1.) What do you consider to be the Pens greatest need as the deadline approaches? Do they need to address more than one area for you to consider them a legitimate Cup contender?
Bottom six forward depth, specifically at center is a big concern of mine. The Penguins are actually the only team in the entire NHL that have a 3rd and 4th line center below replacement level in Usage-Adjusted Corsi. Considering the amount of minutes they give Brandon Sutter this is a big liability.
Finding third line centers isn't the easiest thing to do at deadline time but I would be willing to acquire a third line winger and roll forward with Nick Spaling in the 3C position. It isn't ideal but this is the situation they've created for themselves.
2.) Rutherford doesn’t have a lot of cap room to work with. (791,000 as of this writing) If he is to address a perceived need, who do you view as a likely trade chip?
Not sure if the team agrees with me but the most obvious piece is the one I named above. Getting rid of Brandon Sutter and his 3.3M cap hit would be addition by subtraction. Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff are UFA's with larger cap hits but the likelihood of them being moved is very minimal. Analytically speaking Sutter leaves the most to be desired. The good news is that Sutter carries perceived value for whatever reason. So not only would you be removing a bad player from your lineup you might actually get somewhat of a return as well.
3.) Who are three players likely to be available you'd like to see the Pens go after and why?
Seeing as though the Penguins are very limited with the maneuverability I am going to focus on two lower level deals and then just one bigger one.
Erik Condra Ottawa
He should come for a mid round draft pick and would certainly improve the forward depth. Very good possession player who does not generate a ton of offense, but that is better than the current fourth line options which are terrible at possession and also do not generate any offense. Low cap hit as well.
Patrick Eaves Dallas
Without Tyler Seguin it looks grim for the Stars playoff hopes. Especially since they are chasing Minnesota, San Jose, and Los Angeles. Eaves is another good possession guy on the cheap. I like him for the same reasons I like Condra. Anything that bumps Sill and Adams from the lineup is a positive.
Sean Bergenheim Florida
I love the idea of getting Bergenheim. He is a high quality bottom six forward. The problem here is his cap hit. It would take moving out a player like Sutter and unfortunately that isn't something I see the Penguins doing. But this is totally the type of guy that improves your third line for a legit Stanley Cup run.
EDITORS NOTE: Last night, after Ryan submitted this, Bergenheim was traded to Minnesota.
4.) What current rumor would you NOT like to see happen?
Scott Hannan/Jan Hejda. There is literally no need to bring in depth defensemen. Play the kids. The Penguins have run into trouble over valuing experience rather than on ice play. This has led to players such as Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi, Mark Eaton, and Doug Murray taking time from players like Simon Despres. Why give up assets to acquire players who are no better than what you already have?
I am also not a fan of the Joffrey Lupul rumors that have recently come up. Too many injury concerns the last few years. He is also below average on the possession front. When spending bigger money IE 5M+ I want my guys to be able to drive possession. That is the best way to assure you are always getting something of value from them, even when the scoring goes cold.
5.) Who do you consider “untouchable” (prospect or otherwise) in a trade scenario this year?
I don't consider any prospect untouchable. It is all relative to the value you are receiving back in a trade. Obviously the kind of potential trade that Derrick Pouliot would be involved in will look a lot different than something that would include Brian Dumoulin.
That said, Derrick Pouliot is the prospect that I would least want to move.
6.) Imagine a scenario where the Penguins had around 10 million in space to play with; which player (or players) would you love to see on this team?
Jordan Staal. He is so desperately missed in Pittsburgh. Brandon Sutter's shortcomings have led to more stress on Crosby and Malkin to perform. Staal eats up the toughest assignments in hockey and passes with flying colors. This opens up Sid and Geno to more favorable matchups. Given that Staal can also pot around 50 points despite being in a legit shutdown role makes it all the more beneficial to the Penguins.
I am not concerned about the length of Staal's contract as he will be 34 when it ends (younger than both Kunitz/Dupuis).