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Evaluating the Penguins potential trade pieces

With more trades on the horizon, a look at which Penguins could be on the chopping block.

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NHL: NOV 02 Oilers at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With just about all possible aspects of the Penguins trade for Kasperi Kapanen already discussed, let’s take some time and turn our attention to other potential trades Jim Rutherford could be making as the offseason progresses.

It’s no secret that Rutherford will be active in the trade market this offseason, already alluding to the likelihood that a goaltender will be moved at the very least. Combine that with the fact reports state the Penguins will not be a salary cap team this season, Rutherford will have to move pieces simply to clear money before 2020-21 begins.

With Kapanen now on the books, the Penguins are pushing right up against the salary cap which will be set at $81.5 million for the next two seasons. It remains to be seen just how far under the cap the Penguins are planning to be, but there is no question salary will need to be moved, all the while still filling out the roster.

Let’s take a look at the Penguins trade block and evaluate which players make the most sense to potentially part ways with to help Rutherford reshape the Penguins roster heading into next season.

Tristan Jarry or Matt Murray

It’s inevitable that one of the goaltenders above will be moved, it just depends on which one Rutherford chooses to ship out. According to Rutherford, offers for both goalies are already trickling in though a trade does not seem imminent at this moment.

Per Yohe in The Athletic:

“My thinking there hasn’t changed,” said Rutherford, whose Penguins have been eliminated from postseason contention for more than two weeks. “We know that there’s a very, very good chance that we’re going to have to move one of them.”

“There is already interest,” he said in regards to his goaltenders. “And it looks like we’re going to have to move one of them.”

Moving a goaltender isn’t something that comes as a surprise to anyone that has been paying attention. Although Rutherford stated earlier in the season he wished to keep both guys, the financial impact of the COVID-19 shutdown now makes that nearly impossible.

Both Murray and Jarry are restricted free agents who will need new deals whether they remain in Pittsburgh or not. That impending RFA status may limit what the Penguins could get in return from a trade but anything is better than losing one of them for nothing.

This will be the most intriguing trade situation for Penguins fans to watch play out over the next several weeks. If the end of the season was any indication, the safe bet on who will be heading out of town bends toward Murray.

Nick Bjugstad

Prior to the season, Bjugstad was thought to be an important player for the Penguins bottom-six, but that never came close to panning out as Bjugstad dealt with injury woes from almost the very start. In 2019-20, Bjugstad appeared in only 13 games, which feels about 10 more than I originally thought. In those 13 games, he only recorded one goal and two points total.

If one forward is going to be dealt this offseason, then Bjugstad has to be at the very top of the list. His time in Pittsburgh started promising but he simply eats too much money against the cap for a guy who can’t stay on the ice. Perhaps his injuries this year were an anomaly, but it doesn’t seem like the Penguins will wait to see how he recovers next season.

It’s hard to see Bjugstad generating any kind of serious return in a trade but simply clearing his $4.1 million cap hit should be enough motivation for Rutherford to move him.

Jared McCann

Trading McCann will all be contingent on whether or not the Penguins feel like they can bring him back into the fold at a reasonable price. McCann is set to be a restricted free agent this offseason but looks be a someone the Penguins are keen on bringing back. His time as a 3C did not play out like the Penguins had hoped, but he’s still young and plays a fast game.

Like the two goalies, McCann will need a new contract wherever he returns to Pittsburgh or gets traded, thus potentially lowering whatever value he has. Trading McCann won’t clear any money currently against the cap, but if they think don’t think he has a future with the team then maybe getting whatever value they can might make a trade worth it.

Patric Hornqvist

Given everything Hornqvist has done during his time with the Penguins it would be hard to see him traded away, but a cap crunch may force Rutherford’s hand. Hornqvist is probably not at the top of the list for players to be trade bait, but his name has been tossed around enough the last few offseasons that you have to consider it.

With a $5.3 million cap hit for the next three seasons, Hornqvist doesn’t come cheap but he has consistently produced for the Penguins and provides a unique style of play. He can also move up and down the lineup if asked to do so, but with Kapanen now in the mix, Hornqvist taking on more of a depth role could actually make him more valuable to the Penguins.

Hornqvist isn’t getting any younger or any faster, but it seems he still has a place on the Penguins roster. If Rutherford can make moves in other places to cut costs and improve the team, then Hornqvist should find himself back in Pittsburgh for another season.

Jack Johnson

Despite what Rutherford says, Jack Johnson is simply not a good hockey player and this is one mistake the general manager needs to fix this offseason. There is more than enough evidence to show just how much of a drain Johnson is on the Penguins that Rutherford just needs to swallow his pride and make a deal.

There is no trade market for Johnson in a one-for-one type scenario so it will likely take additional pieces to make any trade happen. Should Rutherford make a deal happen, it will likely mean the Penguins taking on a contract in return or giving up additional assets to make it happen. Simply getting him off the roster is beneficial enough for the Penguins that whatever they take on won’t matter.

Signing Johnson was a mistake from the very start, but keeping him on the roster is a continued self inflicted wound that is slowly eating away at what is left of the Penguins championship window.