- Penguins goalie Matt Murray is making significant progress in his recovery from his lower-body injury, head coach Mike Sullivan told reporters, including Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The team would like to get him some practice time but with the team playing eight times over the next two weeks, they’re only slated to practice once in that span. In the meantime, Casey DeSmith will remain as the number one starter in his absence and has fared quite well in that role thus far.
With leading scorer Matt Duchene on injured reserve and expected out for “weeks”, what little chances the Ottawa Senators had of making the playoffs this season are likely to slip away. This was always the expected result of the 2018-19 season for Ottawa, but their efforts thus far to stay out of the basement of the NHL have surprised many and inspired some. However, as reality now begins to finally set in, the team must decide what they want to do with Duchene and fellow impending free agents Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel. As Ken Warren of the Ottawa Sun writes, Duchene – currently tied for ninth in the league in scoring – will likely ask for an eight-year deal in the ballpark of $60-70MM to remain in Ottawa, reflective of the salary he will likely command on the open market. Stone will be in the same neighborhood, with Dzingel significantly lower albeit not cheap by any means, but the Senators cannot even begin negotiations with the pair until the new year, per the rules pertaining to their recent salary arbitration decisions. As such, the team is dealing with three high-quality expiring assets without any guarantee that they will be re-sign or if the team will be willing to meet their salary demands. In a season in which Ottawa could finish with one of the worst records in the league but lacks their first-round pick – given to the Colorado Avalanche in the deal that landed Duchene – it stands to reason that GM Pierre Dorion will strongly consider recouping as much trade capital as possible if extensions are not in place by the trade deadline. Given the uncertainly surrounding the ownership status of Eugene Melnyk, whose tactics thus far leave much to be desired anyway, Warren believes that Duchene, Stone, and Dzingel, as well as any other free agent in the coming off-season, will think twice about a future in Ottawa. All things considered, it’s beginning to look like the trio stand a better chance to all be traded away in the coming months than any of them do of signing a long-term extension.
- The Athletic’s Graeme Nichols wonders if yet another Senator is prime trade bait right now as well. With veteran goaltender Craig Anderson playing his best hockey of the season so far, Nichols opines that Ottawa would be best-served to try moving their starter while his stock is high. While the recent home-and-home series with the Montreal Canadiens did not go so well, Anderson did look very good in wins over the New York Rangers and San Jose Sharks prior, recording 63 saves on 65 shots over the two contests. Anderson also made 48 saves against the Dallas Stars last month and notched wins over the Tampa Bay Lighting and Pittsburgh Penguins. Admittedly, even as this best, Anderson is still a 37-year-old replacement-level goaltender at this point in his career and won’t command much of a return. However, the Senators’ season is sinking and they should get what they can while his value is potentially at its peak. The knock on moving Anderson this season has been that Ottawa has no suitable replacement – backups Mike Condon and Mike McKenna have performed very poorly in limited appearances – and thus trading Anderson means giving up on the season. Yet, with Duchene out long-term, any postseason hopes will fade and moving Anderson will begin to make more sense. As Nichols recalls, Anderson himself also alluded to a desire to move on from Ottawa this summer, so making a deal seems to be in the best interest of all parties. There are plenty of teams out there who would be intrigued by adding an established veteran in net this year and Anderson could soon fill that role.
- The Chicago Blackhawks made it known yesterday that they are looking to move out some of their defensive depth, but NBC Sports’ James O’Brien asks if they are focused on the wrong players. Rather than try to flip the likes of Brandon Manning or Jan Rutta, for which they would receive relatively little, O’Brien believes that the team’s long-term needs would be better served by trading away a mainstay like Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook. This is not so cut-and-dry, as O’Brien admits, but would be worth looking into. Both players carry no-trade clauses that Chicago GM Stan Bowman would first need to ask them to waive. Even if Seabrook was to agree, it seems very unlikely that Bowman would find a taker for the depreciating defenseman and his albatross of a contract. If by some chance he does, it would be a small return similar to Manning or Rutta, but with a far greater salary cap relief. Keith is another matter; while not what he once was, the 35-year-old is still a very capable defenseman who would play in the top four for nearly every team in the NHL, at least for now. The worry is that Keith will continue to age and his ability will fall off, while the Blackhawks continue to pay him more than $5.5MM per year and rely on him for top minutes. Removing that crutch (and cap hit) now, in what appears to be another lost season for the team, would give Chicago a strong return that they could use to begin rebuilding the team. The alternative, which also appears to be the current plan, of waiting for the current roster to turn things around, will only increase the risk of injury or drop-off from Keith while damaging his market value as he ages. A move now would be painful to the fan base in the short term, but the right move looking toward the future.
