The #NHL Trade Deadline @PensInitiative Roundtable by @griffTHW

This is another part in our series of the Pens Initiative NHL Trade Deadline Round Table.  To view the other entries, click here.  Today's entry: The Hockey Writer's Sean Griffin



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?

To me, bolstering the blue line should top Pittsburgh's agenda heading into the trade deadline.  The void created when Olli Maatta went down for the season created a hole that likely needs to be addressed if the Pens hope to enjoy any kind of successful playoff run.  

Sure, Kris Letang and Paul Martin make up a formidable first pairing and the staff seems comfortable with Rob Scuderi and Simon Despres teaming up to form the third unit.  Who, though, will skate alongside Christian Ehrhoff to round out the top-four?  Robert Bortuzzo isn't a likely candidate and, despite the fact he's making a case that he belongs in the NHL, I'm not sure Derrick Pouliot is ready to handle top-four minutes.  Particularly in the postseason.

All that said, it appears Jim Rutherford will zero in on his club's other need, strengthening the top-nine up front.  Whether or not that's actually the plan remains to be seen but, if it's the only move to be made, it could serve to fill another hole in the Pens' lineup.  I'm just not sure it's their greatest need.

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?

Pittsburgh finds itself low on both assets and cap space.  Consequently, any additional moves will likely require the Penguins to surrender a roster player. 

Who Rutherford ships out of town will go a long way in illustrating how management feels about this team.  Is he looking to send a message, to shake things up?  Will he explore the market on players like Chris Kunitz and/or Brandon Sutter?  Or, will he ultimately look to simply supplement his current roster simply with a depth move?

One possibility would entail moving Simon Despres.  The kid's always possessed the size but, finally given an opportunity, he's actually played pretty well for long stretches this year, proving he can play at the NHL level.  That said, it's hard to imagine he'll ever consistently crack the top-four here in Pittsburgh.  And, as a result, maybe it's worth exploring what kind of return the youngster would yield.

Would it be a gamble?  Yup.  Barring any other moves, Rutherford would effectively be rolling the dice, hoping Pouliot can hold down a top-four role in the postseason and Bortuzzo can stay afloat on the bottom pairing.  But, barring a more significant move, the Pens simply don't have a plethora of options thanks to their tight cap situation.  Thus, if Rutherford isn't looking for a major shakeup, it's certainly a possibility. 

No, it won't create significant cap space.  Nor will it yield a blockbuster return.  Depending on the market, though, it might help supplement the club's depth up front.  And, with so few assets and such little cap room to work with, it might be worth looking into.

Who are three players likely to be available you'd like to see the Pens go after and why?

1. Daniel Winnik: Winnik's acquisition would provide a significant upgrade to Pittsburgh's forward depth.  Not only would his 23 points (at the time of this writing) pace the Pens' bottom-six in scoring, but it also has the 29-year-old within striking distance of his career high in points (30).  He can kill penalties, he's tough to play against and (perhaps most importantly) his $1.3 million cap hit is affordable.

2.  Jeff Petry: Rutherford may have publically stated he's more likely to address the need for a forward than a defenseman but don't assume he'll shy away from a deal that makes too much sense to walk away from.  And, if such a deal arises involving Petry, the Pens would be wise to pounce on it.

Mike Colligan broke it down in more detail but Petry's acquisition would serve to solidify Pittsburgh's top-four.  He may not be overly physical but the 6'3" blue liner doesn't shy away from contact, either.  He's more than capable of eating up 20+ minutes a night, can chip in offensively and plays a responsible game in his own end. 

3.  Matt Beleskey:  Currently out of commission, Beleskey should be back in plenty of time for the playoff push.  Another affordable option ($1.35 million cap hit), he has displayed an ability to play alongside elite players in Anaheim.

Beleskey's physicality and propensity for going to the tough areas would be a welcome addition for the Penguins and his 21 goals would trail only Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh.  Both his shot and a willingness to get his nose dirty could prove beneficial with the man advantage.


What current rumor would you NOT like to see happen?

Jaromir Jagr.  From a sentimental point of view, it'd be great.  Looking back, I used to love watching Jagr torment opponents en route to the five scoring titles he captured in Pittsburgh.  As a kid, I remember staying up late and watching the highlights, sitting in front of the television in awe of how he embarrassed defensemen before turning goaltenders inside out. 

But that was a long time ago.

In 2015, in terms of a hockey move, I just don't see it.  I get that his acquisition may boost a maddeningly anemic man advantage.  Maybe Jagr's wizardry off the half-wall will help generate more shots, help increase Pittsburgh's potency; maybe it won't.

Ultimately, though, we're talking about a 43-year-old veteran who has potted exactly one tally in the 33 postseason contests he's suited up for since returning to the NHL.  And, with all the questions currently surrounding the Penguins, that's not what Rutherford should be chasing at the deadline if he's trying to best position his club for success in a wide open Eastern Conference.

Who do you consider “untouchable” (prospect or otherwise) in a trade scenario this year?

If you believe Rutherford, the Penguins don't have much interest in moving any of their prospects.  That said, if the right deal comes along, it's hard to imagine that sentiment not flying out the window in the blink of an eye. 


Personally, though, I can't imagine a scenario where the Pens move Pouliot. Someone would have to absolutely blow Rutherford away with an offer in the hopes of prying the highly touted blue liner out of Pittsburgh.  And, given their current financial situation, it's difficult to envision a suitable return that the Penguins' brass both covets and could fit under the cap.

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?  
 
 
 
 
 

Well, if we're playing with an imaginary $10 million, I'm going to assume we're doing this video game-style where I can trade for anybody, regardless of whether or not they'd, in reality, actually be available.


So, I'll take 6'6" Victor Hedman and his condor-like wingspan.  Not only will the workhorse serve to solidify the top-four this year but he'll help anchor the blue line for the next two campaigns (at a $4 million cap hit) after Paul Martin likely walks in free agency.

Up front, I'll bring in Jamie Benn, one of the league's premier power forwards.  His $5.25 million cap hit will keep the 25-year-old around for another two seasons.  Taking the ice with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, he'll wreak havoc around the opponent's cage, creating space for teammates while benefitting from skating alongside some of the most talented playmakers in the game.

And I'm only giving up Craig Adams and Brian Dumoulin to get them. 





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