Kris Letang

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Is there a trade to be made between the Penguins and Canadiens?

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On Thursday night, TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Pittsburgh Penguins may have some interest in Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk.

The Penguins have been looking for another center since the departure of Nick Bonino in free agency this summer, so them being interested in him makes sense.

“There’s been some speculation as to who might be available as to players who aren’t and Matt Duchene probably isn’t a great fit financially for the Pittsburgh Penguins,” Dreger said during the Insider Trading segment. “But Alex Galchenyuk from the Montreal Canadiens, his name has surfaced. We shouldn’t be overly surprised by that, again given the fact that more often than not Galchenyuk seems to be in the doghouse there and given the play of the Montreal Canadiens as of late, perhaps there’s a fit there that could make some sense.”

Galchenyuk has been as enigmatic of a player as we’ve seen in the NHL over the last few seasons. Two years ago, he scored 30 goals for Montreal. Last season, he was top 10 in league scoring when he suffered a knee injury in Los Angeles. When he returned to the lineup, he clearly wasn’t the same player.

Things haven’t been rosy under head coach Claude Julien, either. During lasts year’s playoffs,  The 23-year-old found himself as the fourth line left winger. He finished the postseason with three assists in six games.

To say that Galchenyuk’s been in the dog house under Julien would be an understatement (most of the time, he fully deserves to be there).

It hasn’t gotten much better this year. After a slow start, he found himself back on the fourth line. But with the Canadiens struggling out of the gate, Julien decided to put Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Drouin together against the Kings on Wednesday night. The line didn’t produce any offense, but Galchenyuk seemed to be a little more engaged than he had been in previous games.

As inconsistent as he’s been, there’s no denying that he’s a rare talent. When he’s playing well, you’ll notice his vision, quick hands and his quick release. He’ll never be an excellent two-way player, but other teams may be willing to put up with his defensive shortcomings more than Montreal has been willing to.

So, what does Pittsburgh have that Montreal could use?

Realistically, we know that the Penguins have a bunch of untouchables (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang and Matt Murray aren’t going anywhere). They still have other pieces that could be used to get Galchenyuk out of Montreal.

First, the Canadiens would either have to hold on to some of his $4.9 million cap hit, or they’d need to take salary back because Pittsburgh only has $2 million in cap space.

Secondly, Montreal could use a puck-moving defenseman and/or more offense. Would the Pens be willing to sacrifice a blue liner like Olli Maatta to add another center? That’s what it might take to get a deal done.

But again, Montreal isn’t exactly loaded with offensive talent. Can they really trade one of their best offensive weapons without getting a forward back? GM Marc Bergevin is in a tough spot (mainly because he put himself there).

Would Pens GM Jim Rutherford be willing to make Jake Guentzel available, too? He’s been solid for the Pens and his entry-level contract comes with a cap hit of just $734, 167, which makes him even more valuable to the defending Stanley Cup champions.

It’ll be interesting to see how this all unfolds. The longer Montreal’s struggles last, the more likely they are to want to shake things up.

Galchenyuk has his issues, but he seems like the perfect buy-low candidate right now.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The most important question to ask yourself in any fantasy hockey league

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In many cases, the most pressing questions you’ll ask yourself as a young fantasy hockey manager – when you have all that glorious time – is “How do I finally win this league?”

(Sometimes, you’ll be more specific, asking “How do I beat my best friend/colleague/frenemy/potential romantic partner/all of the above?”)

Time can change a lot of things, and sometimes life foists different priorities upon your mind. You might find yourself more interested in less glorious things like taking care of debts or aiming for promotions. This pivots, then, to what I believe is the most important question a potential fantasy GM must ask: “How much work do I really want to do in this league?”

Every week, PHT plans on running at least two fantasy-focused columns, and the beauty of these is that they can appeal to fantasy owners of all types. Joey Alfieri’s add/drops can be helpful to those who crunch spreadsheets like potato chips, but it can also be a one-stop guide for those who don’t have time to go deep on every Rotoworld column.

Speaking of Rotoworld, it’s a fantastic resource for fantasy hockey and other sports. Check out Gus Katsaros’ bit on struggling forwards such as Joe Thornton as just one great example.

