In the fallout of the Pascal Dupuis retirement, the Pittsburgh Penguins lone bright spot is that they have some more financial ability to upgrade their team due to more room on the salary cap.
Bob McKenzie touched upon this over the radio yesterday.
From Today's Slapshot:
"But you’re right, they’ve got to get more goal scoring. I think they’re looking hard at trying to make some trades. They’re trying to find a puck-moving, top-4 defenseman. They’re still continuing to look for an elite level, skill guy that could play alongside Sidney Crosby, because now that Kessel hasn’t had the chemistry with Crosby.
"But those are hard deals to make for a team that have cap issues, that have used up a lot of their currency with first round picks, and other draft picks, and younger players from their system. So it’s not an easy challenge to bolster your lineup via trade when you have the cap issues and have spent the kind of currency that you’ve spent if you’re Pittsburgh."
As usual, McKenzie is right on the money. The Pens have a need but limited trading ammo to bring players back.
One name mentioned recently is Patric Hornqvist , he of a $4.25 million cap hit through the 2017-18 season. Hornqvist is currently on the 3rd line due to not playing well with Crosby so far this season, and that isn't a fit for player or team. The Pens either need Hornqvist long-term in a scoring role, or they might as well try to use him in a trade to bring back a scorer or a defenseman.
Even without Dupuis, the Penguins still look well-stocked at forward. With Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel there are 3 elilte options. Hornqvist, David Perron and Chris Kunitz all look like top-6 passengers, but productive players. Then the Penguins have 5 good bottom-6 type players in Nick Bonino, Eric Fehr, Beau Bennett, Sergei Plotnikov and Matt Cullen . 18-year old rookie Daniel Sprong is also in the mix too.
Defensively, of course, is where the biggest need for an upgrade for the Penguins would be. Kris Letang has had an awful season and hasn't been able to establish chemistry with a steady partner. That could change now that Olli Maatta is healthy and playing well. Brian Dumoulin and Ben Lovejoy have been a true bright spot together as a pair and Ian Cole has been playing better since being moved to the third pair.
Those 5 should be the core of the team, but if the Pens can add another defenseman (ideally to partner with Cole), the team looks a lot better. This, of course, would require the scratching of Rob Scuderi, which coach Mike Johnston has been loath to do with regularity.
The Penguins would also have prospect Derrick Pouliot in the minors to continue to grow, and serve as an injury backup for a return to the NHL.
Player wise, it's very uncertain who could be available. In the Western Conference, for instance, just 4 points currently separate last place from 7th. The East is a little more spread, but even then no team has lost touch with the pack totally just yet. The Pens may need to make more of a "hockey trade" with NHL level assets exchanged, in order to make a trade.
The "what" and "who" questions are lingering, but the question of "when" the Pens make a move is certainly ticking closer.