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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.

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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: Mangiapane tricks Ducks; Lightning win record 11th straight

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THREE STARS

1. Andrew Mangiapane, Flames

The Flames’ 6-4 win over the Ducks was powered by Mangiapane’s first career hat trick. Two of his three goals came during a third period where Calgary entered it trailing 3-1 and scored five times en route to the win. He would register an assist on Matthew Tkachuk‘s 20th of the season to add to a career-best four-point night. The hat trick is also the first by a Flames player this season.

2. Antti Raanta, Coyotes

Arizona won for the second straight game behind Conor Garland‘s 20th goal of the season and 28 saves from Raanta. The 2-1 win over the Islanders gives the Coyotes a winning streak for the first time since Dec. 31-Jan. 7 and also puts them into a tie for the final Western Conference wild card spot. Raanta’s been in net for both wins and has stopped 64 of his last 66 shots faced.

3. Nikita Kucherov, Lightning

The Lightning set a franchise record with their 11th consecutive win by topping the Avalanche, 4-3, in overtime. During the extra period, it was Kucherov beating Pavel Francouz five-hold to keep Tampa red-hot. How hot? They are 23-2-1 since Dec. 21.

AVS LOSE RANTANEN

Adding to the bad night against Tampa, the Avalanche lost Mikko Rantanen to an upper-body injury in the second period. He’ll be out for “weeks.”

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NIGHT

• Here’s Alex Ovechkin catching up with old teammate Nate Schmidt:

• They don’t see each other often, but the temperature certainly rose when the Avs and Lightning met:

STATS OF THE NIGHT

Jonathan Huberdeau picked up his 50th assist of the season in the win over the Sharks. He now joins Aleksander Barkov as the only two players in Panthers franchise history to record multiple 50-assists seasons.

• Via the NHL, Matthew Tkachuk is now the fourth player in Flames history to record three 20-goal seasons before his 23rd birthday. Sean Monahan (4 times), Robert Reichel (3 times) and Jarome Iginla (3 times) are the only others on the list.

SCORES
Coyotes 2, Islanders 1
Panthers 5, Sharks 3
Flames 6, Ducks 4
Golden Knights 3, Capitals 2
Lightning 4, Avalanche 3 (OT)

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Avs lose Rantanen for weeks after crash into boards

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Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen will miss “weeks,” per the team, after he crashed into the boards during Monday night’s loss to the Lightning.

Rantanen was on a 2-on-1 with Andre Burakovsky in the second period when he tripped over a diving Erik Cernak and slid into the end boards behind the Tampa net. He left the ice favoring his left shoulder and was later ruled out for the rest of the 4-3 overtime defeat.

Rantanen, who has 19 goals and 40 points in 41 games, missed 16 games this season due to ligament damage in his left ankle.

The injury comes on the day it was announced goaltender Philipp Grubauer is day-to-day with a lower-body injury suffered during the Stadium Series game, Matt Calvert is out long-term, and a week after Nazem Kadri was ruled out for “weeks, not days” with an LBI.

Colorado sits one point behind the Blues and Stars for the top spot in the Central Division with 24 games to go.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Canucks strengthen up front by acquiring Tyler Toffoli

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Tyler Toffoli‘s final game with the Los Angeles Kings was a memorable one.

After notching a hat trick during their Stadium Series win over the Avalanche, Toffoli was dealt to the Canucks on Monday. Heading back to LA is a package of Tim Schaller, the rights to NCAA prospect Tyler Madden, and a 2020 second-round pick.

The deal also includes a conditional draft pick, which would see a 2022 fourth rounder going to the Kings if Toffoli re-signs, per Pierre LeBrun. LA will also not be retaining any of Toffoli’s $4.6 million salary this season.

“Tyler brings goal scoring abilities and is good in battles,” said Canucks GM Jim Benning. “He has great offensive instincts and experience playing in high pressure, meaningful games. We look forward to adding his skill and strength to the line-up.”

The 27-year-old Toffoli can become an unrestricted free agent this summer and was one of the bigger name forwards likely to be on the move with the NHL trade deadline a week away. In 58 games this season he has 18 goals and 34 points.

As the Canucks sit one point behind the Oilers for tops in the Pacific Division, this is Benning bolstering his roster with 23 games to go. Vancouver has been a surprise this season and with the opportunity present to make a run at the playoffs and division title, the move is a boost to the players for the stretch run.

Adding Toffoli also helps the Canucks’ forward group after the news that Brock Boeser will be out of the lineup with a rib injury and will be re-evaluate in three weeks.

The question to be answered is whether this was a premature move for Benning to pull off given the price and where the Canucks are in their turnaround. Madden, who is currently dealing with a broken finger, has 19 goals in 27 games this season at Northeastern University and adds to an already strong prospect pool for the Kings. There’s also no guarantee that Toffoli, who is reunited with his “That 70s Line” mate Tanner Pearson, will stay in Vancouver.

We always see GMs gamble this time of year, but there’s certainly an opening in the West this season, and Benning clearly has confidence his group can do something special.

MORE: PHT’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Ovechkin continues chase for 700 goals Thursday on NBCSN

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The Capitals lost for the fifth time in seven games and Alex Ovechkin remained stuck on 698 goals as the Golden Knights came out on top, 3-2, Monday night.

NBCSN has added the Capitals’ next game, Thursday at home against Montreal (7 p.m. ET), to its schedule as Ovechkin continues chasing goal No. 700.

The Golden Knights built up a 3-0 lead by the second period and held off a Capitals’ comeback as T.J. Oshie cut the led to 3-2 with pair of goals. Marc-Andre Fleury, who has surrendered the most goals to Ovechkin of any NHL goalie (24 goals in 42 games), stopped 24 shots for his second straight win. Ovechkin finished with eight shot attempts and four shots on goal.

Ovechkin is now goalless in five straight games after registering a hat trick against the Kings on Feb. 4. Of the seven members in the 700-goal club, five players took five games or longer to go from 698 to 700 career goals – Jaromir Jagr (5 games), Marcel Dionne, Wayne Gretzky, Mike Gartner (6 games), and Brett Hull (12 games).

MORE OVECHKIN:
NHL Power Rankings: Ovechkin’s top 10 goals
By the Numbers: Ovechkin’s 698 NHL goals
Stunning Numbers as Alex Ovechkin closes in on 700 goals
Can Alex Ovechkin break Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 goals?
My Favorite Goal: Ovechkin scores ‘The Goal’

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.