In a segment on television tonight on NBC Sports, hockey insider Bob McKenzie talked a little about the Penguins and their current mindset and outlook a few weeks out from the 2020 NHL trade deadline. And when the “Bobfather” talks, you listen.
When asked how aggressive the Penguins might be McKenzie said: “Pittsburgh general manager Jimmy Rutherford was on record this week as saying he definitely wants to go out and get a top-six forward.”
McKenzie was referencing Josh Yohe’s recent piece in The Athletic that included Rutherford’s comment:
Rutherford’s only desire is to improve his team for this spring.
“I’m open to all options,” he said. “I’m OK with a rental if that’s what’s there. Sometimes it’s actually better if a guy is an unrestricted free agent at summer. My main thing is finding a player who is the proper fit. I don’t care as much about how many years we’ll have him for. Sure, you consider that. But I want to win right now, this season. The goal is to win now. We have identified guys out there who we think can help us.”
Style of play seems like a particularly big component to any upcoming trade. Rutherford is well aware that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin — this has always been the case with Crosby and, in Malkin’s more recent years, he has moved in this direction also — prefer playing with fast, straight-line wingers who don’t slow down the game’s pace
McKenzie mentioned Samuel Poulin, Nathan Legare and Calen Addison specifically as future assets the Pens wanted to protect and not include in trades. But also in the next breath mentioned how it’s “about the here and now” for Pittsburgh and McKenzie said he did expect Rutherford to be “really aggressive” to add a scoring winger for the top-six.
But, McKenzie said, don’t expect it to be the Rangers’ Chris Kreider.
“I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Chris Kreider to materialize, in terms of a rental. Might be difficult to do that [trade] in the division. But [the Pens] are on the hunt for a scoring winger who can play with Crosby or Malkin.”
The Kreider bit — though disappointing since style-wise and skill-wise he would be a perfect fit — does make logical sense. As we’ve pointed out in the past, over last 15-years that have comprised the salary cap era in the NHL, the Pens and the New York Rangers have only made two trades together. Both involved swapping minor league caliber players far off the NHL radar. Two competitive teams in the division just don’t work together and shift power within the division like a move that would send significant future assets to New York in exchange for a high-end NHL player to Pittsburgh. Probably just isn’t to be for the short and long term goal of either team, especially New York.
That said, McKenzie’s words bring a ton of knowledge and insight into focus. There isn’t a ton of new information here if you’re deeply embedded within recent Pens’ trade rumors, but there is a whole lot of corroboration of talk that has been making the rounds.
- Rutherford and the Pens sense the hole to fill this year is the obvious to find a scoring winger to replace Jake Guentzel, lost for the season with a shoulder injury
- It doesn’t seem to make much difference if it’s a rental player (free agent this summer) or player with term on his contract, the bigger piece of importance to Rutherford appears to be finding quality and a good fit for the team.
Where there’s this much smoke coming from these directions like respected voices in McKenzie, there’s usually a fire somewhere. The NHL trade deadline is February 24th. At this rate it’s looking more a question of “who are the Pens going to add and what are they going to give up” more than anything else.