Last season general manager worked two Atlantic Division teams to improve the Pens. First, he got Riley Sheahan for basically a song from Detroit and Sheahan rewarded the Pens with a 32 point season and strong two-way play. Then Pittsburgh stayed in the Atlantic giving up some valuable futures (2018 1st round pick and top goalie prospect Filip Gustavsson) in order to get center Derick Brassard from Ottawa.
Could the Atlantic offer more opportunities for the Pens? We think so.
Buffalo: After another last place finish, the Sabres are going to look to presumptive #1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin to jump-start their build. Their owner has spoken openly about winning and fired the last GM fairly quickly, so one has to wonder if former Pens AGM Jason Botterill will be looking to make more moves. He obviously knows guys like Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary well.
It’s tough to say what the Pens would zero in on for a return though, being as Buffalo isn’t exactly flush with NHL caliber talent. But the Botterill connection makes it intriguing enough to keep an eye on.
During this offseason, I predict Sweeney will start moving some prospects. Cehlarik comes to mind as he’s been drawing interest. Depending on who they like, I could see a scenario where someone like Cehlarik is packaged with a pick to move up in the draft. #NHLBruins— Bruins Network (@BruinsNetwork) May 9, 2018
Peter Cehlarik is a big, young LW who is about NHL ready. The Bruins don’t NEED to move him, but if they don’t think he fits their plans he’s worth a call. Pittsburgh isn’t going to be able to help them move up in the draft but a guy like Sheary would offer them more secondary scoring and speed and give the Pens a bit of salary cap flexibility. Not sure if the value/interest would be there on either side, but it could be an open possibility to explore.
Detroit: I don’t see too much here. Anyone that the Red Wings are going to want to trade are going to be older and/or too expensive for what they bring to the table. At this stage of their rebuild, they probably aren’t going to be too interested in the Sheary/Hagelin types that the Pens will be looking to trade anyways.
Florida: In what’s becoming a famous blunder, the Panthers didn’t want to pay Reilly Smith $5 million per season, so they gifted Vegas Jonathan Marchessault to take Smith in the expansion draft. It’s backfired spectacularly with the 26-year old Smith scoring 60 points in 67 games this season (well worth the $5m) and Marchessault blossoming into one of the league’s best offensive players. This is the type of team you want to deal with and see whom they have no use for.
Pens fans have long yearned for Pittsburgh native Vince Trocheck, but he’s a star and not going anywhere. But could it be Nick Bjugstad (three more years at $4.1 million) as someone they would consider moving? If I’m GMJR that’s definitely a call to make.
Montreal: The Canadiens have one of the league’s most erratic front offices, they should always be a call to make to see what they’re thinking as well. Brenden Gallagher has long been a favorite of Mario Lemieux and a player he’s pointed out in the past that he wished the Pens had players like, but he’s coming off a career-high 31 goal season and probably not a top name they would be looking to trade.
Montreal seems to want/need centers and Pittsburgh does have a surplus. Would the Pens be bold enough to consider even moving Derick Brassard who is only one year out from FA if it meant getting Gallagher who is younger and still under contract for three more seasons? It’s summer so it’s worth a consideration, even if a long-shot.
Ottawa: Not really a trade fit with Pittsburgh any longer, since the main focus for them this summer is probably going to be an ill-advised trade of Erik Karlsson. And even in the most extreme scenarios, the Pens aren’t going to be a player in that sweepstakes since they will be looking for 2-3-4 very good, very young assets for Karlsson.
Tampa: The Lightning are in a very interesting situation - almost all of their key players are back for 2018-19 but next summer they have a TON of key free agents (Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Anton Stralman, Ryan McDonagh and Yanni Gourde).
They might need to think ahead to clear out salary for next summer. Would trading Alex Killorn ($4.45m for the next five seasons) for a guy like Sheary or Rust make sense for them? It would save them a bit on the salary and still give them an NHL caliber forward to replace him. For Pittsburgh, yeah you’re taking on a bit more now, but find a way to shed Matt Hunwick and the math works. There could be an interesting opportunity here if Tampa is interested, and even though the Pens don’t have a ton of cap space they could offer perhaps a better NHL player in return than other places could.
Surveying the trade scene is always tough because it relies on many assumptions being made and hypothetical situations. There’s no guarantee that any of the players listed above will be on the move, but these days the off-season is a key time to explore avenues for change and attempting to add to the team.
That’s also why the Pens are in good shape, they’re not a desperate team and don’t NEED to make a move....But if there is an opportunity for a play to grab a good player, they should have reasonably enough trade ammunition and cap space to swing a deal this summer that could shake things up a bit and perhaps add to depth on the wing and/or defensively.