Click here to read a transcript of this week’s live chat with PHR’s Gavin Lee.
With the trade deadline now just a few days away, we will be taking a closer look at the situation for each team over the coming weeks. Where do they stand, what do they need to do, and what assets do they have to fill those needs? Next up is a look at the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It’s hard to not be amazed by what the Penguins have done this season, given how many key players have missed time with injury. Only Brandon Tanev, Teddy Blueger, Dominik Simon and Marcus Pettersson have played in all 58 games for Pittsburgh, but the team has caught and passed Washington for the division lead. They already made a big move by acquiring Jason Zucker, but don’t rule out Jim Rutherford over the next few days.
37-15-6, first in the Metropolitan Division
Deadline Cap Space
$3.499MM in a full-season cap hit, 0/3 used salary cap retention slots, 47/50 contracts per CapFriendly
Upcoming Draft Picks
2020: PIT 3rd, PIT 4th, PIT 5th, PIT 6th
2021: PIT 1st*, PIT 2nd, PIT 3rd, PIT 5th, PIT 7th, ANA 7th
*If the Penguins miss the playoffs in 2019-20, they can send their 2021 first-round pick to the Minnesota Wild instead of this year’s.
After spending a couple of the chambered rounds in the Zucker deal, it may be hard for Rutherford to find enough to really make a big splash on the trade market. The Penguins won’t have a first-round pick (again) this year, and they traded their 2020 second way back in 2017 for expansion draft considerations. Some may say who needs draft picks when you can find players like Marcus Pettersson and John Marino for (close to) free, but there aren’t a ton of futures left for the team to dangle.
The question then becomes who from the roster would the Penguins be willing to move. Before the season Nick Bjugstad and Bryan Rust were two names frequently bandied about in speculation, but now that the former has missed three months and the latter is the team’s leading goal scorer it might be hard to make a deal around one of them. Bjugstad is expected to be back soon, but with just a few days left it would be hard for anyone to take that risk.
Still, the team has some other forwards that could maybe be involved if a deal presented itself. Simon, Blueger and Dominik Kahun are all important parts of the team, but with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin anchoring two lines you could find replacements. Sam Lafferty is another, though how much value he would really bring isn’t clear.
On defense, Marino’s injury really makes it difficult to trade someone like Juuso Riikola, if they even considered it in the past. The Penguins defense group is likely set, unless Rutherford adds another veteran name before what is expected to be a long playoff run.
That leaves goaltending, where many have pointed to Casey DeSmith sitting in the minor leagues as one of the Penguins’ biggest trade chips. Not so fast says Rutherford, who recently explained he doesn’t plan on moving one of his goaltenders at the deadline.
1) Bottom-Six Flexibility: Rutherford is never shy about speaking his mind, and he did just that to Josh Yohe of The Athletic (subscription required). He plans on adding a bottom-six player that can move around a bit, as long as the prices come down over the weekend. Who that player is exactly remains to be seen, but you can bet there will be a new face flying around the ice next week.
2) Depth Defense: The only way this happens is if the Penguins get bad news on Brian Dumoulin or Marino, but you can never have enough options on the back end. Rutherford knows first hand how many defensemen you need for a Stanley Cup playoff run after being forced to use Trevor Daley and Ron Hainsey as top options in 2017.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Florida Panthers have completed a minor league trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning, acquiring Danick Martel in exchange for Anthony Greco. Both players will report to their respective new AHL organizations.
Martel, 25, has put together a solid season for the Syracuse Crunch, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise at this point. The undrafted forward was a star in junior and has scored in every season of professional hockey so far. Originally part of the Philadelphia Flyers organization, Martel scored at least 20 goals in each of his three years with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, a mark he looks poised to crack again this season.
That doesn’t mean he’ll help Florida’s NHL hopes however, as Martel has just 13 games of experience at the highest level and has yet to score a single goal. He’ll also become a group VI unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.
Greco meanwhile isn’t a much different case. The 26-year old was also an undrafted free agent signing, this time out of Ohio State University. The undersized winger has had excellent seasons in the AHL including a 30-goal, 59-point campaign in 2018-10, but has appeared in just a single NHL contest. He is also scheduled to become a group VI unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
While teams try to prepare their rosters for the coming trade deadline, there will be plenty of movement up and down between the NHL and AHL. Eight important games are on the schedule for tonight, and as the last minute tweaks happen we’ll keep track of all the minor moves.
- The Dallas Stars have sent Joel Kiviranta back to the minor leagues, after playing in four games earlier this month. Kiviranta has 11 total appearances on the season and a single goal, but really hasn’t been used as a full-time option in Dallas yet. The 23-year old was signed out of Finland last spring and still has another year left on his deal.
