Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the fanbase, not a creature was stirring, except this writing louse.
The sweaters and socks were hung with care in the hopes Evgeni would soon be there.
The children quietly pondered, while NHL trade rumors danced through their heads.
The Pittsburgh Penguins with a seven-game streak but up against the cap, have settled in for a holiday nap.
But what will arise from the trade deadline or the offseason chatter?
Do not worry, PHN is chasing the matter.
Will the Penguins be able to free up some cash
For Sidney to make one more Stanley Cup dash?
Ok, ok, sometimes I do silly things just to see if you’re still paying attention. The Pittsburgh Penguins are solidly among the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference after their seven-game winning streak. That streak will resume Monday in Boston. For now, the holiday break sent the players home and canceled their participation in the Beijing Olympics.
In keeping with the season, we’ll imagine what the Penguins letter to Santa might contain.
Pittsburgh Penguins Wishlist:
1. A healthy Evgeni Malkin
The Penguins have an advantage over almost every team if their top four centers are Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jeff Carter, and Teddy Blueger. It frees head coach Mike Sullivan to exploit matchups. Last May, on one leg, Evgeni Malkin was one of the best players in their Round One loss to the New York Islanders. Does a healthy Malkin also get Kasperi Kapanen on the right side of the ledger?
2. Wake up, Kasperi
Kapanen has an elite skill set but currently average production. Perhaps it’s a beautiful irony that he was traded for Phil Kessel, who similarly zombied through regular seasons before filling the score sheet in the playoffs. Kapanen had 14 points in 14 games from late February through March 16, when Malkin suffered a knee injury. The two have a little chemistry, and maybe, just maybe, that’s the explosion we’re waiting to see.
3. Evan Rodrigues to not wake up
While the Penguins must wake up Kapanen from his nightmare, high on their wishlist is for Evan Rodrigues’s dream season to continue. The 28-year-old has been fighting for a legit NHL chance, and he’s making the most of it. Has there been a more consistent Penguins scorer?
In 29 games, Rodrigues has 23 points, including a career-high 10 goals. No part of his game looks like a fluke. From 12 shots against Montreal to a steady stream of points, and being able to hang with Sidney Crosby, this looks good.
Like the Christmas scene in Donnie Brasco, who doesn’t like a little respect via an envelope of cash? The Pittsburgh Penguins salary cap structure will be pressed when Malkin returns, so a little envelope of salary cap cash couldn’t hurt.
Using the PuckPedia.com GM feature, we’ve played around with potential Penguins’ moves. It appears GM Ron Hextall will only have enough cash for 12 forwards and seven defensemen if everyone is healthy. Only 12 forwards means demoting Drew O’Connor, and Dominik Simon and Brian Boyle through waivers to WBS.
Boyle could be a paper move and hang around, but that seems less than ideal.
Even after taking an ax to the bottom of the lineup, the Penguins would only have about $279,000 of salary cap space–not enough to make a recall should another forward suffer an injury or test positive for COVID. That seems like living dangerously.
5. NHL trade victory
Since the Penguins and Hextall will have to visit the NHL trade market to make it all work, their wishlist should include a desperate GM willing to make the Penguins better while accepting more salary than given.
Hey, it’s a wishlist, not a reality list.
Jason Zucker will find himself the most desirable to move, given Rodrigues’ emergence and his sagging production. However, he’ll also be the toughest to move, per his $5.5 million AAV through next season.
Unfortunately, if the Penguins don’t find an envelope of cash or a rival GM having a George Bailey moment, Zach Aston-Reese, Danton Heinen, and even Brock McGinn could be on the NHL trade block to find enough cap space to activate Malkin AND have a 13th forward.
6. A right-handed defenseman
The Penguins and Chad Rudhwedel have done well to get to this point. However, Ruhwedel has three points (0-3-3). That’s not quite what the Penguins need or want, especially after being spoiled by a dynamic blue line last season.
The Penguins appear to be rounding into a competitive, good team capable of being a difficult out in the playoffs. More push from their blue line would elevate their standing from tough team to dangerous team.
The NHL trade market is where to look.
Philadelphia Flyers Justin Braun has a booming shot from the point, though he doesn’t play an offensive game. He makes just $1.8 million. He could be a nice addition.
Perhaps the Penguins could entice the Buffalo Sabres to part with Colin Miller, a pending UFA, and shed salary at the same time? At $3.8 million, Miller would be a stout addition to the Penguins rearguards. And maybe Buffalo wants some NHL talent instead of picks and prospects?
Enjoy the holiday, my friends.