite Ethan Prow, who has toiled in the ECHL and isn’t seen as a prospect even by his own organization).

The Penguins may have needs great and small but their trade bait isn’t so tasty. So the Penguins have a choice today–find someone who likes what they have to offer and hope they can snare a useable piece or…hold tight and hope for the best.

Hope isn’t a strategy but in this case, it may be all that’s left.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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