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Penguins trade rumors: Toffoli, Kreider, Saad - who is the best fit, and most realistic add?

The Penguins are tied to a couple of forwards on the trade market. But which ones are the most likely to actually be able to add?

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NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

On last night’s NBC game, insider Bob McKenzie talked a bit about the Pittsburgh Penguins’ trade interests about replacing Jake Guentzel.

This also mimics what Craig Custance at The Athletic said yesterday when he listed Tyler Toffoli as number two in his “27 players who could be moved before the deadline” article -

One executive said the expected asking price on Toffoli is a second-round pick and a prospect, which might make Toffoli more appealing for teams cringing at the idea of moving a first for a rental. “(It) is pretty reasonable,” he said. “They’ll get it.”

Put that piece together with what Pens’ general manager Jim Rutherford recently told The Trib’s Seth Rorabaugh about Pittsburgh potentially picking up a right wing, even though with Bryan Rust and Patric Hornqvist they’re relatively loaded at that position compared to a weaker left side now without Guentzel.

“It’s more about getting a winger because we have the good fortune (that) our wingers can play both sides,” Rutherford said. “If a better right winger comes along than a left winger that makes sense in a deal, I don’t feel the pressure that we have to have a left-hand shot.”

Rutherford also indicated to the Trib that the Pens were looking for a winger who could play in the top six and not in a rush to simply just acquire a lesser player. Which is smart, they have time before the February 24th deadline and Guentzel isn’t just any old winger, it’s going to take a special player.

Could that be Toffoli?

The biggest issue could be that the Penguins don’t have a 2020 second round pick — they had to include it to Vegas way back in 2017 as part of the expansion draft considerations to ensure that Marc-Andre Fleury had a safe and known landing spot and that there wouldn’t be any surprises.

Fast forward a few years and suddenly that lack of a draft pick is a big issue at the 2020 deadline. For an NHL team like the Los Angeles Kings, a 2021 second rounder holds a lot less value than a pick this year. It delays the whole process by a year and for a rebuilding team that doesn’t want to stay bad forever, they want a return and a prospect as quickly as possible.

Could the Pens get creative? Maybe flip LA Pittsburgh’s first and third round picks in 2020 in exchange for Toffoli and Los Angeles’ second round pick (which is going to be in the 31-37ish range overall)? The Pens did something similar of course when they wanted to acquire Ryan Reaves in 2017 and ended up moving from picking 31st to 50th overall in a deal with St. Louis.

If not Toffoli due to acquisition price or the lack of having a 2020 second round pick whereas other trade suitors for the Kings will have that to offer, the other names McKenzie listed have been mentioned here a time or two as well.

Brandon Saad was 20th on Custance’s list of players most likely to be traded, with a caution of:

Other teams believe that he could probably be pried out of Chicago, but one executive conceded that GM Stan Bowman is likely to keep him “unless someone blows him away.”

Bowman and the Blackhawks have always loved and valued Saad. I’m not sure what the Pens have that would be enough to really change their thinking, so although it would be fun and optimistic, probably realistically Saad to Pittsburgh in 2020 feels still like a major longshot due to Chicago’s (probably misguided) outlook and asset management.

Chris Kreider was the other player that McKenzie tied to Pittsburgh interest, and it is easy to see why. Custance had Kreider as the number one most likely player to be traded:

According to an NHL source, neither side is rushing contract talks and there have been no real discussions at this point about an extension. With Hall off the market, Kreider now becomes the top rental forward available. “He can fly, he can shoot. He knows where to go. He will hit with some anger. He will play hard. He’s got a bomb. He’s a really good guy,” said an executive.

It’s easy to imagine Chris Kreider would be like another Chris K on Sidney Crosby ’s left wing with his skillset and style of play pretty reminiscent of a young version of Chris Kunitz. Kunitz was a better in-zone passer and playmaker, but Kreider probably had a more powerful shot.

Kreider also has a limited no trade clause, but according to the NY Post he has used that to block all the Canadian teams, so that aspect shouldn’t be an impediment for the Penguins.

What could be a major impediment though as Custance also wrote, the Tampa Bay Lightning are already tied to Kreider (as they are to seemingly all NY Rangers players) and Tampa also holds Vancouver’s first round pick due to last year’s J.T. Miller trade. Tampa having extra firepower for a deal is a major issue for the Penguins, who aren’t likely to win a bidding war against a Tampa team with more to give.

There’s also the matter of the Pens and Rangers being division rivals who don’t often culminate trades. Pittsbugh and NYR haven’t made a single trade since January 2013 — and even that was a modest swap of inconsquential minor league players when the Penguins added Chad Kolarik in exchange for Benn Ferriero. Other than that deal, there’s only been one other PIT/NYR trade in the salary cap era and that was another fairly minor one with Pittsburgh picking up a fifth round pick in 2009 in exchange for goalie Chad Johnson.

Would the Rangers deal Kreider to Pittsburgh? It would probably have to be for by far the biggest return. With Tampa looming, that may be impractical, even if for on-ice results it would be the best fit to add.

Based on all the factors, Tyler Toffoli is probably the name that should be popping out the most. He is almost certain to be traded, and not for an extraordinary price and the Pens are on record to not be against adding a potential right winger.

Nothing is guaranteed to happen soon, and the Pens do have the luxury of time before the deadline, but the rumor mill is certainly picking up steam when a respected member of the media like McKenzie is tying them to some of the biggest names on the market.