The expectation is there will be teams that will try to get ahead of the deadline and the prediction is Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford is going to try to go that route. “Doesn’t he always?” a league executive asked Saturday. Yes, good point. Rutherford believes in being aggressive in the marketplace and, as a result, he’s been able to have success.
Rutherford has said many times that he does like to trade ahead of the deadline in order to give the new player as much time to get in and comfortable and mesh with the team moving forward. It’s logical, and necessary now with Jake Guentzel out for the season and Sidney Crosby finally back from injury, it’s pretty much time to throw it in gear for the Penguins who know pretty much what they have and what they lack.
Another interesting focus might be the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks and Pens are no strangers with one another, culminating several mutually beneficial trades in recent times. There was the Erik Gudbranson for basically nothing trade earlier this season when Anaheim was in a pinch defensively. Carl Hagelin for David Perron for a double change of scenery a few years back was a big move, as was Daniel Sprong for Marcus Pettersson in another swap of young players. They’ve made more minor deals too like Derek Grant for Joseph Blandisi.
Certainly these front offices have a great rapport, which is interesting to see Garrioch write that Anaheim is:
preparing for a full rebuild, [they] want to be busy at the deadline
But before hopes get piqued in Pittsburgh to an unlikely conclusion:
The belief is Murray isn’t willing to trade just anybody on his roster, but he’s certainly open for talks on several fronts.
Forwards like Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg and Ondrej Kase would be the immediate names on a Pens fan’s wishlist, it stands to reason those players — all not that old and signed for reasonable terms for at least next year — aren’t players who get traded barring a big return.
Similarly though, there’s a lot of reason to believe the Pens are interested in acquiring Jason Zucker from Minnesota, who also has term on his contract and would likely require a fairly heavy acquisition cost. So Pittsburgh may be preparing to attempt to add a player with a bit of term, which also fits some recent Rutherford comments about preferring that to a rental player who would be a free agent this summer.
There’s no doubt with the word “rebuild” entering the national narrative for Anaheim, things could open up a bit and opportunities could present themselves for Pittsburgh. At 14 points out of a playoff spot, the Ducks will have no false illusions that they might be able to make the playoffs this season (unlike Minnesota, which is going to keep swimming upstream for an unlikely playoff spot for as long as possible). Of course we know the managers in Pittsburgh and Anaheim work great together, and often both sides feel the other treats them fairly and are comfortable with what has come out of the trades.
This could all add up to making Anaheim a very key spot to watch for Pens’ fans in the next few weeks before the deadline. If Rutherford intends to strike quickly (and there’s little doubt he probably would if he could), the Ducks and Pens might again make a trade fit to send Alex Galchenyuk and/or future assets like draft picks and prospects out west in order to get an NHL level player like Rakell or Kase.