As you would expect, the national media has kicked into hyper-drive after the news that Pascal Dupuis will miss at least the next six months.
Lyle Richardson at Specter's Hockey had a nice recap of a couple of in-the-know and respected journos comments, Pierre LeBrun and Bob McKenzie:
Pierre LeBrun was on Ottawa’s TSN 1200 on Wednesday afternoon.
On the Pittsburgh Penguins and the trade scene:
"They were already targeting a top-six forward before the March deadline as it was, never mind now that they’ve lost Dupuis. I mean, you can make the case now they may have to go out and trade for two of them. Although at the end of the day, maybe one will suffice. But they were already on the lookout, eventually, for a top-six player because they felt they were one of those players short in their top six.
"So I think this puts way more onus on it, and you’ve seen Jim Rutherford in the past. He is not scared at all to be bold. And I suspect that – I haven’t reached out to anyone in that organization today, but I suspect that will be full-on over the next couple of months to try and find that piece."
This makes a lot of sense- I doubt the Penguins have ammunition or cap space to really add TWO new front-line players this season, but I guess you never know. It is a little scary that GMJR is "not scared at all to be bold", especially when his team is 13-3-1 and atop the division/conference right now. Hopefully he realizes that while he does need to bring in an upgrade sometime before the trading deadline, he doesn't have to go out and make a desperate trade that could potentially harm the Penguins franchise in the long-run.
By now, Rutherford probably deserves the benefit of the doubt. Almost every move he has made has ended up showing at least initial positive results and even if you hate the Marc-Andre Fleury contract, hey, compare it to the one JR gave Cam Ward and he at least showed some restraint in term and dollars.
Also: [from LeBrun]
"They are in win-now. This is about winning now. As long as Crosby and Malkin are healthy and in the peak of their careers, they’re always going to go for it, no matter what.
"And the thing about that is they have a lot of young defensemen in the organization. Some are at the NHL level. Some are at the AHL level. I had a GM from another team tell me at least two guys that are playing on their AHL team should be NHL defensemen."
They're surely referring to Scott Harrington and Brian Dumoulin in the last sentence, and 20-year old former high pick Derrick Pouliot is also playing well in Wilkes-Barre. The Penguins do have defensemen in excess, and about now I would think that only Pouliot, Kris Letang and Olli Maatta are the true "untouchables". Christian Ehrhoff is too, by virtue of his full no movement clause.
The best trading chips the Penguins have, to bring in a quality player, probably are Harrington and Dumoulin. Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo might be possibilities, but it is likely going to come down to what the other team wants to take on, and which specific player their scouts like. The former two (Harrington/Dumoulin) are younger and with higher ceilings and ought to have more value.
Also: [from Lebrun]
"You would think that Jim Rutherford is in a good position to trade one of those kids... Dallas needs a defenseman. Colorado needs defensemen. Edmonton needs defensemen. There should be something there for Jimmy Rutherford to do given the abundance in that particular position in Pittsburgh."
Those could be some teams to keep an eye on. The temptation is to look at the biggest names possible (Jordan Eberle, Ryan O'Reilly) but I doubt a deal is to be made, especially since the Penguins won't trade their biggest possible names (Pouliot, Maatta).
I have long advocated bringing on David Perron, a talented winger who can produce points and has a reasonable ($3.8 million) cap hit for this season and next, and maybe there is a deal to be made there. I'm not sure who would be a fit from Dallas that's an NHL player right now - Cody Eakin is an exciting young player but he's more of a 3rd line center, and Antoine Roussel is too dirty for my liking. Colorado also doesn't have any exciting young players (outside of their core that they won't be trading), maybe Jamie Mcginn could be a target but he hasn't had a history of being a top 6 player either.
As LeBrun hints though, most teams would have a need and definitely value a quality young defenseman. The Penguins shouldn't have any problems finding trading partners to at least talk to and see what their options are.
And from McKenzie:
"The Pittsburgh Penguins, even before the absence of Pascal Dupuis - arguably for the rest of this season and who knows how long after that – they were looking for a top-six winger to begin with. That search is going to intensify here, there’s no question about that.
"Now what do the Pittsburgh Penguins have that they could give up to get one? They have a lot of young defensemen in their own system. On their own defense right now, they’ve got Olli Maatta, they’ve got Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres. Playing in the minors, a lot of attractive commodities that could be had as part of a trade. Scott Harrington, Brian Dumoulin. Phil Samuelsson. These guys, these young players – Derrick Pouliot, a first round pick – one or more of these guys could be on the move before the trade deadline to try and secure the goal-scoring, veteran winger they’re looking for.
"I know the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this season kicked tires on Drew Stafford and Chris Stewart of the Buffalo Sabres. They didn’t go down that road, and I’m not sure they’re prepared to at this time, but if somebody should come up that fits their needs, then one or two of those young defensemen could be the price they have to pay to get them."
Basically a lot of the same information that LeBrun was relaying. It shouldn't be surprising that Pittsburgh has inquired about Stafford and Stewart - they are 2 rental forwards on the only team in the league that will surely be selling off players near the deadline.
However it would be a mistake to trade off one of the more valuable names mentioned for an expiring contract, and something that Rutherford should avoid. Which could be one reason why "kicking the tires" doesn't necessarily mean a serious or heavy negotiation.
It seems clear the Penguins have already done a lot of groundwork to see which players might be available, and which of their young players are valued the highest around the league. As fans we don't have all of the information to know what the best deal on the table is, or how the Pens can best leverage the assets they have and turn it into the best possible return, all we can do is hope that those in charge get a good deal and provide some support for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.