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Pittsburgh “quietly” on the hunt to try and add John Tavares?

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Talk of the Penguins and John Tavares isn’t rampant, but it’s not going away

NHL: New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Last month Elliotte Friedman was talkin’ about the Penguins as a surprise team to try and find a way to add free-agent-to-be John Tavares and just over three weeks away from July 1st, he’s still got it in mind.

How could it happen? Last month we wrote:

Hypothetically speaking...How the Penguins could trim $7 million:

Trade Sheary ($3.0) for a draft pick. Insert Sprong (est. salary $800k) - saves $2.2 million

Shed Hunwick. Worst case, bury him in minors (saves $1.025 million), sign a cheap vet D free agent for $700k - saves $0.325 million, if not more if another avenue is there on a trade, but cap savings here will be minimal since the Pens will have to replace the depth lost

Trade Sheahan ($2.075m) for a draft pick. Insert Teddy Blueger or J.S. Dea as 4th line center (estimated cost $700k on a one-way deal). Saves $1.375 million

Trade Hagelin ($4m) for futures. Insert Zach Aston-Reese ($.925m). Saves $3.075 million

Total savings: $6.975m

As you may have heard, there have also been rumors of various degrees of certainty that the Pens will/might/could entertain trade offers for Phil Kessel too, which could also conceivably save money on the salary cap. Though, as always with Kessel rumors, many forget or are ignorant to Phil’s 23 team no-trade list and his past history of not budging on it, so trading him may be more difficult (and certainly less fruitful) than the casual observer realizes.

Back to Tavares, the big sticking point still looks like money. Why would he take less from Pittsburgh than he could get in many other places? Why would he want to play as a 3rd line center? Or worse, out of position on the wing, really?

Not much of “Tavares to Pittsburgh” makes a ton of sense, but general manager Jim Rutherford is a renegade. It doesn’t sound implausible or out of character that he might be spinning through a million scenarios as to how it could work to pull it off. Tavares would also have to have the mindset we mentioned before about “Marian Hossa joining Detroit in 2008” to turn down better offers solely to join what he thinks would be a Stanley Cup caliber team. Other than Hossa, no prime, elite free agent in recent NHL has ever done that.

All that said, it also still doesn’t change basic math or the fact that the Pens don’t really need another superstar center as much as they need more quality winger depth and an extra defenseman or two as more realistic off-season shopping list entries.