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Brock Boeser to Pittsburgh whispers make little sense

Why a great winger in Brock Boeser isn’t a great fit for the Pittsburgh Penguins at this trade deadline

Pittsburgh Penguins v Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks figure to be one of the most notable NHL teams to keep an eye on at this NHL trade deadline. Our old friend Jim Rutherford is up there — though as Team President and not general manager — a position held by former Penguin front office member Patrik Allvin. There’s a lot of connective tissue between Pittsburgh and Vancouver now.

Such speculation and dot connection only increased when Derek Clancey was in town last night to scout the Penguins/Florida Panthers game. Clancey is another shared PIT/VAN connection, he is now a Canucks assistant GM, he was formerly with the Pens front office from 2007-21, including being the Director of Player Personnel from 2019-21. Clancey’s attendance didn’t go unnoticed in Pittsburgh, or Vancouver.

Drawing too firm of a conclusion from which scouts are where can be a misleading and fruitless adventure, especially at this time of year when the season is reaching it’s top moments. Teams are continuously watching and keeping files updated all across the league. Multiple scouts Occasionally a scout or front office member might be in town on unrelated business and just attend a game since they happen to be around.

Clancey’s presence though did kick catch a lot of attention. Here’s a clip from the Vanoucver based Donnie and Dhali show from yesterday, transcribed if you can’t or don’t get the audio.

Dhali: “Derek Clancey [was] in Pittsburgh [Monday night], the Canucks assistant GM. Pokin’ around. Look this John Marino defensemen, in Pittsburgh I really wonder if he’s a target of the Canucks. When you look at the Canucks, looking for players age 20-25, he’s 24. He’s a right shot defenseman. Rutherford loves him. There’s another player in Pittsburgh that Rutherford likes a lot - but he’s not a defenseman - is Evan Rodrigues. He’s a centerman [with] 38 points in 35 games. Look, the Canucks know this Pittsburgh lineup — Allvin, , Clancey, Rutherford — they know this lineup better than anyone else. The fact that Clancey is in Pittsburgh tells ya somethin’ cookin!”

Donnie: “Evan Rodrigues has a really good shot, the Canucks need more guys like that.”

Dhali: “I just was told this morning, these are the type of guys that the Canucks like. Marino makes a lot of sense, he’s 24, he’s a right shot D. But what would Pittsburgh want from Vancouver?”

(A bit of talking about how previous Canuck coaches/GMs brought in former players that didn’t work)

Donnie: “Boeser to Pittsburgh for a package that includes John Marino?”

Dhali: “I don’t know...There’s no question they’re talking to Pittsburgh, I would not be surprised if Boeser’s name has been bounced around.”

Nothing like a little hot talk, and even as they admit this is more speculative and connecting dots then actually real. Derek Clancey in Pittsburgh doesn’t alone mean that a trade is imminent. But this one doesn’t make sense for many reasons, as presented. Let’s break ‘em down.

#1 The timing of John Marino’s involvement

—Marino is the one, at least on Vancouver talk radio, that is a huge target. But it makes very limited sense for the Penguins to trade Marino for a forward. Their right side defense would then become: Kris Letang — Chad Ruhwedel — Mark Friedman — pretty much nothing. That’s not a great way to go into the playoffs.

There’s no doubt Marino would be of interest for Vancouver (via media members or actual Canucks staffers), but for the same reasons why that market would want him is precisely why the Pens would also need to keep him around.

Vancouver is five points and many teams out of the playoffs, they’re not going anywhere this season. If this was for the off-season, where Pittsburgh could more easily replace Marino, this idea makes just a little more sense. But not really a lot, being as where Vancouver is strong (forwards) is not a place where Pittsburgh can add while losing Marino, but especially not prior to the playoffs.

#2 Boeser isn’t a salary fit in Pittsburgh

—Brock Boeser has a $5.875 million cap hit now, which isn’t bad, but would still be tough for a capped out team in Pittsburgh to fit in the first place.

What pushes the idea even further to the unwise is that Boeser is a restricted free agent after this season. A qualifying offer is equal to the salary of this season, not the cap hit (which is the annual average value of a contract).

Boeser is on a multi-year deal currently that boosted his 2021-22 salary to $7.5 million, which makes $7.5 million as his QO this summer. If Pittsburgh acquired him, they would have to give him that offer to keep his rights. He could then sign that and play on a one year deal and then be set for unrestricted free agency the following summer in 2023.

That’s just a huge non-starter for the Penguins, they can’t fit Boeser at $7.5m next season. Without a lot of movement and jockeying, they are going to be hard pressed to even keep their own star winger in Bryan Rust.

#3 Listen to the GM’s

A deal including Marino and Boeser would be a massive trade. Ron Hextall and Brian Burke haven’t said a lot, but what they have said points to a quiet deadline. That doesn’t add up for Pittsburgh to make a massive trade given their positioning and management’s apparent comfortability with the team.

Also, if Pittsburgh has learned anything from Jim Rutherford it’s that he says what he means and he means what he says. Rutherford has said he sees “no urgency” in making trades, since all of his key players are still signed or under team control for next season.

Overall, it’s more conjecture than reality but given that Rutherford and Allvin are in Vancouver, it’s natural to wonder about a possible future trade. But a Boeser-for-Marino idea doesn’t fit very well for the Pens. It costs them a defenseman at a position they can’t afford lose, and gives them a forward to expensive for them to fit in the short or longer terms.

The Pens and Canucks do have a lot of shared connections right now, and perhaps that could culminate in a deal. But let’s not forget that when Rutherford came to Pittsburgh he brought Jason Karmanos with him in a high profile spot. It’s a short list of players he traded for from Carolina to the ‘Burgh that he had connections to: just Ron Hainsey as a depth, rental add (and it took almost three years to make that trade). Rutherford wasn’t in a hurry to bring Alex Semin and his bad cap hit to Pittsburgh, nor was he able or all that interested in reuniting with other good prospects or young players that he had in Carolina.

Simply having a lot of front office members around doesn’t necessarily mean a trade will happen, nor does showing up at a game mean so either. Derek Clancey isn’t going to garner any information he doesn’t already know about John Marino by seeing him in person one more time. Vancouver media might connect dots to him hopefully, and the Penguins’ side may dream of the shooting talent of Boeser on either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin’s line, but that alone doesn’t make such a transaction likely or fit right now.