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?
The Pens actually have (had) two big needs - a third line forward, preferably a Center, and a defenseman to replace the production of Olli Maata. Daniel Winnik fulfills the first need, a bottom 6 forward capable of competently playing both wings as well as Center. Winnik also leads all NHL forwards in time on the penalty kill which can help to bolster a unit that has regressed over the past 7 games or so.
I still feel that the Penguins will need to add a veteran to the blue line so that the Pens don't have to rely on the inexperienced Simon Despres and/or Derrick Pouliot come playoff time. Despres especially has looked overmatched at times and has been seen noticeably skating around the Penguins' own end trying to keep up. A top 4 pairing of Letang, Martin, Ehrhoff, and Maata would have been an incredible luxury come playoff time.
2.) Rutherford doesn’t have a lot of cap room to work with. If he is to address a perceived need, who do you view as a likely trade chip?
There are 3 players that I could see getting moved: Brandon Sutter, Beau Bennett, and the aforementioned Simon Despres. Sutter, while being perceived to be a decent third line center, analytically speaking has been awful, Bennett for whatever reason just can't get in the good graces of the coaching staff, and Despres could be moved as he is still a relative prospect if the right deal comes along. Despres and Bennett both make 900k while Sutter makes 3.3 million, so moving Sutter opens up more cap space than the cheaper Despres and Bennett. However, in an ideal world, the Penguins somehow figure out a way to package Chris Kunitz and Robert Bortuzzo... (I would say Scuderi here but his contract makes that impossible even in a dream world)
3.) Who are three players likely to be available you'd like to see the Pens go after and why?
Curtis Glencross - Forward, Calgary
At 2,5 million per year and an expiring contract, the Pens would definitely have to move a roster player or get really creative like they did when acquiring Winnik. Glencross' possession metrics don't jump off of the chart, but his goals, assists, points, and shots per 60 say he is a very solid third line forward. If Sutter is moved for him, then either Glencross, Winnik, or Nick Spaling could all play Center for the third line.
Jeff Petry - Defenseman, Edmonton
Another expiring contract and just north of 3 million per year- see Glencross, Curtis. Petry is an excellent possession defenseman and would definitely fit in on the top 4. Even if the Penguins want to roll with and were able to keep the youngsters Pouliot and Despres, adding a Petry could at least keep Scuds or Borts out of the lineup during the playoffs.
Jordan Staal - Center, Carolina
I was never a big fan of Staal's during his time with Pittsburgh, and I can't fully explain why. It's an irrational thing where I just didn't like him all that much. However... have yinz seen his possession numbers?!?!?!? Bring him back and I will definitely rethink about my disdain towards Staal.
4.) What current rumor would you NOT like to see happen?
Anything to do with Jaromir Jagr. I'm 36 so I grew up watching Jagr... but he's 43. Even still, his possession numbers are very, very solid. In fact, better than the wingers that the Penguins currently have. I just don't care. To me, this is one of those times that the numbers don't add up. First, I don't want to see what the Penguins would have to give up to get Jagr, and second, I don't want the team to have to put up with a Jagr in a reduced role on this team. Too costly and too much of a headache in my opinion. And as I'm writing this, Jagr has been traded to Florida of all places. The 5 or 6 people that attend Florida Panthers' games should be excited about this,
5.) Who do you consider “untouchable” (prospect or otherwise) in a trade scenario this year?
Nobody. If I'm a GM (and thankfully I'm not and never will be) I would take a call about any player. I know it's not the same sport, but remember that the Dallas Cowboys' 1990's dynasty was started by trading Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings for basically every draft pick that the Vikings had in the 1990's (or so it seemed). If another GM offers me a deal like that for one player, you had better believe that I would consider it... even if it was for Crosby or Malkin.
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?
I would get Malkin a permanent winger like Vladimir Tarasenko from the St. Louis Blues. Man would those two be fun to watch together. For my own selfish reasons, and I was hoping that the Pens were going to make this move a couple of years back, I would like to see Cal Clutterbuck in Vegas Gold. Why? Clutterbuck. That's it. That's the reason.