It’s no secret that the Pittsburgh Penguins, annual players at the trade deadline, are in the market to bolster their roster for another playoff run. With a season-ending injury to Pascal Dupuis, one of their top priorities at the deadline will be to find a fit at RW to play the starboard side with stars Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. The Penguins’ other focus will be to improve their bottom six, particularly on the wings.
Overall, Pittsburgh will be looking to become more difficult to play against. Just as it was painfully obvious in their 2013 Eastern Conference Final beat down at the hands of the Boston Bruins, there have been reminders this season, such as their 3-0 shutout loss to the Dallas Stars, that the Penguins struggle playing big, physical teams, with a defensive-focused game plan.
GM Ray Shero will seek to add top line players that: 1.) Are experienced right wingers (no more experiments with playing the off-wing like Iginla last season.) 2.) Have the skating ability to stay with Crosby. 3.) Can produce offensively without sacrificing defensive responsibilities. 4.) Offer size and/or strength to win individual puck battles in the post-season. 5.) Preferably have some controllable years on their contract at a fair market cost.
Their bottom six candidates will: 1.) Utilize size and strength to win battles, protect the puck and play physical hockey in all zones. 2.) Play a consistently solid defensive game, with the ability to be a shutdown line player. 3.) Have the ability to provide secondary scoring and consistent offensive pressure. 4.) Possess skating ability to play with speed and provide a spark. 5.) Be willing to take and dish out hits without losing control of emotions.
While finding an ideal player in every facet may not happen, below is a list of players that fit, or at least have shown potential to be a fit, for the Penguins’ on ice and salary cap needs.
Top Line Fits:
Max Pacioretty – Canadiens
Excellent hands, shot and overall scoring ability, with top-notch speed, and size to win battles on the boards and in front of the net. Some injury concerns. Signed through ’18-’19 with $4.5 MM cap hit.
Kyle Okposo – Islanders
Showing his potential this season playing a very strong game next to John Tavares. Strong skater, great worker with a scary shot. Good size. Not yet great defensively, but improving. Isles may not have much motivation to move him, other than a continuing their roster shake up. Signed through ’15-’16 with $2.8 MM cap hit.
Lee Stempniak – Flames
Can be a white-hot sniper in spurts. Quick if not fast. Can boost special-teams and play either wing position. Doesn’t have great size, not the best battler and REALLY streaky… but could be had without a great cost. Pending UFA with current $2.5 MM cap hit.
Ryan O’Reilly – Avalanche
Tireless worker that doesn’t mind doing the dirty work and is a big-time clutch scorer. Can play center and wing proficiently. A tad inconsistent in his offensive game, but is improving. Will require plenty of assets to acquire. Pending RFA with current $5 MM cap hit.
Jordan Eberle – Oilers
A natural goal-scorer. Goes to the net and is a very good passer. Works hard and has an excellent hockey IQ. Not very big or strong which affects his corner work and defensive game. May be cost prohibitive from an asset standpoint. Signed through ’18-’19 with $6 MM cap hit.
David Perron – Oilers
A finisher and playmaker, he can skate, score and pass with top players. Not great defensively, and injuries are a major concern. Signed through ’15-’16 with $3.8 MM cap hit.
Nino Niederreiter – Wild
Big, loves to shoot and play a physical game. Can play either wing. Is new to the NHL level, so naturally, consistency is a bit of an issue. Could be a match due to the Pittsburgh connection in Minnesota and Nino’s youth would make a return of prospects and/or picks more palatable. Pending RFA with current EL $870 K cap hit.
Patric Hornqvist – Predators
Has proven he can score and is good at finding open spaces on the ice. Strong in the dirty areas despite his lack of size. Can be a little over the top with histrionics. Signed through ’17-’18 with $4.25 MM cap hit.
Viktor Stalberg – Predators
Great size and unbelievable speed and acceleration. Has shown flashes of scoring ability, but is beginning to drop in stock due to his “soft” play for such a big guy and inconsistency in both ends. Boom or bust player, but could really excel playing with Crosby and Kunitz and come on the cheap. Signed through ’16-’17 with $3 MM cap hit.
Mikkel Boedker – Coyotes
Uses his speed to his best advantage in all three zones. Not a shooter, so he doesn’t score goals as often as he could. Has size, but isn’t particularly physical, but still has plenty of upside. Signed through ’14-’15 with $2.55 MM cap hit.
