The Pittsburgh Penguins have now won seven of their last 12 games and earned points in nine of those games. Penguins GM Jim Rutherford doesn’t appear to feel an urgency to push for a deal before the NHL holiday roster freeze which begins on Wednesday. Winning helps but it won’t deter Penguins trade rumors. It certainly won’t deter other teams from taking a look as the Penguins are still believed to be an active team on the market.
The Penguins win over the Boston Bruins, Friday vaulted them into third place in the Metro Divison and closed the gap with the Montreal Canadiens, who are in the second wild-card position to three points.
That doesn’t mean a few teams aren’t hanging around. In the case of the Winnipeg Jets, their scouting appears to be escalating. Winnipeg pro scouts have been to PPG a few times in recent weeks but Friday their director of Pro Scouting Mark Dobson visited PPG.
Winnipeg chased Derick Brassard at the 2018 trade deadline only to lose out when Vegas GM George McPhee and Rutherford worked a deal so complex that even the NHL trade office, after rejecting it once, was still confused after processing it the second time.
Friday night, Brassard had a good opening period with the suddenly high flying Bryan Rust but receded with Tanner Pearson on his wing and Boston swarming.
Winnipeg still carries a plethora of natural centers and their third pairing right side defenseman is Tyler Myers, with 2018 AHL defenseman of the year Sami Niku waiting in the wings. Niku recently completed a five-game call-up after the Winnipeg blueline was beset with injuries. The 22-year-old Finn is playing in his second year in North America and has 54 points in the AHL last season.
Myers will a UFA after this season and has a cap hit of $5.5 million.
On paper, the Penguins and Winnipeg appear to have common interests.
Kings & Tidbits
Last weekend, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman linked the Penguins to LA Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin. The LA Kings again scouted the Penguins, Friday. The same pro scout who was in Pittsburgh in advance of the Carl Hagelin for Tanner Pearson deal was in attendance. Since the Kings play the Penguins, Saturday it could be a case of advance opposition scouting, too.
LA is open for business as their nightmare season continues, however, a source familiar with other LA trade talks told PHN the Kings are demanding high draft picks in return for available players. That could well exclude the Penguins from any further discussion.
This week, wild rumor sites connected the Penguins to the Kings goaltending situation but those are only rumors. Especially after Casey DeSmith’s beauty against the Bruins, the Penguins are likely a long way from dealing for goaltending help. One could safely presume the Penguins are invested in turning Matt Murray’s season around, too.
Combining national reporting with Pittsburgh Hockey Now’s sources close to the Penguins front office, it does not sound like the Penguins are close to a deal or aggressively pursuing one. However, any discussion about Jim Rutherford must come with a caveat that things can change quickly, even in the course of one afternoon.
A lot of the Penguins plans could be affected by Kris Letang’s prognosis. The defenseman suffered a left leg injury, Friday. Expect the Penguins to announce Letang as day-to-day to avoid diminishing Rutherford’s stance in any negotiations.
One non-Penguins related tidbit–It appears at least one team is attempting to give the Carolina Hurricanes a goalie in advance of the roster freeze. However, the offering team wanted forwards in return. Carolina is shopping for forwards who can put the puck in the net, so there doesn’t appear to be a match. However, the offering team felt it worked for both sides and seems intent on pursuing it further.