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Dreger: Expectation is that the Penguins will trade Derick Brassard

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A national report cites it as likely that Pittsburgh will move Derick Brassard in a trade soon in order to find a better fit as a third line center.

NHL: Boston Bruins at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that general manager Jim Rutherford and the Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t really satisfied with the season Derick Brassard has been having. Rutherford has been fuming openly for weeks about things like “wanting more” out of Brassard and how the GM hoped the player’s performance would improve.

According to Darren Dreger on TSN’s “Insider Trading” segment prior to games on Tuesday, the team is about ready to move on.

Here’s a transcript of Dreger’s scoop-

Derick Brassard of the Pittsburgh Penguins is another name that we have to include being in play. Now for whatever reason Brassard has not been a good fit with the Pittsburgh Penguins. That’s not to say he isn’t a quality centerman. On many teams he is a number two [second line center] - but with the Penguins he’s a number three.”

“I know that Jim Rutherford is at least listening to some interest in Brassard. The expectation is he will get traded, and that the Pittsburgh Penguins at least in return need a number three center back.”

To top it off, TSN put up a chyron on the screen of “Brassard appears sure to be traded” just for a little added emphasis.

It’s been highlighted that Brassard is a key piece as the Pens’ main trading piece to move out before the 2019 NHL trade deadline, but it’s always informative when a national source like Dreger is willing to be so direct with statements like “the expectation is that he will get traded”. It’s also worth remembering that trading Brassard also opens up the very hole that he fills as a third line center, which as Dreger mentions is what Rutherford is looking to move Brass for as a better fit.

Now the question will turn to what could a deal look like? The Pens are probably highly reluctant do deal Brassard to any playoff team in the East, as to not boost a possible competitor by trading them a second line center.

Similarly, non-playoff teams in both the Eastern and Western Conference aren’t going to have much use for a 31-year old center in Brassard who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. There could always be the possibility that a team just wants to trade a player with some term to Pittsburgh to take on Brassard and free up salary cap space (not unlike what LA did by swapping Tanner Pearson for Carl Hagelin) but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to trade away a quality player just for financial flexibility.

What does that leave as a logical trading options? Western teams looking to boost for the playoffs.

Outlook of Western bottom six centers

Team Conf. Rank Playoff Position Sal Cap Space Current 3C Current 4C
Team Conf. Rank Playoff Position Sal Cap Space Current 3C Current 4C
Calgary Flames 1st Pac 1 $5.3m Mark Jankowski Derek Ryan
San Jose Sharks 2nd Pac 2 $5.1m Tomas Hertl Barclay Goodrow
Winnipeg Jets 3rd Cen 1 $26.2m Adam Lowry Andrew Copp
Vegas Golden Knights 4th Pac 3 $15.6m Cody Eakin P.E. Bellmare
Nashville Predators 5th Cen 2 $31.1.m Nick Bonino Calle Jarnkrok
Dallas Stars 6th Cen 3 $1.8m Radek Faksa Roope Hintz
Colorado Avalanche 7th WC1 $53.3m Carl Soderberg Sheldon Dries
Minnesota Wild 8th WC2 $8.6m Mikko Koivu Joel Eriksson Ek
Edmonton Oilers t-9th $2.2m Kyle Brodziak Jujhar Khaira
Anaheim Ducks t-9th $8.1m Ryan Kesler Carter Rowney
Vancouver Canucks t-9th $41.9m Markus Granlund Jay Beagle

For reference:

  • “Sal cap space” is the amount of salary that CapFriendly says the team can add on the trade deadline day. Just to give an idea if any teams are hamstrung by the cap. (They have Pittsburgh at $5.2 million, by the way). Brassard carries a $3.0 million cap hit, so most of these teams are in really good shape.
  • The current lines come from Left Wing Lock which usually does a great job of staying updated. Though as we all know lines can be very fluid and are constantly changing, so this isn’t a Bible but more just a road map of what could be out there.

At first glance, just based on styles, Nashville looks like a fit with Nick Bonino and Calle Jarnkrok to go along with star centers Ryan Johansen and Kyle Turris. Would they be interested in adding Brassard and possibly their skill level? Do they really want to make changes to an already deep group that’s seeming to be playing well? Would the Pens take Bonino back? Is Jarnkrok good enough to play on the third line? A lot more questions than answers all around with Nashville.

Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry is pretty much a NHL GM’s perfect third line center. He’s big and a good two-way player and has won 57.2% of his faceoffs this season. But is a guy with a career-high 14 assists and 29 points going to have enough offense for Pittsburgh’s preferred third line job of being Phil Kessel’s center? And the Jets have Mark Scheifele and Bryan Little, do they need another offensive-minded player like Brassard when he hasn’t played well in a 3C role in Pittsburgh? Seems to make more sense for them to carry on with what they have as well. But Winnipeg was heavily rumored to want Brassard in a trade last year, maybe they still see him as a piece to get them over the top?

At 25-years old and with a manageable $2.2 million cap hit this season and next, Radek Faksa makes a lot of sense for Pittsburgh if the Stars were interested in Brassard. Faksa has a limited offensive ceiling; he’s scored 33 points in 2016-17 and 2017-18 and is on pace for 26 points this season. Does he have the playmaking chops to feed Kessel? It’s a question, but Faksa is a solid two-way center and most third line centers around the league are 30-35ish point players.

Ryan Kesler only has four goals and two assists in 43 games this season, he’s slowing down big time and his contract pays him $6.875m against the cap until 2021-22. Easy pass there, even if the Ducks were interested in retaining salary this is a 34-year old player with a lengthy injury sheet and just too hefty of a salary and term remaining. Time hasn’t been kind to him, so this shouldn’t be a consideration at all, despite having a good name and reputuation this is about the last contract and player Pittsburgh should be interested in.

Minnesota would be an interesting spot for a Brassard deal. Mikko Koivu is their captain and isn’t going anywhere, but a guy like Charlie Coyle (currently listed as the 2C) has been in the rumor mill for a while. Coyle, 26, is signed through 2019-20 at a reasonable $3.2 million cap. In a perfect world Brassard provides more offensive and is an upgrade on Coyle, but will the Wild see that with Brassard mired in a slump right now?

A lot of fans think it’s easy to fleece Edmonton just because they make bad-value trades, but if the exercise is limited to Pittsburgh getting a center there’s not much here to trade with. Perhaps something more intricate could be worked up, but the Oilers really don’t have any forwards (and especially centers) that would help the Pens out much this year. Doesn’t seem to likely this is a good Brassard spot, as with Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draitsaitl as centers or center-capable players, this isn’t an area Edmonton should be looking to add a pending UFA who will surely be on the first plane out of town at the end of the season.

Of course, the Pens could always go off the board if another team is interested in Brassard, which is always a possibility. But a quick track record of Rutherford’s recent dealings are heavy to the West; Sprong-for-Petterrsson with Anaheim. Hagelin-for-Pearson with LA. Oleksiak from Dallas. Pouliot to Vancouver. It makes sense that if Brassard goes, it’s likely somewhere west.