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Penguins thoughts: Mats Zuccarello as a potential trade target, looking at what Toronto paid for Muzzin

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Various thoughts including: why Pittsburgh couldn’t have matched Toronto for Muzzin, Mats Zuccarello seems to fit a need, many milestones are approaching

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Some random thoughts on our mind this Tuesday morning...

Love milestone szn and we’re getting close to a few:

  • Great find by Seth Rorabaugh, Matt Cullen set a record last night that he will break again and again every time he ever pulls on a Pens jersey by being the oldest person ever to play a game for Pittsburgh’s NHL team.
  • Sidney Crosby is at 910 career NHL games, the all-time Pittsburgh record is 915 by Mario, of course. Sid’s been around for a minute but it still always feels so jarring and almost surreal to think the length of his Pens career is about to match the best ever. Crosby only needs 550 points in his next five games to tie #66 as well so he better get to it....
  • Evgeni Malkin has 599 career assists. Only five active NHL players (Joe Thornton, Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Nicklas Backstrom, Patrick Marleau) are in the 600+ helpers club. Malkin also has 983 career points, only four active players are in the 1,000+ area (Thornton, Alex Ovechkin, Crosby, Marleau)

***

Perhaps the first big domino fell yesterday in the trade market when Toronto began to load up by getting Jake Muzzin out of Los Angeles for a first round pick, and two prospects. Muzzin is signed this year and next for a reasonable $4.0 million cap hit.

Good deal for the Maple Leafs, as if their pick is 25-31, giving up a first rounder in the NHL really isn’t that bad. (As Penguins fans should know but still tend to need this type of reminder when Pittsburgh trades a prospect+31st overall for an NHL player+51st overall).

Anyways, the Pens would never be in for Muzzin because they don’t need yet another defenseman, they already have too much money against the salary cap allocated there right now anyways and also are adding Justin Schultz to their top-4 for free.

But the price and comparables are always fun to see what the equal value would be, so here’s what a similar offer from Pittsburgh to LA would have looked like:

  • 2019 first round pick (easy enough to substitute)
  • Carl Grundstrom = Kaspar Bjorkqvist.....both 2016 second round draft selections, taken mere picks apart (57th and 61st). Grundstrom is probably a bit more developed with some success in the AHL but both are in similar development patterns and projects as middle-line hard working NHL wingers with a bit of skill.
  • Sean Durzi = Calen Addison....both 2018 second round draft picks and also selected one pick apart (52nd and 53rd). Both sort of high-end, high-risk, high-reward type of smooth skating offensive defensemen.

Would about 1.4 regular seasons and two playoff runs of Muzzin be worth a pick and two of the better prospects in the Pens’ system? Probably not for Pittsburgh, they have traded away so much already.

Toronto can handle the price a lot better since they have more young talent. If you look at our friends Pension Plan Puppets Top 25 Under 25 they ranked Grundstrom #13 and Durzi #18 in their organization.

In last summer’s Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25 we had Addison at #9 and Bjorkvist at #10. So you can see from that even though the players are almost identical draft picks from their respective years, Toronto has a level of youth and depth to fairly easily handle trading that caliber of prospect. The Maple Leafs trade Durzi, and it’s a lot easier to swallow when they still have Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin as even better defensive prospects. If the Pens trade Addison they have.....practically no real NHL prospect defensemen on the horizon.

So making that trade in Pittsburgh wouldn’t be so easy of a price to pay, especially for a player in Muzzin that they don’t really need with Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang, Schultz and Olli Maatta around.

That said, if perhaps the best defenseman available in the trade market, who still has some term on his contract goes for “only” an expected late first and two good-but-not-great prospects, does that help set the market well for buyers looking for rental players? Could be a good sign, could be nothing, but if the price means anything, it likely means good news for teams like Pittsburgh.

***

But while the Penguins don’t need defensemen, there’s one obvious area they could use help at. Last night Bryan Rust was playing second line left wing and while Rust is a versatile player who doesn’t look out of place on any line on either wing, he is probably best served on the right wing.

The Pens could always shift Dominik Simon back to LW (he played RW on the Crosby line and is another of the team’s more shiftable wingers) but LW is definitely an area where some depth and skill is needed.

Insert the chatter of Micheal Ferland here, which is picking up steam in the rumor mills and certainly been discussed at length on this website already.

But Mats Zuccarello is another name that ought to be in play. His team is likely looking to sell him and last year a similar player (with better yearly stats) in Michael Grabner landed the Rangers a second round pick and a prospect. Pittsburgh now has three selections in the fourth round, a price of a 2019 second + fourth sounds like a pretty fair place to begin negotiations.

A player with a career scoring line like this sounds pretty good with Evgeni Malkin, who as we all know could really use a jump-start.

***

While staying on hockeydb, I noticed Olli Maatta was near the very top of their “trending” section on the home page, which is never really a good sign. A quick twitter search shows what looks to be totally unsubstantiated rumors from Montreal fans about a supposed “impending” trade of Maatta to the Canadiens. This one is almost certainly garbage in, garbage out and some kind of invented Eklund style “rumor” that isn’t even a rumor. Pittsburgh definitely isn’t in a position now to trade a defenseman and Montreal doesn’t even have much that they would want to trade that Pittsburgh would be interested in. So flush that one away for sure.