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Are the Penguins a fit for Russian free agent Danis Zaripov?

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Reports are linking Pittsburgh to a Russian free agent winger. Why it might not be too out of line to consider it..

Russia v Norway - 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images

Training camp is closing in, but there’s still some uncertainty in Pittsburgh about the roster. It’s known they need to trade for a center but unknown when they’ll be able to get the best deal to add an NHL caliber player, on a reasonable contract (the Pens only have a little more than $3 million to spend) and for a decent trade cost.

But there’s a new name in the whispers attached to the Penguins, from a KHL source:

Zaripov is a 36-year old winger who hasn’t played in North American since one lone season in the junior WHL in 1998-99, spending his career in the Super League, most recently with Evgeni Malkin’s hometown team. From the HockeyDB

He’s definitely been productive in Russia but would that translate to the NHL at such an advanced age? That’s a legitimate question mark and unknown that won’t be proven until Zaripov comes over. For every Artemi Panarin that comes over and excels, there’s a pile of guys like Sergei Plotnikov, Vladimir Vujtek, Janne Pesonen and Lasse Pirjeta that come to America with some hype but for one reason or another weren’t successful at NHL careers.

What this player might cost to sign would also be a consideration, it’s unlikely Pittsburgh is winning any bidding wars.

The need for such a player also seems spurious, Zaripov is a skilled winger. But digging deep, it might not be so odd. If Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel reunite their successful line with Sidney Crosby, as the coaches would certainly prefer and probably choose to implement, who does that leave as the left winger for Malkin? Is it Scott Wilson again? Do you hope Carl Hagelin can find some scoring touch? Play Bryan Rust, Patric Hornqvist or Phil Kessel on the off-wing? Not too many great choices for the 2LW spot if the “Sid and the Kids” line is left intact.

Also, if Zaripov is signed and proves to be “more Panarin than Plotnikov” that could mean a winger listed above becomes an excess piece and could be used in a trade to bring back that center. Adding more hypothetical steps always makes transactions more complicated and less likely to happen in reality, but in theory it makes sense to add a winger as a free agent, then trade that position of strength to add to where depth is needed at center.

Not too much actually going on, so we’ll see what comes of this, but if Zaripov actually can be an NHL talent and is willing to sign at a reasonable price, the Penguins may be well served to bring him in and then sort out the rest as time goes on.