On Tuesday night, TSN dropped its Insider Trading piece that has credited national reporters Pierre LeBrun and Bob McKenzie discuss potential personnel movement, rumors, and recent deals made from around the NHL.
In the information dump, McKenzie mentioned the struggles the Penguins will have to deal with after losing both Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bjugstad for the next month or so and what moves they may have to make to ensure the season doesn’t go straight down the pipes just three games in. His blurb turned interesting after he lobbed up another trade theory that has the power to burn the city of Pittsburgh to the ground.
Well Evgeni Malkin’s out the next four-to-six weeks and that’s a huge loss and there’s no way that Jim Rutherford, the general manager in Pittsburgh, can go out and trade for a player or bring anybody in who’s going to duplicate what a healthy Malkin would give you. And it doesn’t help that Nick Bjugstad is also another centre who’s out the next four weeks. But there is a situation in Pittsburgh and we’ve known even before those injuries occurred, where the Penguins have nine defencemen. We’ve heard all of the Jack Johnson trade rumours. You could throw Erik Gudbranson’s name in there. Jim Rutherford is trying to move a defenceman. Now because of those injuries to Bjugstad and Malkin, if it’s possible to move a defenceman and bring back in some short-term help to plug one of those gaps in the middle of the ice, absolutely he would love to do that. But it’s almost got to be dollar-in and dollar-out. And they do have to allow that both Bjugstad and Malkin, as I said, a month to six weeks, they’re both going to be back in the lineup.
McKenzie reminds us all of the Johnson trade that never came to pass despite strong rumors of it happening within a two-day period, but his point of adding Erik Gudbranson’s name to the mix is surely one to turn some heads. Ever since each of these players made their ways to Pittsburgh, fans have lamented not only their lacking play (and nightmarish analytics), but the price tags that come with them both. Having $7 million tied up in two replacement-level, bottom-pairing defensemen is a recipe for a disaster for a cap-strapped team.
We all know this. We all knew this the second Johnson put pen to paper and Gudbranson was brought in from Vancouver. It’s very fitting that Rutherford is finally admitting his mistakes in the shadows so shortly after the deals were confirmed, but that’s an exhausted rant for another time.
It’s pretty ironic in the sense Gudbranson was largely brought into Pittsburgh in a reactionary measure being as the Penguins needed defensemen last winter after a handful of injuries. Now the team is scrambling to find healthy centers. As McKenzie mentions, any trade would be tricky and the salary cap is a major concern for the Penguins — they can’t afford to add anything further.
The Penguins are still opting to roll with nine defensemen, and during last night’s game vs. Winnipeg, they listed seven defensemen on their roster, forcing Sidney Crosby to double-shift to fill the vacant fourth line center position. Despite it continuously being a head-scratching move, one can surmise that Rutherford is possibly trying to advertise them so that he can ultimately auction them off.
The Penguins do have a few weeks to play around with before they run into cap issues again once Malkin and Bjugstad return, but with how poorly the team performed offensively against the Jets, Rutherford’s hand might get forced.