A disappointing season for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins just took another tough turn. The team announced this afternoon that defensemen Kris Letang and Chad Ruhwedel and forward Bryan Rust have all been placed on injured reserve. There had been indications of possible moves such as these earlier in the day when head coach Mike Sullivan stated that Ruhwedel was “week-to-week” with an upper-body injury and Rust was out long-term with an upper-body injury of his own, as well as confirmed that Letang would remain out of the lineup, but the reality of three starters hitting the shelf on the same day could be jarring for Penguins fans.
In corresponding moves, the team has recalled defenseman Andrey Pedan, forward Garrett Wilson, and goaltender Casey DeSmith after previously calling up rearguard Frank Corrado earlier in the day. Pedan could potentially be making his Penguins debut soon after coming over from the Vancouver Canucks this summer in the Derrick Pouliot trade. Between the 6’5″ Pedan and newly-acquired 6’7″ Jamie Oleksiak, the Penguins certainly have some size on the blue line right now. However, with both Letang and Justin Schultz out of the lineup, it will likely be the more offensively-inclined Corrado looked to for a greater impact. Up front, Wilson seems more likely to be an emergency depth option or occasional fourth-line contributor than any sort of replacement for Rust. The 26-year-old has zero points in 34 NHL games. If scoring becomes a problem with both Rust and Letang now sidelined long-term, it could be time for Daniel Sprong to make his much-awaited return to Pittsburgh.
The most interesting impact of these injury moves could be the effect on the trade status of Letang. The All-Star defender’s availability has been a hot topic recently, but these new health concerns added to the career laundry list for the oft-injured defenseman will surely be a factor in talks.