- One team who could be a dangerous player at the trade deadline this season are the Colorado Avalanche. Per CapFriendly, the Avs are currently projected to have more than $56MM in cap space available at the deadline, or in other words have no limit to the amount of talent they can bring in if they so choose. Colorado is currently tied for the lead in the Central Division with the Nashville Predators and could even emerge as President’s Trophy threats this season. Armed with the best line in the NHL, including the top two scorers in the league, Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon, and the best power play as well, the Avalanche are second in goals for per game among all teams. They also play well in their own end, seventh in goals against per game behind the efforts of Semyon Varlamov. Yet, the Avalanche are not without fault and could stand to add a contributor or two both on defense and up front. The team was expected to add top prospect Cale Makar to their blue line by the end of the regular season, but with his college squad, the UMass Minutemen, ranked No. 1 in the nation, Makar could be occupied through the Frozen Four tournament in mid-April. A capable puck-moving defenseman should thus be at the top of the list for Colorado, followed by an injection of offensive ability and two-way accountability among the forward corps, where their secondary scoring and penalty kill could both use work. While the matter of cost in trade capital is another question entirely, the Avalanche will have the cap space to hypothetically address their needs by adding the likes of Jordan Eberle, Kevin Hayes, and Jay Bouwmeester for example. That’s a dangerous premise for other contenders to consider as Colorado continues to excel this season.
Penguins winger Jake Guentzel was open to beginning discussions regarding a contract extension back in the offseason, notes Josh Yohe of The Athletic (subscription required). However, GM Jim Rutherford indicated at the time that his preference was to negotiate a new deal next summer. While that may have been disappointing at the time for Guentzel, it’s fair to suggest that this worked out quite well for him. The 24-year-old has 22 points through 26 games so far this season which puts him on pace for 69, a number that would vastly surpass his previous career best of 48. Although he’s still on his entry-level deal, Guentzel is eligible for salary arbitration next summer so he is well-positioned to land a substantial raise on his current $734K cap hit and almost assuredly more than if he signed an extension last summer.
The Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins have completed a trade, though it isn’t as major as some had hoped. The Penguins will be sending Stefan Elliott and Tobias Lindberg to the Senators in exchange for Ben Sexton and Macoy Erkamps.
The deal will bring Lindberg back to the team that drafted him back in 2013, after quite the tour of the NHL. Traded originally to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Dion Phaneuf deal, Lindberg has since spent time in the Vegas Golden Knights and Penguins organizations. Despite bouncing around, the 23-year old forward still has just six NHL games under his belt, all with Toronto. Armed with good size and some keen offensive instincts, he still hasn’t been able to put it all together in the minor leagues and had just six points in 15 games for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Elliott meanwhile has much more professional experience, and plenty of success in the minor leagues. The 27-year old defenseman is a legitimate goal-scoring threat every time he touches the ice, and scored 19 times for the Lake Erie Monsters just a few seasons ago. After testing his skills in the KHL and SHL over the last two years, he resurfaced for the baby Penguins this season and has eight points in 20 games.
In return, the Penguins are likely mainly interested in Sexton, who can give them some more depth in the middle. The seventh-round pick from 2009 has just two NHL games under his belt, but has been a dependable two-way player in the minor leagues for several years. Erkamps on the other hand has spent this season exclusively in the ECHL, where he has six points in 21 games.
A flip of two-way contracts, neither team will add or subtract any cap hits unless one of the players is recalled. For now, all four will report to their respective minor league clubs.
Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, the Pittsburgh Penguins apparently “tested the market” on enigmatic superstar Phil Kessel. That’s according to Elliotte Friedman’s latest 31 Thoughts column for Sportsnet, which notes that Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is still looking to make a move to upgrade his current roster. There was speculation that Kessel could be on the move earlier this year after Pittsburgh were knocked out of the postseason, though nothing came of it.
The 31-year old Kessel is still an incredible offensive talent and sits currently with 29 points through his first 26 games this season. Just last year he posted the best season of his career to-date, recording 92 points, finishing ahead of teammate Sidney Crosby and seventh in the entire league. That point-per-game production didn’t quite continue in the playoffs, and Kessel was only able to record a single goal in 12 postseason appearances.
