The Pittsburgh Penguins suddenly have money to spend. Based on Friday’s general manager Ron Hextall’s press conference and Saturday’s clash when the St. Louis Blues claimed Kasperi Kapanen on waivers, we can redraw the Penguins’ trade landscape ahead of the 3 trade deadline. March in the NHL.
But they’re not looking for expensive rental players. Probably.
The new parameters are clear. General manager Ron Hextall reiterated Friday that the Penguins won’t overpay for rental players and whether they should add significant assets to existing unwanted salaries seems moot after Saturday.
Kapanen’s surprise waiver claim and new $2 million cap should change Hextall’s math. The claim removed Kapanen and his $3.2 million AAV from Penguins roles.
And this is where it gets fun. According to PuckPedia.com, the Penguins’ new salary cap is $1.8 million today, and it will reach the equivalent of a full-season salary of $2.1 million at the trade deadline. in the NHL.
If the Penguins send eighth defenseman Mark Friedman to the Penguins from the WBS, that number will jump to $2.9 million (we’ll debate Friedman’s status as an eighth defenseman another day).
Penguin Trade Deadline Mathematics:
We use the full season numerical equivalents rather than the smaller pro-rated numbers to facilitate discussion. For example, if the Penguins traded Teddy Blueger ($2.1 million) or Brock McGinn ($2.75 million), the $2.9 million number increases from exported salary.
Suddenly, the Pittsburgh Penguins can start talking about players in the $5-5.5 million range without asking for payroll deductions.
Penguin Trade Deadline Settings
Based on what GM Ron Hextall said at two press conferences over the past month, we can begin to reduce our focus and circle new trade targets for the Penguins.
Hextall narrowed the field, and if we analyze his words correctly, the Penguins are chasing players with a run.
And now that Noel Accairi is no longer on the NHL trade board, there probably isn’t a player under $1.4 million who could significantly alter the Penguins’ last six, we have to so aim higher.
This means we are looking for paid veterans.
It should be noted that the Penguins have most often been linked to defensemen in the trade season. The team is 31st in the NHL with 21 goals by defensemen, including Marcus Pettersson’s snipe against St. Louis. PHN recently reported that Jeff Petry and his $6.25 million salary have been made available. The new ceiling space probably reduces the need to use Petry, although we’re not closing the door yet.
As we shop for third line centers, a finite reality is apparent. There are very few options, and most options are rentals.
Also, thanks to the Penguins’ recent losses and inconsistency, the clustering of potential Eastern Conference sellers in the wildcard race has shrunk the pool. Buffalo, Detroit, Florida and the New York Islanders are reasonably in playoff contention.
For example, Jean-Gabriel Pageau would be an ideal target, but New York general manager Lou Lamoriello won’t sell the team a center, which could knock his team out of a playoff spot.
Pittsburgh Penguins Trading Opportunities:
Max Domi / Jason Dickinson
Domi, 27, isn’t top on my whiteboard, but I trust Penguins radio analyst Phil Bourque. On 11 on the Ice Saturday night, Bourque said he liked the Chicago midfielder as a quick and tenacious center that would suit Mike Sullivan’s system.
I lean towards its negatives as being inconsistent and can play softly. Some think Chicago will keep Domi because he has 46 points (17-29-46) in 57 games this season. It’s his best season in four years (he had 72 points in 2018-19) and should become the second best season of his career.
We also know that the Penguins sent scouts, sometimes two, to Chicago.
If Domi is too expensive or not readily available, Jason Dickinson is my preference here. He made our original list because he was so impressed with the few times we saw him in person. He was able to keep pace with the Penguins skaters and responded with aggressive, tenacious play. He still has one year left on a contract that pays $2.65 million a year.
Dickinson, 27, has 21 points (8-13-21) in 54 games. It is our choice.
Domi is a UFA pending, so his game for the Penguins takes a hit unless the team knows his salary requirements or he’s cheap.
Salary: $3 million, expiring.
A sneaky, high-IQ center who is a goalscorer but has decent playing ability. It appeared on our original list, and the increased ceiling space only makes it more plausible. He’s not tall (6-foot-188), but he’s a big player who could fill in as a second-line center if needed.
This season, he’s a 0.5 ppg player with 33 points (19-14-33) in 57 games. The cost of acquiring Henrique is probably close to a second round and a prospect.
Salary: $5.8 million for AAV through next season.
Penguins and Capitals team up for tough center? Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! At 33, Eller is closer to the end and is no longer the sandpaper center he once was. However, since Washington is selling its UFAs, perhaps they will even accept an offer from their fiercest rival.
Eller has just 16 points (7-9-16) in 58 games. He’s probably more of a 4C right now, but you and I have seen him rise to the occasion and be a thorn in an opponent’s skin throughout a seven-game series.
After former Penguins Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Justin Schultz, Conor Sheary and Daniel Sprong cruised through Washington, maybe it’s time for a player to do the opposite.
Salary: $3.5 million, expiring.
The Arizona Coyotes forward has been solid this year. With an increased role, Bjugstad has 23 points (13-10-23) in 58 games and is a fantastic plus-7 in a terrible team. He didn’t fit well into Mike Sullivan’s system the first time around, but he would significantly improve the Penguins’ current crater.
It’s a cheap hire, and it’s right-handed, which makes that plausible. Part of Bjugstad’s downside is that he doesn’t play a speed game, despite having surprisingly good feet, and he’s won just 47% of his faceoffs this season.
Last season he won 55% of his ties, but he’s a 49% career player, and faceoffs are key for the Penguins 3C.
Salary: $900,000 expiring.
He had a resurgence with the Montreal Canadiens, but he is injured. It is rumored that his foot injury will limit his effectiveness for any stretch run or playoff training.
He would have been a solid target. If medical reports are available and his prognosis is good, he could again be a wanted target. On their recent road trip, Monahan traveled with the team and trained in a non-contact jersey.
In 25 games this season, the 28-year-old center has scored 17 points (6-11-17).
Salary: $6.375 million, expiring.