With the All-Star break now behind us, the trade deadline looms large and is just over a month away. Where does each team stand and what moves should they be looking to make? We continue our look around the league with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Despite more predictions of their demise this offseason, the Pittsburgh Penguins have kept on rolling all throughout 2021-22. The team’s ridden great depth scoring and good goaltending from Tristan Jarry through the entire season to overcome more injury issues with stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh currently stands tied for first in the Metropolitan Division, and should undoubtedly be buyers at this year’s Trade Deadline. With an increasingly tricky salary cap situation, though, that’s easier said than done.
31-12-8, 2nd in the Metropolitan
Deadline Cap Room
No base cap room, $4MM in deadline cap space with LTIR, 0/3 retention slots used, 47/50 contracts used per CapFriendly.
Upcoming Draft Picks
2022: PIT 1st, PIT 2nd, PIT 4th, PIT 5th, PIT 6th, PIT 7th
2023: PIT 1st, PIT 2nd, PIT 3rd (becomes 4th if Jeff Carter plays in 50 games this season), PIT 5th, PIT 6th, PIT 7th, TOR 7th
If one regular player is to get moved off the team’s current active roster in a trade, whether it be for salary or roster space reasons, it’s likely winger Dominik Simon. The 27-year-old hasn’t found his way up the lineup, being relegated largely to a fourth-line role. He’s averaged less than 10 minutes of ice time per game and has three goals and nine points in 45 games.
In terms of the prospect side of things, the Penguins don’t exactly have the largest cupboard to deal from. There is 21-year-old Swede Filip Hållander, who the team has already dealt away once, only to reacquire him later from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Jared McCann. Playing in the AHL with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season, he’s on pace for a full-season total of just seven goals and 23 points in 63 games, however, and his stock isn’t as high as it was after an impressive SHL season the year prior.
One position they could look to deal from is goaltending. They have considerable young depth at the position and could afford to lose a player there more than any other area. One name that should carry some value is Finnish netminder Joel Blomqvist. While he didn’t get into game action in the abbreviated World Juniors this season, he has an incredibly impressive .940 save percentage in 13 Liiga games with Kärpät this season. The Pens drafted him in the second round in 2020.
There’s also a pair of young forwards that remain on Pittsburgh’s roster as scratches or injuries in Radim Zohorna and Drew O’Connor. Zohorna looked good in stints last season but has only appeared in eight games this season as Pittsburgh’s forward depth remains tough to penetrate. O’Connor was impressive in the preseason but had just five points in 22 games before being sidelined with an undisclosed injury about a month ago.
1) Middle-Six Scoring Winger: Jason Zucker continues to be out week-to-week with an upper-body injury, and he hasn’t exactly been exceedingly productive when healthy, either. Pittsburgh could upgrade considerably on Danton Heinen, who’s currently riding shotgun on the second line with Malkin and Carter. Another true scoring threat behind the team’s big line who could benefit from playing with Malkin would help increase scoring and improve the team’s bottom-six depth and stability.
2) Sixth/Seventh Defenseman: The team obviously likes having Chad Ruhwedel around, considering the two-year extension assigned to him today. But he remains one of Pittsburgh’s starting six defensemen on a nightly basis with relatively little competition internally. A right-shot man with a higher pedigree to fit in on the third pairing with Mike Matheson will only improve this team’s playoff aspirations.