Still, there’s no doubting that he can help any team reach the Stanley Cup. In his first two seasons with the Penguins, Kessel was a force in the playoffs with 45 points in 49 games and was a huge part of the back-to-back championships. The forward that had been figuratively run out of both Boston and Toronto seemed to find a perfect home in Pittsburgh, where he could play the part of the third musketeer behind Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
The question now is, with the Penguins struggling out of the gate, whether Kessel is still that perfect fit. The team has turned things around of late and are now within striking distance of a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division, but find themselves pushed right up against the cap and using long-term injured reserve to ice a competitive team. Though part of Kessel’s salary is still being paid by the Maple Leafs, he still counts for $6.8MM against the Penguins cap and has three more seasons on his current deal. That room could be used for other things, and there’s bound to be interest in a point-per-game sniper like the Wisconsin native.
There’s no reason to think that a Kessel trade is imminent—especially given that he still holds a substantial no-trade clause—but it’s hard to rule out anything when it comes to Rutherford. He’s already been one of the more active executives in the league this season, sending Carl Hagelin and Daniel Sprong out to try and shake things up in the dressing room. In came Tanner Pearson and Marcus Pettersson, but neither player is a game-changing talent like Kessel, nor as substantial an asset as he would likely return.
A previous version of Friedman’s story used the term “testing the market.” It has since been updated.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t wait long to make another move to shake up their roster, this time trading away Daniel Sprong to the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks will send defenseman Marcus Pettersson in return, in another case of a one-for-one deal.
Like Josh Leivo, who earlier today was traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Sprong hasn’t been able to find a fit in Pittsburgh despite his obvious offensive potential. Selected in the second round of the 2015 draft, the sensational QMJHL scorer has just nine points in 42 NHL games and was without a goal during his 16 contests this year. Some may say that he rarely looked deserving of a bigger opportunity while in Pittsburgh, but he certainly did in the minor leagues where he recorded 65 points in 65 games last season as a rookie. Still, it was obvious that he wasn’t going to find success with the Penguins in the immediate future, something that the team is desperately chasing while Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel are still in their prime Cup-contending years.
For Anaheim, there’s little reason to believe that an opportunity won’t be there for Sprong to thrive. The team has been struggling to find consistent offensive presences since Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler started to decline, and still had depth on defense to deal from. Pettersson, while a competent player that looks destined for a long NHL career, was unlikely to supplant the Ducks other star defensemen like Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson or Brandon Montour. With others like Jacob Larsson and Joshua Mahura pushing for playing time as well, there was an obvious fit for these two teams to try and help each other.
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford told media after the trade that Pettersson could have a Brian Dumoulin-like affect for the team in the future, and that seems to be the ceiling for the young defenseman. Selected 38th overall in 2014, Pettersson has grown into a capable defender with a long reach, but has still yet to show much offensive upside that could take him to the next level of production. That’s not to say he needs to supply any offense to be productive—especially in Pittsburgh where they already have plenty of firepower—but he was the obvious choice to send out for Anaheim if they were looking to trade from their position of strength.
That lack of offense actually will likely benefit the Penguins, given that Pettersson is up for a new contract after this season. The pending restricted free agent has just 10 points in 49 games, and almost assuredly will be an inexpensive option for Pittsburgh to plug in next season. The team already has five defensemen signed to contracts that total more than $20MM, meaning a player like Pettersson with a reasonable cap hit is necessary. Sprong meanwhile is signed for another season at just a $750K cap hit, giving Anaheim plenty of time to see if they feel he can be a core piece before having to pay him anything substantial.
Although the Penguins were recently noted as a potential suitor for Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (citing multiple sources from within the organization) that it’s extremely unlikely that Pittsburgh opts to trade for help between the pipes.
Starter Matt Murray has struggled considerably this season and is out for the longer term with a lower-body injury. As a result, they’re running with Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry, a pair of players with some upside but not a lot of NHL experience. Accordingly, they could certainly use some veteran help for the time being.
However, Pittsburgh’s salary cap situation is working against them. They’re already into LTIR with defenseman Justin Schultz but since he’ll be back before the end of the season, using that space to bring in a goaltender is risky since they’d have to get back into cap compliance before Schultz could be activated. Basically, they have enough room to acquire someone making close to the league minimum.
Unfortunately for the Penguins, there aren’t any capable proven netminders available at that price tag. If they were to seriously take a run at someone like Howard or a more expensive veteran, they’d have to send out a higher-priced veteran player as part of the return and potentially need the other team to retain salary. That’s a tough sell this early in the season but could be more palatable closer to the trade deadline.
The Penguins currently sit in sixth in the Metropolitan Division and are going to need much better goaltending to get back into a playoff position. However, there isn’t likely to be help from outside the organization on the horizon so it will be up to DeSmith and Jarry to step up in Murray’s absence.