This Thursday space is going to serve as an open-ended discussion of fantasy hockey: the narrow triumphs, crushing and seemingly arbitrary defeats, and tactics that may lie a little outside of the box.

In this specific case, here are a few suggestions if you possess the rare (but valuable) self-awareness to realize that you might not always be able to give your team(s) your maximum attention.

Lean on workhorse goalies

In many cases, it’s wise to fight the urge to take big name goalies in fantasy. Instead, you are often better off loading up on true difference-makers, whether they be the true high-scoring defensemen like Brent Burns or game-breaking forwards who still might be around in, say, rounds 3-5.

It’s a little different if you know you’re not going to monitor every goalie battle, or merely want to keep things simple.

A workhorse such as Braden Holtby shoots up your rankings in this case. On the other hand, someone facing a backup threat (say Steve Mason vs. Connor Hellebuyck) might not be worth the hassle.

Old over new

It’s exciting to identify the next breakthrough stars. Young players can be exciting because they have the chance to make those quantum leaps. The lockout that knocked out the 2004-05 season was memorable in that way:

Eric Staal in 2003-04: 31 points in 81 games

Eric Staal in 2005-06: 100 points in 81 games

Being able to forecast those leaps provides one of the most precious sensations in fantasy: feeling smart.

On the other hand, that takes its fair share of research, aside from instances where you’ve specifically keyed on prospects that interest you. Rookies can be big risks in fantasy drafts because of the threat of them only getting a “nine-game audition” before their teams avoid burning years off entry-level deals.

(Note: this might not apply to the Edmonton Oilers.)

If you know you don’t have time to make contingency plans and/or don’t want to study points per minute to try to find the next Viktor Arvidsson, you might just want to stick with more stable, established veterans.

Rotoworld Podcast: Can’t Stop Kucherov

Avoid the Gaboriks

Injuries can be random in sports, hockey included. Just ask Steven Stamkos, whose poor luck seems borderline freakish. Hockey history is dotted with painful “What if?” questions about icons like Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux down to nice scorers such as Ales Hemsky and Marian Gaborik.

(Sami Salo, meanwhile, likely often asked “Why me?”)

Injuries can be especially deflating for less-hands-on types, so maybe shy away from, say, Kris Letang.

Find some quick references

Following PHT is a good start to stay abreast of some of the largest developments in the NHL.

If you’re trying to make quick decisions, Rotoworld’s injury page can provide a quick reference so you know if someone might come back soon versus a case that might be murkier.

There’s a solid chance of a future column discussing some resources that might help those in a bind in drafts or even setting lineups. Stay tuned.

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It’s possible to win your league even if you’re not making weekly tweaks like some of your more obsessive competitors.

The key is to be practical … and lucky. Yeah, luck is a pretty nice thing to have in fantasy, and life. Here’s to a fun 2017-18 from a fantasy perspective, regardless of your level of commitment.

(Although, don’t be that person who totally abandons a team, leaving a bunch of players with season-ending injuries in your starting lineup. That’s bad form.)

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.

MORE FROM NHL ON NBC SPORTS:

This could be it for Mark Streit in NHL; Should someone claim him?

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Mark Streit will turn 40 in December. He’s played in 786 regular-season games and 34 playoff contests, collecting a Stanley Cup while being used sparingly with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season.

Not bad for a Swiss-born defenseman who went in the ninth round (262nd overall) in 2004. Streit’s career might be winding down in a way that isn’t quite glamorous, but he’s made money, an All-Star team, and represented his country at high levels.

Those last two points come together in the latest update. After reportedly unsuccessfully shopping Streit on the trade market, the Montreal Canadiens placed Streit on waivers today.

End of the line?

Multiple reports indicate that, if Streit doesn’t get claimed, he won’t report to the Canadiens’ AHL team. Instead, he’ll set his sights on representing Switzerland at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Honestly, if I were in Streit’s shoes, I might prefer such a route rather than the likely role he’d find himself if he was scooped up by another NHL team: as a sixth or seventh defenseman.

