This weekly series will highlight NHL trade and free agency news and rumors, all with a Penguins-minded spin on how certain items may pertain to the team and could relate to their player acquisition plans.
Every mentioned report lists the sources and will only ever include the top and most trusted of NHL and team media.
So let’s jump right into this inaugural article...
We’re already starting to hear bigger names and more frequent gossip percolating in the press. The trade chatter has begun to rise significantly and that typically signals the behind the scenes action is heating up.
Here’s some of what's being talked about thus far:
-JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK/MAPLE LEAFS/PENGUINS-
Report: Leafs’ almost traded JVR to Penguins, before the Kessel acquisition was able to be arranged. And he remains available as Toronto is willing to talk about virtually everyone save for Morgan Reilly. Per David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period.
Relevance: This one certainly speaks for itself. The Pens are still having trouble scoring, and any significant sniping talent with a manageable contract at a $4.52 million cap hit and under 27-years-old will naturally catch their eye. Although, their higher priorities currently may be on defensive help. JVR would still be worth serious consideration given his talent and the fact players like him are in high demand and are hard to come by on the trade block.
-ALMOST ANYBODY/MAPLE LEAFS-
Report: As I said in the previous item reports are pretty much any Maple Leaf except Reilly could be up for grabs. And with the cupboards completely open, there’s a few people that may strike the Pens interest. And still a few others, besides JVR, who definitely have before. This Leafs mention is again per David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period.
Relevance: There's a few names that are interesting for the Pens in this situation. One that I really like would be Leo Komarov at forward. An under 30 guy who’s really begun to find himself in the league. He’s been one of the few players who consistently causes a lot of trouble for Pens against the Leafs recently. Thus far this season for Toronto he’s scored 5 goals in 17 games played. And he can play all 3 positions, a desirable trait for the Pens, a team highly cognizant of the value of versatility after so many injury plagued seasons. Komarov’s also a physical player and a well-practiced agitator, both something the Penguins could use more of in their lines. And it doesn’t hurt at all that he clocks in at a reasonable $2.95 million cap hit.
Other Leafs’ forwards the Pens may like now and have looked at to small extents in the past include Michael Grabner, P.A. Parenteau, and Brad Boyes. All three have about equal pro-cons in the cases of why they might fit, but my gut tells me the Penguins are looking for fresher and more relevant players. And all 3 were mostly eyed by the Shero regime, so how much interest that may or may not have carried over into the era of JR is an unknown. But Boyes at least was mentioned for a possible training camp PTO just earlier this year, before they filled up those slots with Gonchar and Sestito.
Tyler Bozak is another young, talented forward in the blue and white I would theoretically like for the Pens. But with the team set at center and that being his main forte, the needs just don’t match up. (He’s a bit on the expensive side for what would be a bottom 2 line center in Pittsburgh for my tastes as well.)
On the Leafs' back-end, names that may get some attention include Jake Gardiner, if the Pens decide to target some high-pairing help. He’s an offensive defenseman, which works into Johnston’s game theory of defensemen sparking the forward charges. Gardner hit a career high of 10 goals in 2013/14 in TO. And he’s still just 25.
Another blueliner that could be of interest is Roman Polak. He’s a 3rd pair guy, so not at all a marquee name, but the Pens have plenty of those types to go around. What is of note about Polak is his size and stay-at-home D focus. The Penguins really need to address both those issues on their blue-line. Plus, he’s an absolute punisher. Obviously, the Pens completely lack any defensemen that can really, truly make opposing star players feel the hurt right now. Even in their reserves in WBS, not a single man truly fits that bill. And that’s a big problem, especially if you’re making plans for a post-season run. His price is a little steep for his roster position, at $2.75 million, but we all know the Pens have been able to cut some pretty advantageous salary-back deals with the Leafs brass before. If they could even get just a few hundred thousand knocked off the cost, that’d be something to talk about with Toronto.
-PATRICK MARLEAU/SAN JOSE SHARKS-
Report: Patrick Marleau has named 3 teams which he would accept a trade to- the Kings, Ducks, and Rangers. Per Kevin Kurz of CSNBayArea.com.
Relevance: Marleau has been talked about in loose connection with the Pens at brief times over the past few years, mostly around his stint playing with Crosby on Team Canada. Nothing solid has ever been linked there, and now it seems there definitevly wouldn’t be interest on his end in the Penguins as a possible new home anyways. Being an older player, with a family to consider, he appears to be committed to staying in California if a move has to be made. And moreover, the impossibility of his cap hit, age, and expected performance fall-off with his years catching up to him are among a long list of reasons the Pens interest in him died a long time ago.
That’s all for this week, I’ll be back again weekly with this “On The Market” series. If there’s anything you’d like to see specifically out of this space or if you have any article ideas, feel free to contact me. I’m more than happy to hear from you! Thanks for reading!