- Gabe Vilardi is expected to make his NHL debut tonight for the Los Angeles Kings, finally recalled after a long recovery period. The 20-year old Vilardi was drafted 11th overall in 2017 but played just four games during the 2018-19 season as he dealt with chronic back issues. His work has paid off however, scoring 25 points in 32 games this season with the Ontario Reign and making it to the NHL.
- The Vegas Golden Knights have sent Jimmy Schuldt and Zach Whitecloud back to the minors after using them to complete a salary cap transaction yesterday. The team gained as much cap relief as possible when they moved Alex Tuch to long-term injured reserve.
- A pair of players have been reassigned by the Vancouver Canucks as well, as the team announced that forward Tyler Graovac and defenseman Guillaume Brisebois have been returned to the AHL’s Utica Comets. Graovac has missed considerable time due to injury this season, but in his limited action has suited up for the Cancucks more than the Comets, whereas Brisebois has been a fixture on the Utica blue line with no NHL appearances yet this season.
- It’s been a bit of a whirlwind in the Florida Panthers’ bottom-six of late, with Jayce Hawryluk and Denis Malgin departing and Danick Martel and Mason Marchment arriving. As a result, the team has brought back a familiar face fore the time being, announcing the recall of Dryden Hunt. Hunt has skated in 20 games with the Cats this season and another 35 with the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have sent Joseph Blandisi and Jake Lucchini to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Riley Barber and Phil Varone. All four players in the deal are currently playing in the AHL and will report to their new respective organizations in Laval and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Interestingly, Barber and Varone were both scratched over the weekend for the Rocket and while nothing will likely be confirmed, AHL reporter Mark Divver tweets that it was “related to some kind of off-ice unrest.” What exactly that means isn’t clear, but they both will now get a fresh start with another organization for the end of the season.
All four of these players are scheduled for free agency of one kind or another at the end of the season, with Blandisi and Lucchini both becoming restricted free agents, Barber headed for group VI unrestricted free agency and Varone scheduled to become a regular (group III) unrestricted free agent.
This deal will likely have very little impact at the NHL level, though Blandisi did play 21 games with Pittsburgh earlier this season and has shown himself to be competent at that level. Barber meanwhile spent nine games with Montreal this season, though still doesn’t have an NHL point in 12 career appearances.
Along with Louis Domingue, who is being held out by the New Jersey Devils, Cody Goloubef has been placed on waivers today. The Ottawa Senators defenseman has played fewer than ten minutes in three of his last four games.
Goloubef, 30, has played in 23 games this season with the Senators, averaging just over 15 minutes a night and recording two points. The former Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman is just depth at this point and given his expiring contract could potentially even be trade bait in the coming days.
Placing a player on waivers sometimes can increase their value at the deadline, as an acquiring team could immediately stash them in the minor leagues. Whether that is the plan with Goloubef isn’t clear, especially given that the Senators may want to just hand over some minutes to their young defense.
The New Jersey Devils may have another trade brewing, as Mike Morreale of NHL.com reports the team will hold out goaltender Louis Domingue tonight for precautionary reasons. In the meantime, Cory Schneider has been recalled from the minor leagues along with Dakota Mermis. Nick Merkley is expected to come out of the lineup after taking a stick to the face in the Devils’ previous game.
Domingue has also been placed on waivers, something teams do at times in order to increase an asset’s trade value. Should Domingue clear, any acquiring club would be able to immediately send him to the minor leagues as a depth option.
The 27-year old Domingue was only acquired by the Devils a few months ago, swapped for a conditional seventh-round pick with the Tampa Bay Lightning. That condition—appearing in seven games—has already been completed, meaning the Devils may be looking to get a similar (or even greater) asset back for the goaltender.
In 16 appearances this season for the Devils, Domingue has a 3-8-2 record and .882 save percentage. Whatever value he may carry is likely due to the 21-5 record he put up for the Lightning in 2018-19, even though he still only had a .908 save percentage in those games.
Schneider meanwhile will return to the NHL after playing 14 games for the Binghamton Devils, posting a 7-7 record and .903 save percentage. It’s hard to imagine that he’ll ever return to being the goaltender that earned a seven-year, $42MM extension in 2014, but perhaps New Jersey can at least squeeze some production out of the 33-year old netminder.
The Philadelphia Flyers have sent Shayne Gostisbehere to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for a conditioning stint, giving him a chance to get some action while he continues to work his way back from arthroscopic knee surgery. Gostisbehere did play for the Flyers once earlier this month, but has missed the last five as he tries to get back to full strength.
Of course, Gostisbehere’s name has also continually surfaced in trade rumors, at least in part because of the struggles he has had this season. Whether those are due to injury or just a change in system under new head coach Alain Vigneault, the former Calder Trophy finalist hasn’t looked like himself all season.
With just 12 points in 41 games, Gostisbehere is an enigma that the Flyers will need to solve before any playoff run. Whether the end of the maze is a trade out of Philadelphia or a rejuvenated performance, the team can’t afford to have his $4.5MM sitting out or underperforming for long.
