The Penguins haven’t been a very active team under Ron Hextall. They probably figure to mostly stand pat until they get Evgeni Malkin back in a few weeks and see just what their next step should be. A recent 9-2-1 stretch has already set the course though, any doubt that a rebuild or step back for Pittsburgh is pretty much out the window as the team chugs on to a 16th straight postseason berth.
It’s always fun to survey the league and see which names could be available for trade talk, and recently Sportsnet listed “25 trade candidates of interest”. Let’s take some interest and judge each one from the Pens’ perspective in terms of fit for on the ice need, salary considerations, and trade acquisition cost.
Mark Giordano (SEA):
On ice fit: 0/10, left handed defense is probably the last thing the Pens need
Salary cap situation: 0/10, one year left at $6.75m cap hit, which considering Pittsburgh is about in a “dollar for dollar” trade situation, even if Seattle retained 50% it’s hard to see a fit here either
Likely trade cost: 0/10, as Sportsnet points out, Seattle wanted a first round pick and a third from Calgary to not take Giordano in the expansion draft. Surely they will want something in that range.
Final take: Expensive in salary and trade cost and a position the Pens don’t need, Giordano is about the opposite of a good fit in every way right now
OK, 25 players would take forever, so let’s just key in on a few that stand out...
Brendan Gallagher (MTL):
On ice fit: 10/10, this has been a player the Penguins have liked forever with his tenacity and nose for the net. Also somewhat sneakily, neither Bryan Rust nor Kasperi Kapanen are signed for next season as of right now, so Pittsburgh could use a RW locked up for a while..
Salary cap situation: 2/10, Gallagher has five more seasons after this at a whopping $6.5m cap hit. He’s about to turn 30. This is likely going to be a bad contract in three-four years time. But do the Pens even care about their salary cap situation three-four years in the future at this point? (That’s the only reason this even gets a 2, might be a situation to win now, deal with the fallout from the future in the future)
Likely trade cost: Montreal has a lot of money locked up in defenders for the future (Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Joel Edmundson). If the Pens could somehow get Quebec native Mike Matheson involved, the salary situation starts to make a lot of sense. Then the real price of futures as the Canadiens likely get at least two pieces from the bucket of: P.O Joseph, Sam Poulin, 2022 first round pick, etc.
Anton Khubdobin (DAL):
On ice fit: Before last week it would have been a lot higher, but Casey DeSmith turned in two good performances. Still, the question has to be asked on if the Pens want to add a veteran goalie with NHL playoff experience before the playoffs start. Jeff Marek has said that Khudobin is “on the market” now and Khudobin started 24 playoff games for Dallas in 2020. He would be a great fit. 9/10
Salary cap situation: 5/10. Khudobin is signed this season and next for a $3.3m cap hit. Dallas would probably have to work with the Pens about retaining some salary. The cost for that usually isn’t astronomical and it does present another hurdle, but where there is a will there is a way to navigate the salary cap. The amount of money involved in this case shouldn’t be too much to overcome.
Likely trade cost: 6/10, this will be the area to watch. How much of a market is there for Khudobin? He’s older and has another year on his deal. Does Dallas just want to clear him out to make some room? Is this going to be a huge return? Goalie trades can be unpredictable, but traditionally goalies do not carry a ton of trade value, oddly enough.
JT Miller (VAN):
On ice fit: 10/10. Miller is a big player who skates well and can work at center or wing. He’s shown scoring touch lately with 28 points in 29 games, and has been about a point/game player over his three season stint in Vanouver. Miller is the type of player that any team would be extremely happy to add at age 28.
Salary cap situation: 7/10, Pretty manageable at $5.25m this season and next.
Likely trade cost: ?/10, yhe big key would be new interim GM Jim Rutherford in Vancouver being the prior Pens’ GM and how he wants to re-shape the Canucks. One would think there are players in Pittsburgh that he might like and values more than most (Rust? Kapanen? Zucker? Matheson?). Could Ron Hextall use that to get a good player like Miller from Rutherford? Not a prediction, but it would be a lot more plausible with Rutherford in VAN now..
Evander Kane (SJ):
On ice fit: Uhh, I guess? Kane’s strong suit is probably the 60-minutes on the ice where he can be an effective player. He’s also a known unpopular teammate at best, with sour endings in several spots and a seemingly endless string of drama and headaches off the ice that follow him around. 1/10
Salary cap situation: Kane has this year and three more at $7.0m, which makes all the negative energy and baggage he brings to the table an even bigger reason to stay away at all costs -10/10. I dislike bold statements, but any GM that even gets Kane for 3.5 seasons at $3.5 million (the max SJ can retain) should probably be fired on the spot for adding this player with all his issues at that big of a price. Just makes absolutely no sense to give a fourth chance with so much tied up.
Likely trade cost: Non-existent, 0/10. In fact, it will be costing the Sharks to get rid of Kane in the form of salary retention and/or accepting a bad contract in return. They’re probably best off buying him out this summer and letting everyone move on fresh.
Marc-Andre Fleury (CHI):
On ice fit: Ironically, there isn’t much of one in Pittsburgh. Tristan Jarry has been a .934 save% goalie so far. So why do the Pens need to bring back the best goalie in franchise history to make Jarry look over his shoulder and possibly throw off his confidence/psyche when he is rollin’ right now? Despite how much some have really wanted it to happen, for one reason or another the timing has never been quite right for a Fleury/Pittsburgh reunion in the last four years, and now is no different. 2/10.
Salary cap situation: 2/10, Fleury is still on his $7.0m salary. There could be retention, but Pittsburgh would still need to move a salary bigger than just DeSmith to Chicago to pull a trade off. Fleury’s contract doesn’t eliminate all possibilities, but it does make life harder to pull this trade off, as it always has.
Likely trade cost: 9/10, probably more manageable than figuring out the salary constraints to make it work. The Blackhawks (probably) aren’t going to trade Fleury just anywhere given his status as a beloved vet. They’ll take care of him and send him somewhere that works for him, if they trade him at all. Prioritizing that area means they aren’t in a position to play hard ball for a huge return.
Other names to potentially keep an eye on: Vladislav Namestnikov (DET) has been a quality middle-line forward, but do the Pens need that depth? Ditto Chris Tierney (OTT) as a center. Pittsburgh should be fine up the middle, but, hey, injuries happen.
Interestingly, Sportsnet listed Bryan Rust, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin, which is just sorta what you have to do given their contract statuses.
It would be interesting in a “Pens trade Mark Recchi and Paul Coffey in 1992” sense if Pittsburgh would move a vet (likely Rust) in order to maybe mix up the team, and also get a player back with a better contract situation. Again, my attention gets turned to JT Miller, Brock Boeser or Conor Garland — that level of forward in Vancouver. Having good ol’ JR up there has to present at least a conversation about which of his old players that he might be keen on bringing to the Canucks, and paying a handsome price has never scared Rutherford from getting what he wants.