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Jeff Skinner is the summer name to watch for the Penguins

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If the Pens want a big addition, there’s only one option that makes a bit of realistic sense

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NHL Draft has come and gone, somewhat surprisingly without too many of the big trades we have been accustomed to seeing. Now with free agency a week away, more chances for player movement becomes possible.

With John Tavares interviewing teams that don’t include the Pittsburgh Penguins (which makes total sense, but pipedream concluded there), and Ilya Kovalchuk picking LA, and Phil Kessel apparently staying put, there’s one realistic name to watch regarding the Pens in a quest to add a big time player that’s coming into focus more and more.

It’s Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Here’s the latest on his situation, first from Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic:

I think to some degree the ‘Canes thought once the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes were over they might be next on deck with Skinner but as it turns out that hasn’t really generated. One reason is that San Jose, which lost out on Kovalchuk, doesn’t appear to have much interest in Skinner. And of course the Sharks are focused on Tavares at the moment.

I speculated last Friday about Pittsburgh’s interest in Skinner, GM Jim Rutherford, of course, drafted Skinner so that would make sense, but again as of Monday morning things on the Skinner front were quiet.

Elliotte Friedman added more in today’s 31 Thoughts:

4. Jeff Skinner, who has a no-move clause, provided Carolina with a small list of where he’ll go.

Piece these two pieces of information together, and you’re starting to see a prettier picture for Pittsburgh. First, Skinner is only willing to go to a small number of teams. That lessens competition among the number of suitors, which lessens trade acquisition price (see Iginla, Jarome in 2013 and Kessel, Phil in 2015).

Second, some potential destinations are going in other directions or just not that interested, for whatever reason. That could knock off a couple of the few names on the list. We don’t know for sure which teams Skinner is open to, but either LA or SJ would make sense. The more options that aren’t joining in, the better it would be for Pittsburgh.

The Hurricanes are playing this patiently, but they don’t have much other of a choice at this point. Skinner only has one year left on his contract and needs to be dealt, lest they lose him for nothing this time next season. We have heard rumors that Pittsburgh was interested in moving one of Conor Sheary or Bryan Rust plus Dominik Simon for Max Domi. Carolina is also actively and desperately looking for goaltender help, perhaps Tristan Jarry would be of interest to them as well in potential Skinner trade talks.

Would that be enough value for the Canes to pull the trigger? Remains to be seen. It would seem a downgrade in talent for them, but it would also make them younger, cheaper and give more team control in the contracts than what they have in Skinner. That could all be important and useful elements to consider. If Skinner’s NMC is that tight (and there are rumors he may have rejected/not allowed trades already) it would seem a guarantee that they won’t be trading for equal value in the first place.

Skinner’s $5.75 million salary could easily be cleared by the Pens in moving a guy like Sheary and finding a way to shed Matt Hunwick. Where there’s a will there’s a way with the finances. If the trade market for Skinner is limited due to his NMC and lack of interest from other teams, keep an eye out on Pittsburgh here, as the situation might shift to being a favorable addition.