Josh Yohe of The Athletic has some of the best sources inside the Pittsburgh Penguins, and in a piece (subscription required) detailing the potential availability of Phil Kessel this summer—something Yohe confirms is possible, though takes the Arizona Coyotes out of the running for financial reasons—he reports some of the players made available in GM Jim Rutherford’s recent pursuit of Max Domi. The Penguins were willing to talk about Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary and Dominik Simon, though what the exact offer for Domi was is unclear. The Coyotes would eventually trade Domi to the Montreal Canadiens instead for Alex Galchenyuk.
Rutherford is known as an executive willing to trade, and there has been no denying that he’d like to improve his club. As soon as Domi was rumored to be available many reports linked him to the Penguins, but it was never clear what kind of value the team would put on him. Now it’s clear, as all three of the mentioned players are important pieces to the Pittsburgh attack.
Rust may be the most interesting name, after a 38-point season that saw him become one of the most versatile and effective forwards on the roster. Contributing on the powerplay and penalty kill while putting up some of the team’s best possession numbers, Rust is a perfect fit for a club that wants to spread offense across three lines. He can play both wings and has bounced between several groups over the last two seasons. He also is 26 and a restricted free agent however, meaning he’s due for a raise and is closing in on UFA status. After earning an average of $640K in each of the last two seasons, he’ll cost the Penguins a lot more this time around. Any multi-year deal is buying out unrestricted free agent years, and should send his cap hit skyrocketing despite his pedestrian goal totals.
Sheary on the other hand is already signed for two more seasons at a $3MM cap hit, but could be replaceable for the team if they can find offense somewhere else. The 25-year old saw his ice time drop to under 14 minutes a night this season and without anything to offer on the penalty kill his role is limited to an offensive presence. That point production dropped significantly from the 2016-17 season, and while Sheary still scored 18 goals this year he recorded just 30 points.
Simon lands somewhere else on the value chart, as he’s both a restricted free agent this summer and hasn’t yet shown he can handle the NHL on a full-time basis. The 23-year old was good this year in his 33-game stint, scoring 12 points and recording solid possession numbers, but with just 38 NHL games under his belt since being drafted in 2015 it’s not clear yet what he can really become.
When presented with the choice of these players or Galchenyuk, it makes sense that Arizona would take Montreal’s offer. We don’t know though how the negotiations took place exactly, and instead can only take from this report that the Penguins would be willing to move each of the three for the right return. While that’s not very surprising given their GM’s propensity for trade, it gives us an idea of what to expect from Pittsburgh in the coming weeks.