Add another name to the Pittsburgh Penguins trade block. For several months, Penguins trade rumors have centered on the defense because the team needed to clear salary-cap space and have at least one extra defender.
Now, the Penguins have three spare NHL defenders and have been carrying nine rearguards on their roster. Tuesday night, TSN analyst Bob McKenzie added more fuel to the fire. McKenzie said Penguins GM Jim Rutherford would love to deal a defenseman for a center, but it would have to be a dollar-for-dollar trade because the Penguins will eventually be healthy.
McKenzie made news when discussed the players which he believes Rutherford has made available. Jack Johnson is a given, but McKenzie said also said to add Erik Gudbranson’s name in the mix, too.
Gudbranson, 27, has been a staple of the Penguins third pairing. The Penguins acquired him from the Vancouver Canucks for the fading Tanner Pearson at the NHL trade deadline. He added only two assists in 19 games last season but was generally regarded as playing well. Gudbranson also adds a physical element in the defensive zone, and the increasingly rare ability to drop the gloves to protect teammates.
Rutherford has been attempting to trade a player with a significant salary since July. Johnson’s name has been a permanent inclusion into the conversation. Bryan Rust, Nick Bjugstad and now Gudbranson who makes $4 million per season.
The giant defender is 6-foot-5, 217 pounds. He has only 64 points (16g, 48a) in 470 career games, but also has 486 career penalty minutes. Part of Gudbranson’s job is to keep star players safe. Since he takes a regular turn on the blue line, he is ever-present in that role.
The Penguins have weeks before their salary cap is again an issue. By most estimates, Malkin will be out four-to-six weeks and Bjugstad will be out four weeks. However, given the Penguins’ inability to score goals Tuesday, they made need help sooner than later.