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Young, Unhappy, & Unsigned: 3 Potential Penguins Trade Targets

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Pittsburgh Penguins trade talk. Nicholas Robertson

There exist some talented players who have not yet flourished in their current situations. Penguins fans are quick to point to players such as Daniel Sprong or Alex Nylander, who popped with a 23-game NHL run after the Penguins trade essentially dumped him on Columbus for Emil Bemstrom, but other teams suffer the same problems, too.

Sometimes, players find better homes; sometimes, the jolt of the trade stirs emotions, and sometimes, a greater role with a different team showcases talent.

It happens.

Though for Penguins fans who are still pining over Sprong, just remember that the Penguins trade netted Marcus Pettersson. I’d say they handily won that deal. Sprong is likely headed for his sixth team in six seasons.

If the Penguins want to get younger, taking a few gambles on players who may or may not work is probably a necessity of the process.

There are a few young players who haven’t yet cracked their NHL lineups or who haven’t fit in their situation. They are the young, unhappy, or unsigned players this offseason, and one has a link directly to Penguins president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas.

2 Penguins Trade Potentials

1. Nicholas Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs

Robertson, 22, has been “on the way” for four years. He exploded on the scene by playing four playoff games with Toronto in 2019-20, the “bubble” playoffs. He earned his ice time with a great training camp that summer (recall the second training camp in June before the NHL re-started the season with the Stanley Cup tournament in the “bubble” after the COVID-19 pause).

Dubas drafted the 5-foot-9, 178-pound LW as Toronto’s first pick (53rd overall) in the 2019 NHL Draft.

He is small, lacks great skating, and has been a bubble player for Toronto ever since. He is also a natural scorer. He makes things happen with the puck as a playmaker or a finisher. However, Toronto’s top six is packed.

This was the first season he cracked the NHL lineup. In 56 games, he scored 14 goals and 27 points. However, his unhappiness over being sent down after the NHL trade deadline because of roster overcrowding made headlines.

“I understand it, but I’m not going to sit here and say I’m happy. I want to play, but I understand my contract situation. Obviously, if it wasn’t the way it was, maybe it’d be a different situation,” Robertson told the Toronto media. “I’ve been in plenty of situations here where the waivers have kind of screwed me. So … I’m numb to it.”

Robertson is a restricted free agent but is not yet arbitration-eligible. Toronto has control of the situation, but if the player has had enough, he can negotiate or talk his way out of Toronto. Perhaps no one knows Robertson better than Dubas.

Robertson could be an interesting playmaker with some finish on the Penguins’ left flank.

And be comparatively cheap, too.

2. Arthur Kaliyev, LA Kings

LA general manager Rob Blake lit up Kaliyev in his season-ending press conference.

“He didn’t help us down the stretch at all,” Blake said of Kaliyev.

Ouch.

Kaliyev, 22, is from Uzbekistan and possesses all of the tools to be an NHL sniper. He can play either wing, and scouts say he’s got a wicked shot with a quick release. The downsides are that he’s big but does not use his size, and his skating is average.

His job is to score. Perhaps he’s not Penguins coach Mike Sullivan’s cup of tea, but clearly, the Penguins need more offense sprinkled into the lineup. And a few role models around the Penguins locker room might help, too.

Kaliyev went ice cold in the second half, scoring just one goal with no assists in his final 15 games. He will be a restricted free agent without arbitration rights, but after Blake torched his winger, it might seem he is readily available and won’t cost very much in a trade or take up too much salary cap space.

Low risk, high reward.

3. Max Jones, Anaheim Ducks

The 26-year-old hard skating banger hasn’t lit up the scoring sheets, posting just 15 points and scoring five goals this season in 52 games. Jones is an RFA with arbitration rights, and his future is unclear in Anaheim.

What is obvious is the Ducks need to improve.

