As the trade deadline nears, teams around the league are gearing up for what should be a very interesting week. However, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be entering the deadline as conservative buyers. Now that they comfortably sit in third in the division and barring a complete collapse during the second half of the year, the team will look to add to its already solid roster.
Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith’s play has continued to improve every game and has solidified both goaltender’s spots on the team, likely ruling out a move to acquire a new netminder. In addition, the Pens have a draft capital shortage leaving them unlikely to move any other picks, making trades more complicated. This may require the use of prospects in any deal which could further complicate a blockbuster. Additionally, GM Ron Hextall would need to work around the cap which currently has the Pens sitting with just under $300K in cap space.
Brian Burke stated that the team’s ownership is in agreement with GM Hextall that the goal is to add at the deadline to give this group an opportunity to win.
“We are looking to do something, very much. Hexy is working the phones hard right now,” said Burke. “We like our group. We’d like to make it better. Here’s the thing: We don’t have any picks left. We aren’t putting our top kids in play. So, we don’t necessarily have certain things to offer that other teams do. The things we can offer are a little different than other teams, maybe. But if we can add, we’re going to add.”
The expectation is that if the Penguins do make a deal, they will look to acquire defensive depth. A low-budget upgrade could prove to be important to the team’s blueline that has been inconsistent due to injury. In addition, adding a depth forward to the bottom-six, likely a rental player with a low cap-hit, to meet the team’s needs.
A few offensive options that have been linked to the Pens are Buffalo Sabres forwards Eric Staal, Curtis Lazar, and former Penguin Riley Sheahan, as well as Red Wings forwards Luke Glendening and Bobby Ryan. Additionally, as they will likely prioritize depth at the center position, Erik Haula or Cody Eakin could be potential fits, with the latter matching Coach Mike Sullivan’s scheme perfectly.
On the defensive side, three bargain depth defensemen who will be inexpensive and carry relatively low cap-hits are John Merrill of the Detroit Red Wings, Nikita Zadorov of the Chicago Blackhawks, and Travis Dermott of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Merrill and Zadorov both play aggressive shutdown roles for their respective teams and will help bolster the defensive side of the game, while Dermott is a young depth defenseman with a lot of potential and a very low cap-hit, making him an attractive potential option for Pittsburgh.
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The Pens hold the third-best record league-wide since the shakeup in management and are looking more and more dangerous with every game, despite still being plagued by injuries. Currently, forwards Evgeni Malkin, Brandon Tanev, and Teddy Blueger, alongside defenseman Mark Friedman remain sidelined with injury. Additionally, forward Jason Zucker remains on the team’s LTIR, which makes the need for a rental player to bolster the team’s attack necessary.
Although any trade will be complicated for the Penguins, they have made it clear that the goal is to win now and prioritize adding to their roster. Expect them to target sellers and be busy in the coming days as they look for potential fits to join their team.
The team currently sits third in their division with an overall record of 20-11-2, and 42 points through 33 games this season.