A mix of good and bad news for the Pittsburgh Penguins on a Sunday morning.
First, Sidney Crosby took a quick twirl on the ice prior to practice, not in full gear, but then left the ice about as quickly as he got on. Some speculate that getting into his skates and testing things out are a good thing. Maybe a worst case scenario has been avoided and he’s simply suffered a bruise from taking a shot on the leg yesterday against the Buffalo Sabres in a preseason game.
A Crosby sighting is more than anyone can say for Bryan Rust (also hurt blocking a shot in the hand yesterday) or Alex Galchenyuk (“day to day” with a nagging lower body injury for about the last week), who both were unseen.
Now that the injury talk is out of the way, it appears to solve their salary cap crunch the Pens intend to trade Jack Johnson. There’s been a lot of smoke growing on this development over the last few days and The Athletic’s Josh Yohe has more details.
A source within the Penguins organization and an independent league source both confirmed that Johnson was told over the weekend that many potential deals are on the table for general manager Jim Rutherford, and that Johnson is involved in the majority of them. Although a trade isn’t certain, Rutherford, according to sources, wanted to be transparent with Johnson about the situation and warned him that a trade within the next 48 hours is quite possible.
Yohe went onto say that it is believed two teams are willing to take on Johnson’s contract (four years remaining with a $3.25 million annual cap hit).
Obviously it will be very interesting to see how Rutherford can maneuver this. More than one team interested seemingly is a positive development for Pittsburgh. Remember earlier this summer Rutherford basically openly said it came down to either trading Olli Maatta or Johnson and he ended up doing what he did back then (trading Maatta to Chicago for forward Dominik Kahun) because that was the best option on the table.
Since then Rutherford signed Brandon Tanev to a fairly big $3.5 million salary, eating up almost the entirety of the savings generated by dealing Maatta and putting the Pens back in the same boat of needing another move to cut salary.
It’s also interesting to wonder which two teams may be interested. We ran down the entire league a few months ago to rank how logical and high/low a level of interest would be in Johnson, but since then many moves have been made in free agency. Top of mind, places like Anaheim or Winnipeg both have the need and salary cap space to add a veteran defenseman right now — even though both certainly would be better suited targeting a right shot/right side defender, which Johnson definitely is not. Then again, at this time of year the ability to add a NHL defenseman in a trade isn’t usually easy to do, so the other teams might not have much other choice than to add a Jack Johnson if they are so inclined to add someone to their team right now.
Not many other teams have a ton of open salary cap space, and the most credible Jack Johnson trade included the Pens taking back an even worse contract in the form of Victor Rask and his $4.0 million cap hit. That’s really what Pittsburgh fans should be bracing for at this point — while everyone will be happy to see the Pens unload their worst performing player on a bloated contract, it remains to be seen just what might be coming back to Pittsburgh.
Either way, we may be finding out pretty soon within the next few days what the trade is going to be.