In a late-night move, the New York Rangers added even more goaltending depth to their organization, acquiring Jean-Francois Berube from the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers will receive future considerations. Berube will stay in the minor leagues, giving the Hartford Wolf Pack another option with Igor Shesterkin staying in the NHL.
As expected, those future considerations are actually an AHL trade between the two organizations. The Hartford Wolf Pack have sent Tom McCollum and Lewis Zerter-Gossage to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Players on AHL deals cannot be including in an NHL trade, meaning the teams needed to use the “future” tag.
For the Flyers, this will open up some playing time for prospect Kirill Ustimenko while still giving their lower minors an established professional goaltender in McCollum. As we mentioned recently in their deadline primer, Ustimenko has some impressive upside and is regarded well as a goaltending prospect. In 31 games for the Reading Royals of the ECHL he has a .919 save percentage.
With the trade deadline now less than two weeks away, we will be taking a closer look at the situation for each team over the coming weeks. Where do they stand, what do they need to do, and what assets do they have to fill those needs? Next up is a look at the Philadelphia Flyers.
They changed their coach, bringing in a veteran in Alain Vigneault. They changed their defense, bringing in veterans Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun. They even changed the center position, spending $50MM on veteran Kevin Hayes. Unfortunately all that change has the Philadelphia Flyers exactly where they’ve been for nearly a decade—fighting to barely make the playoffs.
Obviously that opening paragraph is a bit of a pessimistic look at the Flyers season, given that they currently have their best points percentage since 2011-12, but their tenuous grasp on a Metropolitan playoff spot will inform the upcoming trade deadline. The team is just a single point ahead of the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets, meaning this trade deadline could really decide who gets the final divisional spot.
33-20-7, third in the Metropolitan Division
Deadline Cap Space
$1.33MM in a full-season cap hit (using LTIR), 1/3 used salary cap retention slots, 48/50 contracts per CapFriendly
Upcoming Draft Picks
2020: PHI 1st, PHI 2nd, PHI 4th, NSH 4th, PHI 5th, PHI 6th, PHI 7th, MTL 7th
2021: PHI 1st, PHI 2nd, PHI 3rd, PHI 4th, PHI 5th, PHI 6th, PHI 7th
The first thing to mention when talking about how the Flyers might go about the deadline is cap space, or lack thereof. Not only is the team extremely tight to the cap right now, they also have Nolan Patrick looking like he will return off long-term injured reserve at some point. That doesn’t completely rule out any moves, but it might mean they have to move a roster player or two if any big additions are to be made.
With that in mind, it’s hard to not immediately think of Shayne Gostisbehere once again. The 26-year old defenseman has another three years on his current deal that carries a $4.5MM cap hit, but has been nowhere near the rookie who put up 17 goals and 46 points in 64 games or the third-year player who scored 65. In fact, Gostisbehere has just 12 points this season in 41 games and has seen his playing time drastically reduced. You can bet that other teams are wondering if they could buy low on Gostisbehere and try to coax out that first-pairing puck-mover again, but his contract and history make it a complicated deal.
Defense however is an interesting position to watch with the Flyers, given just how many young options they have in the organization. Look past Niskanen and Braun for a moment and you’ll see six other players 26-or-under that can handle (or even dominate) NHL minutes. If one of them had to go, even if it wasn’t Gostisbehere, the Flyers could still have a strong depth chart moving forward.
Even past those young rostered defensemen are some top-end prospects on defense in Yegor Zamula, Cam York and Adam Ginning (though the latter has taken a step backwards this season) which makes things even more expendable. It’s hard to see them moving Zamula or York at this point, but you can bet teams would be trying to pry something out of the Philadelphia system.
Goaltending prospects may also be a group to watch, given that the Philadelphia net will belong to Carter Hart for the next decade or more. Kirill Ustimenko and Felix Sandstrom are both high-upside goaltenders in the system that may be coveted, even if they are still relatively far from NHL duty.
1) Center Depth: A lot of this depends on the health of Patrick, who has been practicing with the team of late. It’s not clear when the young forward will be back from his migraine issue, but even when he does the team could probably still afford an upgrade down the middle. It’s why Jeff Carter’s name has been thrown around recently, even if a deal of that magnitude would be difficult given their current cap situation.
2) Top-Six Winger: In a perfect world, adding another high-flying winger like Chris Kreider might appeal to the Flyers as well, given the fact that the team has just one player with 20 goals on the year. They can score with a deep offensive group, but when Oskar Lindblom was ruled out for the year, one of their most talented pure goal scorers was ripped from the roster. Again, it might be tough acquiring someone like this given their salary restraints, meaning it would have to probably be a bigger deal than just draft picks for a rental.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.