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NHL Trade Deadline: Penguins need defense, but question is just who is out there?

After injuries the Pens need defense, but the supply is less than the demand

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NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After the injuries to Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin and Olli Maatta in the last two weeks, the Pittsburgh Penguins have some clear issues on the defensive depth chart. While a minor-league call-up like Ethan Prow or Zach Trotman might be the route they go, that’s a low-end NHL player that won’t offer much.

From USA Today’s Kevin Allen:

With the Blue Jackets and Capitals both significantly improving their teams this week, will the Penguins answer with a deal?

For sure. Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is historically one of the most aggressive traders. He lost two more defensemen, Brian Dumoulin (concussion) and Kris Letang (upper body), in Saturday’s outdoor game. He will be looking at defensemen.

But the real question is just who might be out there. In The Athletic’s “Top 20 Players who could be on the move” article, only one defenseman was named; Detroit’s Nick Jensen who was traded to Washington for a second round pick and 23-year old right shot defenseman Madison Bowey. So for all the big names expected to be at least on the trade block, surprisingly enough they’re all pretty much forwards this year.

This could prevent a real challenge for general manager Jim Rutherford to navigate. The New York Rangers held out veteran Adam McQuaid as a healthy scratch and are expecting to trade him. But he doesn’t offer a lot, certainly not much to step into the void made by players like Dumoulin and and Letang.

Carolina is reported to perhaps be looking to move one of their surplus of defensemen, but they want back a top-six forward. And since Pittsburgh and Carolina are battling for limited playoff spots, they’re not likely to deal with each other anyways, scratch that one off the list too.

Although far-fetched for a variety of reasons which we will soon get to, the best possible target might be out in Vancouver with Alexander Edler. (Who the Canucks Athletic writer even predicted would be a fit for Pittsburgh).

Edler is the rare defensive defenseman that actually adds a lot of value. His relative numbers and competition and defensive starts are all off the charts good.

OK, so all that is good, but what are the issues? Well, Edler has a full no trade clause and he’s spent his whole career in Vancouver. He may or may not be interested in waiving his NTC to be traded at this time. From The Athletic:

The most important thing to remember with the veteran, pending UFA blueliner is that he has a full no-trade clause so all trade avenues go through him. I do think at some point soon Canucks GM Jim Benning will go to him and present a trade scenario or two to gauge his interest.

But at the same time, I’m told the dialogue regarding an extension also continues.

If Edler does end up re-signing, I’m not sure it will necessarily be before the deadline. If he doesn’t waive for a trade, there’s no real time element to when he needs to re-sign.

I think what it all comes down to if the kind of trade offers Benning gets over the next five days and what Edler thinks of them.

And for possible acquisition price:

Assuming Edler is healthy, and given the dearth of defencemen on the market, the Canucks shouldn’t be afraid to set a high price. A late first-rounder or a pair of seconds or a quality young player or prospect — those are all perfectly reasonable asks for an experienced blueliner who can play 20 minutes a night against tough competition.

Oh yeah, that first part? Edler hasn’t played a game since February 4th when he fell face first onto the ice. I believe he’s expected back soon and the injury is less of a concern than the fact the Canucks may or may not want to trade him, and he may or may not even want to change teams in a mid-season trade at this time.

Would it work financially?

Probably, with some finessing it can always work. Maatta can be placed on LTIR and kept out for the rest of the regular season to be able to fit Edler’s $5 million salary. The Canucks also have plenty of space for retention if it comes to that too.

Would it work with the trade price?

That’s the age old question. Many Pens fans don’t want to burn the first round pick for a pure rental in Edler who almost certainly wouldn’t be staying in Pittsburgh past the end of this season.

There’s also the fact that the 2019 first round pick somewhere from 15-31 most likely is either a bust or a non-factor for two, three seasons anyways and that really doesn’t do much for the Pens in the Sidney Crosby era now. Rutherford might say he wants to hold the pick, but that pick is there to be traded, make no doubt about it.

That’s the price to pay as a win-now franchise, especially one with significant concerns on defense at the moment. Alex Edler could be a super-sized Ron Hainsey-type of add to help the Pens down the stretch. There’s likely not a lot on the market, including possibly even Edler, so it may or may not be feasible, but this is certainly an avenue the Pens have to investigate and seriously consider prior to Monday’s trade deadline.