Perhaps the Penguins can help out by offering a veteran with a larger salary in exchange for Jones. The skills that make him attractive to the Penguins’ cause are his skating and his willingness to play in the rough areas around the net. He doesn’t mind getting his nose dirty.

Whether he’s a winger on the third line or lines up beside Noel Acciari on the fourth, he would add to the Penguins lineup. He also could be a late-blooming scorer, as he showed hands in the AHL back in 2018-19 when he played 43 games (14-15-29) at the AHL level as a rookie.

A 6-foot-3, 216-pound forward who doesn’t mind using his size and can skate.

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Dave Heyl
Dave Heyl
5 days ago

too many smurf prospects or big players with no taste for the physical side! Pens already have that!!!!

Cal
Cal
5 days ago
Reply to  Dave Heyl

Agreed. The team needs more physicality. Jones would be a very good add, if he finds his upside a guy with size that can produce is hard to find.

Eri
Eri
5 days ago

I’d like to look at trading for/obtaining RFA rights of LAK’s Alex Laferriere and Arthur Kaliyev. Would add to the youth movement and could play with Crosby, Malkin or on the 3rd line – would certainly give HC some options for wingers. Signing Chandler Stephenson would also give the Pens an option for 2C/3C, moving Malkin to wing. And Dare I say striking a deal for Trevor Zegras. Playing under Sullivan and with a mentor in Crosby, he may be the 3rd liner the Pens needs to compete, the guy can score. Down the middle:
Crosby
Stephenson/Malkin
Zegras
Eller/Acciari

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker
5 days ago
Reply to  Eri

Great ideas! I don’t see the penguins having the assets to acquire Zegras, but Kyle proved me wrong when he got Karlsson, so who knows. Zegras’ value has gone down and he doesn’t seem to work hard, but i could also be wrong about that.

Stephenson would be a great signing for sure.

Eri
Eri
5 days ago

Thanks. Zegras would be a gamble, initially I was against the idea, but I thought about GMJR and the Kessel trade. I’m sure the downvotes are about his attitude, work ethic and coming off injury, but a change of scenery with the right teammates could reinvigorate his play, thus altering his image. The route of adding 4 or 5 players in their 20’s has to be the priority – to clarify these adds have to be willing and able to due the little things to take off some of the pressure of the Core. A good start would be to… Read more »

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker
5 days ago
Reply to  Eri

I will say that Zegras is probably better as a winger and not 3c, where the penguins need a strong 2 way player. Maybe he could mesh with Geno or Sid on Lw? Pipe dreams and fun to think about

RandomHockeyGuy
RandomHockeyGuy
5 days ago

I don’t see a fit for any of these 3. Kaliyev’s scouting this year described his skating as “barely adequate for the NHL level.” I don’t think that will fly in a Mike Sullivan system. I see nothing in Robertson that we don’t already have in Puustinen. Jones is an RFA with arbitration rights, who made 1.295M last season. Too much risk in an arbitration award with his limited, 4th line level production.

Pass on all 3.

Matthew Caddy
Matthew Caddy
5 days ago

None of them. Seems like the types of the players they already have.

qdawg8266
qdawg8266
5 days ago

Physical, decent size and speed please

Pete
Pete
5 days ago

Jones yes, other two no. Pens need to get younger AND bigger. No more small forwards.

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker
4 days ago
Reply to  Pete

Adding bigger players is going to be hard. Teams aren’t going to give up larger players that are younger and with upside. Hopefully, Kyle can work some magic. 🤞🏻

Marc
Marc
2 days ago

Pens should try to get some great young talent in trade for Karlsson.

Frank
Frank
4 days ago

At another time and with another team maybe some of these smaller guys would work. But on a soft team with smallish players and not much different lower in the system I can do without more of the same. When your most physical defenseman is Marcus Petterson it speaks to what lies ahead. Dubas is being paid substantial money to deliver better results. I do not envy the cards he was dealt but not as though the problems were not glaring when he took the job. So do it . .. already.