The biggest name available in the trade rental market for tomorrow's deadline is right winger Thomas Vanek. Pittsburgh's usual first line RW, Pascal Dupuis, is out for the season, and Sidney Crosby 's even-strength production is noticeably down since Dupuis' injury in late December. You see where this is heading.
Source: Penguins join LA as teams most interested in Thomas Vanek, at least as of like right now Twittertime.— Chris Botta (@ChrisBottaNHL) March 4, 2014
Botta is embedded with the Islanders and usually a pretty reliable source.
Of course, being the "most interested" and actually swinging a deal are two totally different things, but from a need perspective it makes sense to link a team that's proven to be aggressive with rental forward options over the years, with the best player on the market.
Acquiring Vanek would be the biggest coup for the Pens of getting an "in his prime" type since getting Marian Hossa from the Atlanta Thrashers in 2008. That trade, coupled with Hossa's 26 points in 20 playoff games helped the Penguins get within two games of the Stanley Cup.
Vanek was acquired by the New York Islanders from the Buffalo Sabres in October for fellow impending UFA Matt Moulson, as well as a 1st and 2nd round pick. The Islanders offered Vanek a substantial contract, but he turned it down, leading many to believe that he intends to test the open market and possibly go back to Minnesota- where he played college hockey.
Buffalo also retained some of Vanek's salary, so the hit the Islanders (or an acquiring team) would have to deal with the prorated amount of $5.75 million. Capgeek tweeted earlier that the Pittsburgh Penguins would have about $4.7 million available if they put Kris Letang on long-term injured reserve (to add to the LTIR list that Dupuis and Tomas Vokoun are currently on). If that's the case, the Islanders could retain some Vanek's salary or they'd be accepting an NHL level player to keep Pittsburgh cap compliant.
It remains unknown what exactly the Pens would trade to NYI, but surely a 1st round pick and probably a valuable prospect would be in the mix. And adding Vanek would almost certainly rule out Pittsburgh's chances to add the rumored Ryan Kesler deal.
Almost 24 hours until the deadline and things are about to heat up.
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