The Pittsburgh Penguins placed forward Stefan Noesen on waivers Wednesday, according to a Tweet from Sportsnet reporter Chris Johnston. If Noesen clears waivers, he could still play with the Penguins Friday night in Edmonton, as Joseph Blandisi did a couple of weeks ago when he cleared waivers but remained with the team.
The question is–Why did the Penguins waive Noesen now?
The Calgary Flames placed Eric Czarnik on waivers, also. Then the internet began to buzz that both teams were interested in unrestricted free agent Ilya Kovalchuk. ESPN reporter and former Puck Daddy scribe Greg Wyshynski publicly asked the question before TSN Insider Bob McKenzie firmly answered it.
PIT and CGY waiver moves aren’t related in any way to Kovalchuk because neither club has interest in signing him.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 18, 2019
For the record, we haven’t seen a report which tied the Penguins to Kovalchuk, only our advocating for the move.
So, if the Penguins didn’t waive Noesen to clear space for Kovalchuk, then why are they clearing space? There are a couple of logical possibilities beyond a Kovalchuk signing. First, the Holiday roster freeze begins today, Dec. 19. By waiving Noesen the Penguins will have access to the player but be able to demote him during the break, thus saving the salary cap hit.
Even a week of salary now can make a difference at the trade deadline or at the end of the season when bonuses are paid.
The other, but much less likely possibility, is the Penguins are going to recall defenseman Zach Trotman. Justin Schultz left the game Tuesday night after a knee-on-knee hit. While replays didn’t show much flex, it could be worse than a bruise. Schultz did not take part in the Penguins outdoor scrimmage and light practice on Wednesday.
This season, Trotman has played in five NHL games with no points. He’s a right-handed shot, which would fit with the current Penguins pairings sans Schultz. However, the Penguins began the game with four righties in the lineup as Chad Ruhwedel is playing ahead of Juuso Riikola.
According to the PHN Report Card from Tuesday night, Ruhwedel and Marcus Pettersson struggled. The pair yielded several high-danger chances.
According to the NaturalStatTrick.com line tool, Trotman and Pettersson have played five games together and have elevated advanced stats, including a 55% Corsi, 61% shot rate, and a 71% scoring chance ratio.
Or, we could see an out-of-left-field option.
The Penguins made one minor trade this week when they acquired small, speedy forward Kevin Roy from the Florida Panthers organization in exchange for fellow minor leaguer Ryan Haggerty. The possibility exists the Penguins snare a bubble NHL player who fits the LHD role.
The Penguins did just enough to beat Calgary. Tristan Jarry was a large figure in the win. The Penguins need to find more stable pairs, especially if Schultz is out for more than a few days. The standings are getting crowded behind the Penguins. Despite all of the good work, it could be undone with a bad couple of weeks.
Perhaps we’ll find out Thursday afternoon, or Rutherford will leave us wondering. The Pittsburgh Penguins have short-term needs. And they waived their spare forward. It’s fair to wonder if there is another shoe to drop.