Blake Wheeler – Jets
Big fellah that can skate. Good puck management and works the corners. At his best, seeks out contact and can score. Can be streaky on offense. Doesn’t always use his huge frame and can give up on the back check at times. Signed through ’18-’19 with $5.6 MM cap hit.
Of course there has been some chatter regarding more than just a few players that are not listed here. Below are players which were purposely omitted as they do not address the Penguins’ overall goals at the deadline.
Thomas Vanek – A LW, with so-so wheels. Has size, but rarely uses it. Cost prohibitive in both assets to acquire as well as dollars to potentially re-sign. Pending UFA with current $7.1 MM cap hit, partially retained by Buffalo.
Matt Moulson – A LW, lacking skating ability and physicality. Not very strong in the defensive zone. Pending UFA with current $3.1 MM cap hit.
Mike Cammallieri – can play all 3 forward spots, but best suited in the middle or the left. Rather small and on the streaky side offensively. Pure rental. Pending UFA with current $6 MM cap hit.
Brad Boyes – struggles with consistency. Has rep of being a “soft” player that prefers to avoid the dirty areas. Not strong defensively, nor much of a battler. Pending UFA with current $1 MM cap hit.
Evander Kane – A LW, with marginal decision making and lets his emotions get the best of him at times. Suspect as a teammate, displays immaturity off-ice. Will demand a massive amount of assets to acquire. Signed through ’17-’18 with $5.25 MM cap hit.
Andrew Ladd – A LW, with scoring inconsistency. Cost prohibitive from an asset standpoint. Signed through ’15-’16 with $4.4 MM cap hit.
Nail Yakupov – Better suited as a LW. Not great on size or strength at this point in his career. Suspected immaturity reduces his attractiveness as a player. Signed through ’14-’15 EL with $925 K cap hit.
Sam Gagner – a bit undersized center that also plays wing… but really a center. Unattractive contract. Signed through ’15-’16 with $4.8 MM cap hit.
Ales Hemsky – ok on size, but not great along the boards. Has under produced for years. Streaky and injury prone. Pending UFA with current $5 MM cap hit.
Ryan Callahan – would be a great fit if not for the high cost to acquire, his inflated reported salary requirements, recent injury concerns and likely lack of interest trading with a long-time division rival. Pending UFA with current $4.275 MM cap hit.
Bottom 6 Fits:
Steve Ott – Sabres
High energy grinder that works tirelessly on every shift. Yappy agitator type that is very proficient at getting under opponent’s skin. Very versatile. Can play any forward role. Plays PK, solid in the face-off dot, and even score regularly enough to be dangerous offensively. Not great on pure size, and can go too far with the agitator thing… taking bad penalties. Pending UFA with current $2.95 MM cap hit.
Tuomo Ruutu – Hurricanes
High motor guy. A grinder with great hands. Loves contact and the dirty areas. Good skater and versatile enough to play all forward roles. Not always great in the details, seems to lose focus at times. Hot and cold type. A rep as a slightly dirty player and injuries are a legit concern. Would require partial cap retention. Signed through ’15-’16 with $4.75 MM cap hit.
Scottie Upshall – Panthers
Has lots of tools. Can skate, fight, battle in the corners, is a solid hitter, and plays with emotion. Is prone to prolonged slumps in scoring and injuries. Signed through ’14-’15 with $3.5 MM cap hit.
Shawn Matthias – Panthers
Very big, two-way talent. Can play center or wing. Can take face-offs, doesn’t have great speed, but is still a fluid skater. Plays crunch time minutes because he works hard and has excellent defensive awareness. More of a stick checker despite his size. Has the talent to improve his offensive game. Signed through ’14-’15 with $1.75 MM cap hit.
Sean Bergenheim – Panthers
Elevates his game in the post-season. Very good skater and is never shy to shoot the puck. Diligent worker in all zones and has shown he can go on scoring binges. Has tendency to be exceptionally streaky as a scorer and will go into overall lapses that are mystifying to coaches and fans alike. Signed through ’14-’15 with $2.75 MM cap hit.
