At one point in time, it seemed like Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ian Cole was as good as gone. The two-time Stanley Cup champ had been losing ice time and was even a frequent healthy scratch. However, Cole has seen his role return in recent weeks as he continues to be one the most defensively sound players on the team. The impending free agent now seems safe through this season, but the Penguins are still looking to move a defenseman to open up cap space for their ongoing pursuit of forward depth.
The new name on the chopping block is Matt Hunwick. TSN’s Darren Dreger stated earlier that it was “looking like” Hunwick would be the blue liner shipped out of town. That is, if anyone is willing to take him. In only his first season in Pittsburgh after signing a three-year deal this summer, Hunwick is an unexpected addition to the market. Signed for two more years at a $2.25MM cap hit, any team interested in Hunwick would be looking less for a rental and more for a long-term investment. An underwhelming presence in Pittsburgh this year, Hunwick has missed significant time due to a concussion, has just five points in 33 games, and has the worst Corsi among Penguin defensemen.
With that said, Hunwick has shown 20+ point upside and the ability to play 20:00+ minutes per night in past seasons. His three-year, $7.75MM contract doesn’t look great right now, but if acquired at a bargain rate as a Penguins cap dump – perhaps with some salary retained even – Hunwick could prove to be a valuable depth resource for any number of teams. If GM Jim Rutherford is intent on moving out Hunwick, he’ll find a way to do it.