The Penguins are on an unusual road trip, in Newark, NJ yet not playing until tomorrow night in Brooklyn. And they’re not practicing today, so there probably won’t be much news on Kris Letang or seeing how the newly recalled Sam Lafferty may or may not fit into the top-12 forward group immediately.
One item that did happen in the Penguins’ adjacent world was Game 2 of the annual Canada-Russia Series, this game featuring basically a QMJHL All-Star team against a group of junior aged Russian players. The Q won 4-3 in overtime, Pittsburgh prospect Nathan Legare scored a nice goal in the second period.
Pens’ 2019 first round pick Samuel Poulin also played and earned a primary assist in the game. The Russians will play the WHL team featuring Calen Addison later in the week.
If the Pens can’t get Taylor Hall — and that’s a big ask to try and land such an elite player — another skilled winger that might be worth monitoring is Tyler Toffoli out in Los Angeles. From Pierre Lebrun at The Athletic:
Toffoli is 27, not 30-something. But my sense of the situation right now is that the Kings are more likely to pass on trying to re-sign him and will look to trade him before the Feb. 24 deadline.
Of course, if you’re agent Pat Brisson, and Toffoli is his client, if that’s indeed the path the Kings take, you’re wanting him moved sooner rather than later so that the winger can go to a playoff contender and improve his stock in a contract year …
For the Kings, however, the best deal is probably closer to Feb. 24 because so many teams are at the salary cap or in LTIR. It’s hard for them to absorb salary right now (his cap hit is $4.6 million).
I do think Toffoli is an excellent candidate to bounce back in new surroundings. He may very well be one of this season’s sneaky trade deadline pickups, especially given his Stanley Cup resume.
At this point, surely the best case scenario and much easier path to travel would be if Alex Galchenyuk proves to be a secondary sniper option. Galchenyuk has zero goals so far this season, in six games. As mentioned before, skilled winger depth other than Jake Guentzel certainly is a glaring weakness for the Pens.
They have guys who will work hard and have proven they can chip in (Patric Hornqvist, Bryan Rust, etc) but adding scorers is always fun and necessary to help play off of elite skilled playmakers like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Hall and Toffoli present interesting options because they are very young, and potentially could be options to hold onto — perhaps largely using the cap space of Galchenyuk’s expiring contract for a future deal.
Acquiring and retaining skill from players at a prime age is difficult, but will be necessary to keep the team’s competitive window open. Toffoli isn’t necessarily a “must add” at this point, but depending on the acquisition price as well as how much (or little) Galchenyuk adds, it’s an interesting development to watch unfold as the Kings go down a rebuilding path.