Dainius Zubrus – Devils
Monster sized forward who knows how to utilize his massive frame to shield defenders, and even push opponents around when he wants to. Is very solid defensively and can play any position up front. Seems to lose confidence in his offensive game, despite a decent shot, he doesn’t use it enough. Signed through ’15-’16 with $3.1 MM cap hit.
Matt Martin – Islanders
Big, physical winger, with a mean streak and will throw down. Skates relatively well for a big man, can contribute on offense. Sometimes suspect defensively, and may go overboard seeking retribution at times. Signed through ’15-’16 with $1 MM cap hit.
Chris Neil – Senators
Nasty agitator that loves to throw hits. Team first type who will take on all comers, despite his middle-weight size. Has some offensive ability, but is an inconsistent scorer. Prone to emotional, silly penalties. Signed through ’15-’16 with $1.9 MM cap hit.
Colin Greening – Senators
Big body with exceptional speed. Has good hockey sense and can score. Can also play center as well as wing. Could improve his defense and could use his size to his advantage somewhat better. Signed through ’16-’17 with $2.65 MM cap hit.
Nikolai Kulemin – Leafs
Plays a heavy, but intelligent game. Has a high hockey IQ and excellent hands. Can play either wing. Very sound defensively. Doesn’t produce points like a player of his skill level should and can be very streaky. Pending UFA with current $2.8 MM cap hit.
Eric Fehr – Capitals
Big body with soft hands, good shot and a knack for finding open space. Not a great skater, not always physical for such a large fellah. Defense can be a bit spotty. Signed through ’14-’15 with $1.5 MM cap hit.
Troy Brouwer – Capitals
A big-time hit machine. Good size and ability to score goals. Good hockey sense and consistent in all three zones. Can play either wing spot. Only an OK skater and can be a streaky offensive producer. Signed through ’15-’16 with $3.66 MM cap hit.
Joel Ward – Capitals
Heavy frame and a tireless worker. Can overpower opponents and consistently wins one on one battles. Forechecks exceptionally well. Team-first type that scores in the clutch. Could be more aggressive shooting the puck and can be a streaky scorer. Signed through ’14-’15 with $3 MM cap hit.
Curtis Glencross – Flames
Fleet, physical, north-south type. Very solid in all zones. Can work on PK. Can score in traffic. Not tremendously skilled, which leads to long offensive dry spells. Signed through ’14-’15 with $2.55 MM cap hit.
Jamie McGinn – Avalanche
Tenacious defensively. Works hard in all zones. Decent shot with decent wheels. Could work on his puck protection skills and passing. Streaky scorer and still a bit inconsistent overall, but still room for development. Pending RFA with current $1.75 MM cap hit.
Antoine Roussel – Stars
Burgeoning agitator-type that relishes contact and battling along the boards. Shows flashes of nifty goal scoring, but far from a dangler. Must be careful to maintain emotions and avoid taking silly penalties. Pending RFA with current EL $612 K cap hit.
Ryan Garbutt – Stars
Plays “bigger” than his size. All-out effort type that seeks out contact. Can produce offense in limited minutes and is very solid positionally. Doesn’t have great strength and can bite off more than he can chew at times. Just Re-Signed through ’16-’17 with $1.8 MM cap hit that begins next season. Current $575 K cap hit.
Alex Chiasson – Stars
Exceptional size with room to grow into his monster-size frame. Loves the physical game, displays soft hands, and is developing a bull rush. Needs to add weight and strength and work on defensive zone coverage. Still young, so his potential has yet to be reached. Definite top-6 spot in his future. Signed through ’14-’15 EL with $886 K cap hit.
Matt Hendricks – Oilers
A true battler with good size, great wheels and non-stop energy. Can really bang with the big boys and make opponents miserable. Good passer with sometimes surprisingly good on-ice vision. Not much for goal-scoring and can go overboard on the rough stuff at times. Signed through ’16-’17 with $1.85 MM cap hit.
Eric Nystrom – Predators
Solid everywhere. Good two-way player that plays north-south type game. Hard worker with great versatility. Can play any forward spot. Can be an inconsistent offensive contributor without top end strength. Signed through ’16-’17 with $2.5 MM cap hit.
Keep in mind, we are not discussing what assets the Penguins will need to trade to acquire these players, but obviously, the higher the cap cost of the player acquired, the more current roster salary will have to be shed or retained by the current club.
What are your thoughts?