The best ability is availability. There aren’t that many trades going on right now in the NHL. Most of the teams are right in the hunt of the playoff chase, and teams only a handful of points below the playoff line aren’t going to be motivated to trade top-six NHL forwards for mostly future assets.
That presents a big problem for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who don’t have much to offer in general in the form of trade ammunition, and nearly all of what they would part with of value is likely going to be either prospects or future draft picks.
One player who is a top-six winger that is available is Tyler Toffoli. And there’s a report of the Pens’ interest. As Chris Johnston said on Saturday night on Sportsnet’s intermission:
“The LA Kings are attracting a lot of attention, a lot of scouts are following them through the New York metropolitan area. They’re playing the New Jersey Devils [Saturday] night, there are three scouts there from each the Winnipeg Jets and also the Vegas Golden Knights. We believe that those two teams are among the teams interested in Alec Martinez. Also Tyler Toffoli is getting a lot of interest. I think Pittsburgh is a team that would like to get in on him, maybe the Calgary Flames among others.”
Johnston would go on to say something already mentioned, that the New York Rangers and Chris Kreider’s representatives plan to meet to discuss contract extension. Even if the Rangers can’t find a contract number that works for them, The Athletic’s Pierre Lebrun gave a nugget last week that is even more discouraging for the Pens:
here’s what I do know so far: Eight teams have informed the Rangers they’ve got Kreider at the top of their wish list
The Pens aren’t likely to win a bidding war and convince a division rival they don’t usually make trades with to trade them what would be the biggest rental prize on the market. And that’s IF they even get that far. It shouldn’t be a shock that NHL teams will be lining up to fawn over a prime-age player like Kreider who has the mix of size, speed and skill that would fit into any team’s structure.
With so little actually available, the Pens might have to shift to a player like Toffoli who is almost certain to be traded in the next two weeks.
Toffoli, 27, has 30 points (14G+16A) in 55 games with Los Angeles this season. That’s modest, but it’s not like the Kings are lighting it up, it ranks third on their team for points.
Tofoli’s SKATR chart shows a player who shoots the puck a lot and, relative to his teammates, has been having a strong season.
Toffoli is a right shooting right winger, but Pens general manager Jim Rutherford has mentioned that he doesn’t expect the positionality of an acquisition to be an issue being as players like Jared McCann and Bryan Rust can shift and be comfortable playing on either side as necessary.
A second round pick has been the most commonly mentioned price for Toffoli, but even that may take a positive bump for Los Angeles if there isn’t much of a supply of sellers offering up NHL caliber talent. Further complicating the matter of fit here is that the Penguins don’t have a 2020 second round pick, it was already moved to Vegas in the expansion draft. If Pittsburgh offers a 2021 pick versus a team like Calgary or Boston offers a 2020 pick, the Pens aren’t going to get the player.
That can be worked around with some creative thinking. Could the Pens throw their 2020 first round pick and a mid-round pick to LA for Toffoli and a second or third round pick coming back to Pittsburgh? That deal would be similar to what Pittsburgh swung to St. Louis to kick down from the first round to the second round in order to nab Ryan Reaves.
Rutherford said earlier in the process that he had a list of targets to attempt to check in on, and it makes a lot of sense that Toffoli would be on there. In this climate with how the NHL season has unfolded, the number of available players might not be as high as it seemed. Where Toffoli ends up and how hard the Penguins try to push for him will be very interesting to watch unfold.