Not what he once was, but still some skill

That said, blueliners with some skill are at a premium in the modern NHL, even ones who’ve lost several steps such as Streit. Is he worth a look? Let’s glance at what he’s been able to do lately, keeping in mind that teams shouldn’t expect the kind of player who once produced 62 and 56-point seasons.

Speaking of offense, that’s arguably his sole calling card, whether it means using Streit as a power play specialist or merely a bottom pairing blueliner who will be asked to transition the puck.

There could be moderate value there, based on the handy fancy stats HERO chart from 2016-17, via Dom Galamini.

via Dom Galamini

The Penguins traded for him with depth in mind, but even with a beat-up crew (it wasn’t just Kris Letang who was hurting), they only played him three times during their 2017 Stanley Cup run.

Now, judging a player by how he struggles to make a mark with the defending champs isn’t always fair.

It’s also clear that Streit didn’t really earn Claude Julien’s trust in Montreal. It’s not just that he was limited to about 14 minutes per night in two games; Streit began a comical 76.5 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. Streit’s already been protected as his career winds down (he tends to start about 60 percent of his shifts in the attacking zone lately), but that’s extreme.

***

So … there are some warts here.

On the other hand, he’s cheap ($700K), would only cost a roster spot, and brings experience teams like. And probably at least a slight boost in skill compared to some especially limited third-pairing guys.

Granted, when coaches love “experience,” that often translates to “plodding and physical” rather than what Streit brings to the table. And, considering that a higher-potential guy like Cody Franson needed to slog through a PTO, it could be tough sledding for Streit.

Overall, it really might be best for Streit to call it quits in the NHL. NHL teams should at least give some thought to snaring him up, though.

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.

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WATCH LIVE: Penguins – Capitals on Wednesday Night Rivalry

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Alex Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby. The reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners in Washington Capitals (2-0-1) hosting the repeat champions in the Pittsburgh Penguins (1-1-1) in the latest edition of “Wednesday Night Rivalry” on NBCSN. What more could you want?

Well, OK.

These teams also boast some absolutely fantastic supporting cast members, even after each franchise said goodbye to notable contributors during the summer.

Many believe that Nicklas Backstrom is now the Capitals’ catalyst, but they also boast a fantastic one-two punch down the middle with Evgeny Kuznetsov helping Ovechkin get off to his resounding start. Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Phil Kessel provide Pittsburgh with plenty of firepower.

Oh yeah, there’s also the goalie battle of Matt Murray vs. Braden Holtby.

Puck drops around 7:30 p.m. ET, but you can also get ready for the action with some analysis before the game. Along with watching on NBCSN, it’s also available online and via the NBC Sports App.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

For an even deeper dive on this always-fun rivalry, check out PHT’s preview from earlier today.

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.

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Video: Penguins visit Donald Trump, White House with Stanley Cup

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The Pittsburgh Penguins made their polarizing trip with the Stanley Cup to the White House on Tuesday, drawing plenty of criticism on Twitter.

You can watch video of that visit, and Donald’s Trump’s jokes (including a bit on NAFTA), in the clip above. (There’s also this raw footage, which you can skip at least halfway through as a big chunk boils down to “coming soon” type messages.)

Apparently Trump made a reference to Phil Kessel‘s talented sister Amanda at one point:

The Washington Capitals and New York Rangers were referenced, too.

People pay attention to how people shake hands with Trump, and this situation was no different:

As of this writing, the Penguins haven’t tweeted about the visit from their official account. It doesn’t sound like the Penguins presented Trump with his last name and 45 on it, either.

The Athletic’s Josh Yohe notes that Penguins players opted against speaking with the media after the ceremony. Instead, head coach Mike Sullivan reiterated that the visit is “not political.”

Sullivan also said he would have no issue with players kneeling during the anthem, addressing the other political issue that’s spilled into the sport.

Perhaps the Penguins will get a new nickname for Kris Letang out of this?

Here’s a longer video of the speech:

More pucks and politics

J.T. Brown raises fist during anthem, then explains decision

Penguins make controversial decision to accept White House invitation.

Donald Trump tweets about their visit.

Auston Matthews and others on kneeling.

Ho-Sang, Okposo also weigh in.