Who should Penguins trade for next?

Getty
6 Comments

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.