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Who should Penguins trade for next?

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The Pittsburgh Penguins got some holiday shopping done before the NHL’s roster freeze, adding veteran goalie depth in Michael Leighton and an enormous defenseman in Jamie Oleksiak.

Such trades should help from a depth perspective, yet you don’t get the feeling that those moves – nor the addition of Riley Sheahan – are really the type of swaps that will dramatically increase the Penguins’ odds of a three-peat.

Penguins fans wanting even more are in luck, as GM Jim Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Jonathan Bombulie that these trades might open the door for more trades.

“If we were to move a defenseman going forward, I don’t get locked into having to get a defenseman back,” Rutherford said. “I have more flexibility now. If the right forward’s available, we can do it that way also.”

Note: yes, it’s difficult not to merely replace “a defenseman” with “Ian Cole.” More on that specific matter here.

This might not just be Rutherford overextending to try to keep the phone lines open, either, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports in 31 Thoughts that anonymous executives described the moves as “the tip of the iceberg.”

Not to be confused with their mascot. I think.

via Getty

So, trade talk is always fun, especially when there’s at least a bit of fire to go with the smoke. Let’s ponder a few possibilities for the Penguins while noting which ones are more conceivable than others.

Landing a player from other East teams who might not want to enrich their roster

OK, so let’s start with good fits that might come from teams that don’t really want to make trades to the Penguins.

  • One enticing name that gets thrown around quite often is Tyler Bozak of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The pending unrestricted free agent has come into his own as a solid support scorer after spending times as something of a lightning rod for analytics vs. traditional hockey team-building debates. He can score, win some draws, and seems reasonably versatile.

Most importantly, he’s a center, so he could fit very nicely into the spot once occupied by Nick Bonino.

[More from PHT: improvements could come from within for Penguins]

The challenge would be in finding a deal that would work for the Maple Leafs, a team that could very well face the Penguins in the postseason. That’s easier said than done, especially if Toronto isn’t sold on Ian Cole.

James van Riemsdyk would be intriguing, too. Again, the Maple Leafs might not want to make the Penguins stronger, and they also might prefer to just see where JVR and Bozak can take them, rather than worrying about recouping something for them. The extra cap space might be worth more than potentially modest returns, anyway.

  • The Ottawa Senators were a goal away from eliminating the Penguins last summer, thus making an unlikely run to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. It could be a kick to morale to ponder them making the Penguins better, then.

Still, if Ottawa views the Penguins’ offers as the most appealing, perhaps they could work out a deal featuring Mike Hoffman (or perhaps Derick Brassard, if Pittsburgh’s more interested in “need” instead of getting a more appealing player overall).

  • Speaking of teams the Penguins beat in playoffs past, what if they made another deal with the Red Wings?

Detroit seems to still be stuck in denial about the whole “not being a legitimate contender” thing, but if they saw the light, maybe they’d want to send someone like Gustav Nyquist to the Penguins?

Actually, Andreas Athanasiou would probably be even more sensible. He’s fast, his 2017-18 deal is cheap, and the hemming and hawing about his ice time is honestly starting to get a little grating. Why not just get something for a player you seem reluctant to embrace, anyway? His blazing speed makes a lot of sense for Mike Sullivan’s attacking system, and we’ve seen plenty of reclamation projects take off in Pittsburgh lately.

Other expiring contracts would considering

  • Evander Kane would make some sense. Bonus points since Sabres and Penguins management teams are likely pals on the putting greens.
  • The Golden Knights might be worth calling even if the party nevers ends in Vegas. A James Neal reunion would be intriguing (if unwelcome by management?) while Jonathan Marchessault would be cheap on the cap but likely expensive in a swap.
  • Maybe the Panthers would want to move Radim Vrbata, who’s pondering retirement?
  • If the Oilers decide to hit the reset button, the Penguins might consider Patrick Maroon or maybe hope Ryan Strome could be the forward version of Justin Schultz.

***

The Penguins could go in a lot of directions, though there are fewer lanes on the highway if you limit things based on what teams might actually want in return.

The roster freeze extends to Dec. 28, anyway, so we’d need to wait some time even if a possible deal is brewing. While we do, feel free to share your own thoughts: which player or players should the Penguins try to land in a trade?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Spezza bounces back after healthy scratch; another injury for Predators

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Player Of The Night: Jason Spezza, Dallas Stars

On Monday night the Dallas Star made veteran forward Jason Spezza a healthy scratch as he was mired in a lengthy goal-scoring drought. The Stars wanted to see more from him, and they knew he could provide more.

