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Penguins Trade Talk: 3C Potentials, Is Big-Name Center Possible?



NHL trade block, Ryan O'Reilly, Pittsburgh Penguins trade

Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall said a week ago the NHL trade market was still in the big-picture phase, and not many GMs were getting down to the “finer strokes” to move forward with deals. In the meantime, Bo Horvat and Vladimir Tarasenko have joined the Metropolitan Division battle, while the Penguins’ trade targets will be third-liners.

Hextall is looking for chemistry in the bottom-six, but a little more speed or grit in the middle of the third line wouldn’t hurt. Perhaps a little wrecking ball or a big name out of St. Louis would work.

Despite a goal by Jeff Carter on Friday, the Penguins’ need to bolster their third line hasn’t diminished. The beatdowns by the Colorado Avalanche for about 50 minutes on Tuesday and the Los Angeles Kings Saturday were only further proof.

A couple of weeks ago, PHN laid out the first wave of potential Penguins trade targets for a third-line center, including Adam Henrique (ANA), Travis Boyd (AZ), and Jason Dickinson (CHI).

While those three remain potential Penguins trade targets, a few others are hitting the market. The next round is a higher-quality crop of third-liners, including a big name who could make a big difference.

Penguins Trade Potentials:

Ryan O’Reilly

He might be the home run for the Penguins. An informal poll of scouts covering a recent game put the price tag at a second-rounder and a prospect.

The Penguins can afford that part.

O’Reilly is a great defensive center with a good bit of offense when he’s healthy and right. However, this season has been a slog for the 32-year-old, as he battled injury and slumps. He has 16 points (10-6-16) in 37 games and returned Saturday after missing a few weeks because of a foot injury.

O’Reilly’s defensive prowess, two-way game, and experience are significant pluses. The downsides are a $7.5 million salary-cap hit and what is expected to be fierce competition for his services.

Hextall would also have to find a way to shed salary to make it happen. It’s not like the St. Louis Blues, who are out of the playoffs, will gleefully take on unwanted salaries to balance the deal.

St. Louis would also have to eat a good bit of O’Reilly’s salary.

Crosby-Malkin-O’Reilly would be a pretty good trio, if not the best in the East. And — until a desperate team drives up the price — it seems possible.

Christain Dvorak

As you may have seen when the Montreal Canadiens faced the Penguins this season, Dvorak knows how to put his skates inside the blue line with an aggressive forecheck.

He’s also an excellent defender with a bit of offense. The 27-year-old has two years remaining on a contract with a $4.45 million cap hit.

He also might be the best fit on the market.

We know that Montreal GM Kent Hughes and Hextall have chatted. See also Jeff Petry and Ryan Poehling. The pair were spotted in conversation in November after the Penguins’ OT loss at the Bell Centre.

Is Teddy Blueger a low-cost option who could grease the skids for this Penguins trade? What about a young defenseman to go with a pick and a salary to fit with the Canadiens’ youth push?

St. Louis Third Liners

There’s a buzz about Ivan Barbashev, but Noel Accairi is a wrecking-ball center with speed and physicality. Imagine a heavier Josh Archibald.

Barbashev is not great on the faceoff dot, while Accairi is nearly a 55% faceoff guy. Accairi doesn’t have as much offense as Barbashev, but the “truculence” factor more than balances out that shortcoming and he has a respectable 18 points (10-8-18) in 51 games.

I like Accairi here. Cheap contract, cheaper acquisition, physical. He might be the perfect fallback option.

Both will cost much less than O’Reilly and be easier to fit under the salary cap. Barbashev is a pending UFA with a $2.25 million cap hit. Acciari seems like a much easier get and is easily affordable at $1.25 million.

Trade Targets that Aren’t a Match

Mikael Backlund, Calgary.

He’s expensive and signed for another year at $5.35 million. He’s a 40-point center with top-shelf defensive acumen — that’s the good part.

The Calgary Flames are struggling. They had Stanley Cup hopes but can’t score enough goals (their 7-2 win over Buffalo Saturday notwithstanding).

Here’s something crazy —  Guess which Penguins center won a couple of Stanley Cups with Calgary head coach Darryl Sutter in LA? Jeff Carter. Might Calgary be more amendable to taking Carter’s salary to rejuvenate the center, in addition to receiving a trade package from the Penguins?

The bad: The Penguins don’t have the horses to help the Flames’ goal-scoring problem.

Jack Roslovic, Columbus

Roslovic has offensive talent, but hasn’t yet become a hard-to-play-against center. The Penguins and Columbus could surely match up on a deal, but Roslovic, thought to be available, isn’t what the Penguins need.

Jonathan Toews, Chicago

Perhaps Toews is enough of a leader and driven to win that he would swallow hard and be a third-line center, kill penalties, and start in the defensive zone far more often than the offensive end. Perhaps he would smile through the dirty jobs, but his salary is north of $10 million, and other teams could use a 2C.

The salary doesn’t work. The job doesn’t fit. The cost will be prohibitive. Just … no.