Elliotte Friedman had several great nuggets about the Penguins in his most recent edition of 31 Thoughts. There was a possible Jacques Martin landing spot (NYR), and also talk about the potential fit of Todd Reirden to return to Pittsburgh as an assistant and a few nuggets about the Kasperi Kapanen trade.
The Pittsburgh/Toronto trade surprised teams because they thought the Maple Leafs’ ask of a first-round pick and a prospect for Kasperi Kapanen was more of a “draft time” move than anything. I think some would have considered a first for him, but not yet. Penguins GM Jim Rutherford doesn’t wait when he knows what he wants, so he pounced. With tighter budgets and a tight cap, both teams showed they didn’t want to risk being dateless at the prom. Find your partners before there’s no flexibility. The draft might not be until October, the playoffs are still going on. Normally, that’s nap time, but this deal sent a message: time to do business.
That’s in-line with what we wrote about here last week, that the timing was the most curious aspect of this transaction, along with the Pens dialing in spending their limited trade stock on Kapanen and not a center or different player.
Friedman’s closing note there and one he mentioned again is that the Pens/Maple Leafs trade gave a jolt to the league that the quiet portion of many teams’ offseasons is now over. What might the Pens’ next move be? Friedman had a note on that:
Pittsburgh is testing the market on Jared McCann, a surprising healthy scratch in the Montreal series.
Jared McCann had a wild summer. For a while he was practicing with Pittsburgh’s top power play, a fit that never really made a lot of sense, but hey. McCann was counted on to unite a somewhat rag-tag line of leftovers with Patrick Marleau and Patric Hornqvist. That trio failed spectacularly to the point where McCann was a healthy scratch for Game 3 and then lightly used to the tune of 10:34 ice time in Game 4.
McCann also went the last 25 games he played without scoring a goal, dating back all the way to mid-January since his last.
Rutherford promised changes were coming, and McCann seems like a player and spot prime for such change. He is fairly young and talented. But he’s not a checking 3rd line center, he’s probably best as a middle line winger option.
After acquiring Kapanen, the Pens have fixed and completed their top-six renovations, or so they think anyways. Add Kapanen to Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Evgeni Malkin, Jason Zucker and Bryan Rust and no matter how it shakes out for line combinations, that’s your grouping.
The next areas Rutherford must solve and build are: the goaltending, his third pair defense and figuring out what to do with the bottom of the lineup forwards. That’s the big remaining unfinished business of the offseason.
Jared McCann will be a big part of that. As a restricted free agent the Pens could sign him and count on him to be a big part of a new look third line. Or, he might be the most valuable trade bait they have left to dangle, and surely by testing the market, they would probably pull the trigger to move him to another team if that market is bearing out an acceptable return.
Either way, McCann will be a huge factor to watch for the remaining business of the Pens’ plans as they gear up for 2020-21.