With the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins on the outside looking in at a playoff spot, many expect them to be active in the weeks to come. On a radio appearance with Sportsnet 650 (audio link), Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggests that the Pens have shown some interest in Sabres pending UFA winger Evander Kane and that he wouldn’t be surprised if they inquire about Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty as well. He adds that on top of looking for help on the wing, they’re still trying to add depth down the middle as well despite picking up Riley Sheahan earlier in the year.
Kane has cooled down a little bit after a hot start to the season with just three goals over his last 18 games but he would still represent a significant boost to Pittsburgh’s top-six. He carries a cap hit of $5.25MM this season. As for Pacioretty, his struggles have been well-documented but many anticipate that a change of scenery and a top-flight center to play with could get back to 30-goal form. With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin down the middle, Pittsburgh certainly would be able to give him that type of opportunity.
A challenge for Penguins GM Jim Rutherford here though will be working those types of moves on the salary cap. Right now, they can add a player making just over $357K in a full-season salary per CapFriendly, which means they really have next-to-no wiggle room at all. While Buffalo has indicated in the past they’d be willing to retain salary on Kane (they can hold back up to 50%), there’s no sign that Montreal would do on Pacioretty, who is signed for one more year after this one at a $4.5MM cap charge. Pittsburgh may want to make a splash but unless they’re willing to send a big contract the other way, there may not be a fit for a deal just yet.