With the trade deadline now just weeks away, we’re going to start taking a closer look at each team. Where do they stand, what do they need to do, and what assets do they have to fill those needs?
The defending Stanley Cup champions are aiming to be the first team to win two in a row since the Red Wings did so in the late 1990s. However, their quest to repeat will be hampered by injuries and a severe lack of cap space. Captain Sidney Crosby is dominating, leading the NHL in goals with 34 and second only to Connor McDavid in points, despite playing in eight fewer games. GM Jim Rutherford has a goaltending controversy on his hands, but appears comfortable waiting until the summer to deal with it.
38-14-8, 2nd in the Metropolitan Division
Deadline Cap Space
Current cap space: $0
Deadline cap space: $0
45/50 contracts, via CapFriendly
2017: PIT 1st, PIT 3rd, PIT4th, OTT 5th*, PIT 5th, PIT 6th, PIT 7th
2018: PIT 1st, PIT 2nd, PIT 3rd, PIT 4th, PIT 5th, PIT 6th, PIT 7th
* The Penguins acquired Ottawa’s fifth round pick back in November for Mike Condon. Condon played just one game for the Penguins after they claimed him off waivers from the Canadiens to cover for an injury to Matt Murray.
The Penguins have already traded their second round pick to acquire Ron Hainsey from the Hurricanes. They could also be willing to move their first round pick in a weak draft to bolster their lineup, but they would need to send money out in almost any deal made. In addition to draft picks, the Penguins could trade someone like Derrick Pouliot. The young defenseman has struggled to earn a permanent slot in the Penguins lineup, and would be of interest to building teams.
Of course, Rutherford could take the nuclear option and trade Marc-Andre Fleury. It would clear $5.75MM off their cap, in addition to the player(s) coming back. While Rutherford has said he would prefer to wait until the summer to make a goaltending move, he has also said what he does will depend on how Fleury feels.
Player To Watch
1) Goaltending clarity – The Penguins will need to make some kind of move in the blue paint before the expansion draft. Because Fleury has a no-move clause (NMC), he must be protected; that would leave Murray vulnerable, and Vegas would need to be heavily bribed not to select him. Instead, expect the Penguins to either convince Fleury to agree to a trade now or before the expansion draft, or at worst to waive his NMC and head to Vegas. The Penguins could make a move now and acquire a goaltender in return for Fleury to maintain their depth, but improve their roster elsewhere. Despite below-average numbers this season, Fleury still has value. What Rutherford needs to determine is whether Fleury has more value on the bench during the playoffs or in a trade.
2) Good health – The Penguins have a solid defensive core and three of the best offensive players in the game. While they can’t acquire “health” at the deadline, they can improve their overall depth to fight back against injuries. Look for a few minor additions from Rutherford to boost the depth of their roster as they prepare for another long playoff run.