When he stepped back into the lineup on Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings he did exactly that by scoring a pair of goals in the Stars’ 4-2 win.

Even though Spezza had been struggling to put points on the board he was still doing an excellent job when it came to driving possession and generating shots, as well as the fact the team was outscoring its opponents when he was on the ice. His ice-time has been cut significantly this season, but he was doing enough to suggest that it was only a matter of time until he got back into the goal column.

He snapped out of it in a big way on Tuesday.

Another big injury for Nashville

The Nashville Predators are already playing without two of their top forwards with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson sidelined.

They lost another one on Tuesday night in their 1-0 win over the Vegas Golden Knights when Ryan Johanson had to leave the game after taking a high hit from William Carrier.

Johanson left the game and did not return. There was no penalty called on the play.

Predators coach Peter Laviolette had no update on Johansen after the game and said they were given an explanation that it was a clean hit.

The Predators ended up winning the game 1-0 thanks to a goal from Kevin Fiala and 43 saves from Jusse Saros.

Highlight Of The Night

Not much in the way of highlight reel plays tonight, but here is a big goal from Vince Dunn to give the St. Louis Blues a 2-1 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Factoid Of The Night

A big milestone for New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist as he picks up his 20th win of the season.

Scores

New Jersey Devils 4, New York Islanders 1

New York Rangers 5, Philadelphia Flyers 1

Dallas Stars 4, Detroit Red Wings 2

St. Louis Blues 2, Toronto Maple Leafs 1

Nashville Predators 1, Vegas Golden Knights 0

San Jose Sharks 3, Arizona Coyotes 2

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Report: Blackhawks concerned Crawford could miss remainder of season

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Here is some less than encouraging news for the Chicago Blackhawks.

According to a report from Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times on Tuesday night, there is some growing concern within the Blackhawks organization that starting goaltender Corey Crawford could miss the remainder of the season due to experiencing vertigo-like symptoms for the second time in his career.

Crawford has been sidelined since before Christmas due to an upper-body injury, but the team has been quiet on specifics other than to say publicly that they expect him to return this season.

Over the past few years Crawford has become one of the NHL’s top goalies and when he has been on the ice this season has been absolutely stellar for the Blackhawks. Given the current state of their defense and the rate that they give up shots he has become one of the team’s most important players and the one that seems to drive their success more than any other.

[Related: Corey Crawford has become the Blackhawks’ most important player]

In his absence the team has leaned on Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass. Both have played about as well as could have been expected, but they aren’t Crawford and there is a noticeable drop in play at the position when he is not in there.

In 26 games this season Crawford is 16-9-2 with a .929 save percentage.

As of Tuesday night the Blackhawks are on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture, sitting three points back of the Minnesota Wild. They also have the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche sitting between them.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Rick Nash snaps out of slump, powers Rangers to huge win

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The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers are two of the teams in the middle of the free-for-all that is the Eastern Conference playoff race that had five teams separated by just three points heading into Tuesday night.

Both teams had been rolling in opposite directions over the past week with the Flyers having won four in a row and five of their past six, while the Rangers were riding a three-game losing skid and had lost four out of five.

Their past two losses coming out of the bye week were especially ugly, losing to the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins (two other teams they are competing with) by a combined score of 12-4.

Both the Rangers’ and Flyers’ streaks came to an end in their game on Tuesday with the Rangers picking up a huge 5-1 win.

Rick Nash was the big star for the Rangers on Tuesday with a pair of goals, including a breakaway goal in the first period to tie the game at one after the Rangers gave up an early goal. It was a big performance for Nash because he had been mired in a brutal slump that had seen him go 12 consecutive games without a goal. He also had just one assist during that stretch. That slump has contributed to a down year offensively that has him on track for one of the least productive seasons of his career.

But he came through in a big way on Tuesday to help give the Rangers two huge points and move them three points ahead of the Flyers. The Flyers still have one game in hand while the two teams will still play three more games the rest of the season.

The Rangers’ win on Tuesday, combined with the Islanders’ 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils, moves the Rangers back into the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference for the time being.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Predators place forward Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Nashville Predators have placed forward Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve with a lower-body injury and recalled forward Frederick Gaudreau from the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals.

The Predators made the move Tuesday afternoon.

Arvidsson was helped off the ice Monday during practice, and The Tennessean reports he tested himself during Tuesday morning’s skate.

The forward ranks third on the Predators with 13 goals and fourth with 27 points. The Predators already have Filip Forsberg on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

Gaudreau has played 18 games with the Predators with three assists. He had 14 points in 21 games with the Admirals this season.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey