The Pittsburgh Penguins’ rapid burn through the East Division over the past 15 games has shown the Penguins strengths and weaknesses. Both are quite evident, just as the obvious lack of moveable assets. The Penguins won’t be shopping on the top shelf for any help at the April 12 NHL trade deadline.
No, we’re looking down where stores stock the generic saltines. The Penguins don’t need more generic. Instead, they’ll be looking for a player or two who can add some salt into the lineup from a bottom-six role.
But on the generic cracker price tag.
Tuesday dealt the Penguins another setback as third-line center Teddy Blueger was deemed out “longer-term,” which could be a few weeks or much longer.
On Thursday, we expect to find out more about Evgeni Malkin, who was also injured on Tuesday. If he suffered a serious injury, that could change everything.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen the game-by-game scouting list. A couple of teams have popped up a few times, but none more than the assistant GM of the Detroit Red Wings, Pat Verbeek.
Given Detroit’s disappointing position at the bottom of the standings again, the Red Wings can pick their return; they could snag younger NHL players, picks, or more picks.
On Sunday, Pittsburgh Hockey Now examined the plausible Penguins trade offerings. It’s slim pickings. And a reminder to fans, this isn’t NHL 21 or fantasy hockey. Big deals often take months or more. GM Ron Hextall hasn’t yet been on the job for two months.
But at least the “trade Malkin!” talk has died an ignominious defeat. Right now, we’re considering the Penguins trade bait as the 2022 second and third-round picks. Maybe, just maybe Marcus Pettersson, but that’s a reach until the offseason.
As a reminder, as we hear the Penguins engage other teams with interest, we’ll report it. This is about circling the Penguins’ needs and potential fits. Specifically, we’re focusing on the Penguins’ need for bottom-six forwards and a fourth-line center at a trade price they can afford.
(I feel that disclaimer is necessary, so I don’t see my name plastered over the internet rumor boards as reporting a trade is coming!)
In terms of salary cap space, it appears the Penguins have socked away about $3.7 million with their injuries and daily shuffling, according to CapFriendly.com.
And, one more note, NHL teams have reached the 50% phase in which an acquiring team is only hit with half of the cap hit. At the NHL trade deadline, that number will shrink to about 25%.
Pittsburgh Penguins Potential Trade Targets
No, we didn’t include Brandon Sutter or Eric Staal because we don’t believe either is a good fit. Staal isn’t a bottom-six center. Sutter is expensive and does not seem to be a Mike Sullivan player. Nor is he a physical player.
And, if Calgary falls out of the playoff race, we would put Sam Bennett at the top of the wishlist, but we’re not there yet.
Detroit Red Wings
Luke Glendening: A swift right-handed center with a bit of sandpaper, defensive responsibility, and an affordable $1.8 million AAV contract that expires this season. Glendening doesn’t exactly fill the score sheet, which is why a middle-round pick may do the trick. Glendening is also money on the faceoff dot (he’s at 66% this season).
We like that Detroit has been scouting in Pittsburgh, and we like Glendening’s fit with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Bobby Ryan: The RW exploded for six goals at the beginning of the season but has been ice-cold for weeks (months?). Playing in Detroit tends to suppress everyone. He’s on a one-year, $1 million deal after becoming a free agent. Ryan can play both sides and could be an offensive boost on the down lines or top-six filler.
Ryan Dzingel: The pending free agent is fast, tenacious, and likely affordable. Very affordable. He’s shown long stretches of solid bottom-line production in the NHL but has scuffled this season. Carolina traded him back to Ottawa, but the Senators have no use for a pending UFA.
Oh, and Austin Watson who can add more than some jam on the fourth line. Watson can also throw down and be responsible in his own zone.
Penguins Trade Potentials, The Rest:
We’ll probably update the list with a few more as we get closer to the deadline or players become available.
Erik Haula: The Nashville Predators center was available for the Penguins taking on the free-agent market but signed a well-below market value one-year, $1.75 million deal with Nashville. Haula is a lefty (not a deal-breaker, but not ideal) who doesn’t have much jam but is 56% in the faceoff circle.
Cody Eakin: The last poor soul left in Buffalo won’t have to turn off the lights. They’ve been off as the Buffalo Sabres have reached a dark place. Eric Staal doesn’t fit, but how about a 29-year-old center who was an important part of the Vegas Golden Knights run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018? Eakin is a hard-nosed competitive player that would fit Sullivan like a glove.
Eakin has a few 40-point seasons on his resume. He’s a lefty, but this season he is at 58% on the faceoff circle. He’s the type of go-getter the Penguins could use. The invigoration after driving down I-79 may help, too.