With just a little over two weeks left until the NHL trade deadline, rumor season is hot and heavy. The Pittsburgh Penguins are always an active team in this department — who could forget last year’s impulsive jolt to add Erik Gudbranson? Or 2018’s swing for the fences for Derick Brassard? This year figures to be no different, with a Jake Guentzel-sized hole in the top-six, Pittsburgh will be looking to add a skilled player to help them at least down the stretch.
With rumors comes a lot of names in the mix. Some are fanciful thinking or pure wishes that aren’t very reality-based. Some are just a product of tying the Pens to any bad team who might have players available. Some could make sense.
Let’s dig into how it looks right now for a lot of these names:
Not gonna happen
Brandon Saad: the white whale of acquisitions for Pittsburgh, this one doesn’t make a ton of sense right now. Chicago is 6-2-2 in the last 10 and only a few points out of a playoff spot. They might not make it, but they have a higher opinion of their chances than perhaps most do. And they love Saad. He won’t be a Penguin anytime soon.
Taylor Hall: Many repulsed when a month ago I asked “could the Pens still add Taylor Hall?” and the smart money still says Arizona isn’t going to flip their big acquisition. But, Arizona is only 8-10-3 since they added Hall, one of the worst teams in the league in now a 1⁄4 stretch of the season. Reasonably they have little reason to watch him walk this summer for nothing, as surely he will. Hall isn’t the missing piece that’s going to lift them anywhere they weren’t already going. I don’t think they WILL trade him, but perhaps they should cut losses.
Any Nashville Predator: A popular idea was to pick at a spiraling Nashville team, either for a change of scene (like Craig Smith) or just to get a rental (Mikael Granlund) but that’s lost logic as the Preds have climbed back into the thick of the playoff race. They won’t be sellers or looking to weaken their team.
Almost certainly not
Mats Zuccarello: still think it’s a good thought to consider but a no movement clause, expensive contract, and player over 30 might not be the wisest add or most attainable piece of the puzzle.
Kasperi Kapanen: it’s become popular for fans of 30 teams to just throw Kapanen in a trade idea and believe there reason for it to happen. But Toronto is cap-strapped with a lot of needs, and probably not going to trade with an Eastern Conference high-end team like Pittsburgh at this point of the season, unless they’re getting way better. Just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Would take moving heaven and earth
Chris Kreider: The Pens and Rangers just don’t trade with each other. Would NYR reconsider if they get a really good offer? Will he even be available? There’s reports Kreider and NY are talking extension, the preference seems to be to extend and not trade him in the first place.
Rickard Rakell: A Pens’ fan dream, but as Pierre LeBrun wrote recently in The Athletic, “the Ducks aren’t moving him unless it’s a knocks-your-socks-off offer”. Pittsburgh doesn’t really have a lot of trade ammunition to acquire a young player with a 60 point pedigree and a good contract, and Anaheim does have little logical reason to trade him.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau: Acquisition cost is likely a reason to pass this year.
Mike Hoffman: Apparently could be moved, Florida is at least doing some due diligence on exploring trading the soon-to-be free agent. But there’s a long way from that baseline to completing a trade. And what does Pittsburgh have that Florida would want that could help them in a playoff push this year? Almost nothing. Trade fit here doesn’t look good at at all.
Doesn’t seem a wise bet
Ilya Kovalchuk: He’s had a bit of a late-career renaissance in Montreal putting up 11 points in 14 games (5G+6A) since joining as a free agent mid-season after a disastrous turn in Los Angeles. But what has really changed to drive up the Pens interest (from none just a few months ago when they could have had him for free) to now giving up a future draft pick for him? Kovalchuk popping in a few points isn’t going to suddenly make him a better fit in a hard-charging Mike Sullivan system that demands wingers be aggressive and responsible at all times.
Andreas Athanasiou: might be able to get him, but is a player with an almost 5 goals against/60 really going to help the Pens? (And it’s tough to just blame playing on a really bad team for all of Athanasiou’s defensive results when he’s the worst player on said bad team). The Pens don’t just want a player, they want a top-six player. Is Athanasiou that caliber? Doesn’t look like it in his current form.
Wayne Simmonds: wouldn’t this be something? But Simmonds (6 goals in 72 games since Philly traded him last year) is FAR from the player he once was from 2010-17. Injuries and age appear to have drained most of his effectiveness, putting him in the category of “the Pens need a top-six guy, this ain’t it”. Still there aren’t many rental wingers on bad teams, and the cost wouldn’t be sky high so it’s interesting to think if the Pens might bet Simmonds could turn it around getting out of NJ and onto a better team, but yeah, probably not a great bet to make on a fading power forward.
Maybe, but some questions
Tyler Toffoli: he’s certainly available as a pending free agent on a bad team, but a few questions abound. The Pens don’t have a 2020 second round pick and many other teams do, can Pittsburgh even give LA the best offer? Perhaps not. Would Toffoli’s style fit the way the Pens play (fast)? Doesn’t seem the perfect fit.
Tomas Tatar: Pittsburgh has been tied in loose talk with Tatar this week, but as we wrote here earlier, it’s a buyer beware situation on trying to acquire a player at his peak value (big cost) when he’s failed on contenders as a deadline add so recently before in 2018 with Vegas.
Jason Zucker: the fit is there, the interest we know has been there. It just comes down to what does Bill Guerin want to do, and what is his price to move a youngish, valuable piece? Guerin needs guys like Zucker to keep his team strong, it’s logical he might not want to take a step back by dealing him mostly for futures.
Ondrej Kase: Considering Kase was almost traded last summer (for Justin Faulk), his attainability is probably a bit more than a player like Rakell’s. Still a question about his durability and how much of an impact he might be able to have in Pittsburgh, as well as the trade cost. Teams don’t just tend to giveaway 24-year old wingers with a 20 goal NHL season already on the books.