With the Arizona Coyotes dealing with some health concerns in net, they’ve decided to claim goaltender Calvin Pickard off waivers from the Philadelphia Flyers. The Pittsburgh Penguins meanwhile have reclaimed Jean-Sebastien Dea off waivers from the New Jersey Devils. Dea has been immediately sent to the minor leagues, meaning the Penguins were the only team who put in a claim.
Pickard is off to his fourth team since the end of the 2016-17 season, when he finished the year as the starting goaltender for the Colorado Avalanche. He was then selected in the expansion draft by the Vegas Golden Knights, only to be traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs before ever playing a regular season game for Vegas. In Toronto, he spent nearly the entire 2017-18 season in the minor leagues, winning a Calder Cup as a backup to Garret Sparks, before eventually being waived just prior to the start of this year.
In Philadelphia, his numbers have not been up to the level he showed in Colorado and was obviously not the long-term solution for the Flyers. He’s no more the solution in Arizona though, as he is an obvious short-term solution while Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper try to get healthy. Adin Hill will make the next start for Arizona, just his fifth of his career. That forced GM John Chayka to go out and acquire some more experience, something that Pickard brings even if there hasn’t been a lot of success lately.
Pittsburgh meanwhile will get Dea back after watching him score five points in 20 games for the Devils this year. The undrafted forward was a project of the Pittsburgh development system for the last few seasons, and will now re-enter that organization after getting his feet wet at the NHL level. Though it was obviously not planned, this was actually not the worst outcome for the Penguins if they felt they couldn’t afford to give Dea that short opportunity themselves. The 24-year old now has some additional NHL games under his belt, and can attempt to improve his game even further in the minor leagues.
The Detroit Red Wings are in the midst of a rebuild. Whether or not they’re willing to admit that fact or continue to try and push for a playoff spot this season, it is clear that the team is not set up for Stanley Cup contention as presently constructed. They do have plenty of good young talent in the NHL and on the way, but there just aren’t enough elite players to really push them into the upper echelon of the Atlantic Division, let alone the Eastern Conference. With that in mind, the Red Wings may very well see this season’s trade deadline as an opportunity to gather more assets for the future and continue building towards an eventual competitive window. One of the players who is already drawing interest from around the league is goaltender Jimmy Howard, who is having another excellent season and is in the final year of his current contract.
Recently, Darren Dreger of TSN reported that the St. Louis Blues had shown interest in the Detroit netminder given the struggles of both Jake Allen and Chad Johnson and today Frank Seravalli of TSN writes that the Pittsburgh Penguins also have interest. Seravalli notes that the Penguins have a first -round pick to “dangle” in front of the Red Wings, something that the Blues do not have after giving it up for Ryan O’Reilly this offseason. Howard comes with a $5.3MM cap hit this season but wouldn’t represent a long-term investment for any acquiring team.
Interestingly, in the same piece Seravalli also lists Penguins goaltender Matt Murray as a potential trade candidate due to his growing injury concerns and struggles this season. If the Penguins were to be pursuing someone like Howard, it would make some sense that they’d need to send one of their young netminders elsewhere. Pittsburgh has Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry manning the crease while Murray deals with his latest injury, a tandem that certainly doesn’t have the experience someone like Howard has.
From these reports it doesn’t seem like anything is close, but the fact that the Penguins would show interest in a veteran goaltender is something to keep an eye on. GM Jim Rutherford isn’t shy with in-season moves to improve his club, and Pittsburgh still believes they can compete this year. With the return of Sidney Crosby recently, the Penguins are now 10-8-5 on the season and just three points out of a Metropolitan Division playoff spot.
The Red Wings meanwhile now have Jonathan Bernier under contract through 2020-21 and little reason to not trade Howard before the deadline, unless they plan on re-signing the veteran netminder. The two sides have definitely discussed a multi-year extension, but if Detroit is offered a big enough package in return it will be hard to turn down.
The injury ride continues in Pittsburgh as Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan announced that winger Patric Hornqvist is out with a concussion after leaving Friday’s game against Boston during the second period. While no timeline has been suggested, it’s just another blow for a team that is trying to turn around its slow start.
The Penguins find themselves tied for last place in the Metropolitan Division with an 8-8-5 record as the team has struggled out of the gate, while also dealing with multiple injuries, including injuries to Justin Schultz, Matt Murray, Derick Brassard and even losing Sidney Crosby for three games recently. The team lost nine of 10 games at one point and have done little to improve on that since.
Hornqvist’s loss won’t help either as the 31-year-old was putting up solid numbers as he has nine goals and 15 points in 21 games, providing the team with a reliable top-six presence. Concussions aren’t anything new for the veteran, however. This is Hornqvist’s third reported concussion in his career. He missed six games back in November of 2016 and then missed another five games during the same season in March of 2017.