A scuffling, mediocre season from the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Penguins cannot be leaving many people in this team’s circle – be it fans, players, or management – too happy.
So what is the temperature in Pittsburgh these days?
“It’s hot,” replied NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman during a Tuesday afternoon radio hit on Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650. “It’s not global warming hot, it’s center of the earth hot. Like, it’s hot there. And they’re looking to do things. They’re trying to get some offense in there, there’s no question about that.
“I think they’ve had some interest in Evander Kane. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were interested in Pacioretty. They’re looking. I think if they could, they’d add a winger and a center. I wouldn’t be surprised if they could do both.
“Jim Rutherford, we’ve talked about he’s a guy who likes to move early, but I think he realizes he’s just at a point now – I think that’s the toughest division in hockey. There’s going to be three teams there that could make the playoffs just about anywhere else who are going to miss it. I just think that they’re running out of time. They’ve got to do something, and they know.
“There’s still a lot of divisional matchups left and that will balance it, but I really think it’s interesting. Matt Murray – somebody told me today – he’s not starting tonight. Tristan Jarry is going to start their game against Philadelphia. I think this is the first game that Murray hasn’t started where he was eligible to play where he wasn’t hurt or a back-to-back. He doesn’t miss standalone games, and he’s missing this one tonight. They’re playing Jarry because Murray has really been struggling. They say they’re not worried about him and I think in a pure play point of view they’re not worried about him, but he can’t stay healthy and you’ve got to be worried about that.
“So I think that there’s a lot of concern there and they’re looking to do something. I’ll tell you this: I had a conversation with a general manager yesterday, it was pretty funny. He just said to me, ‘I hope nobody helps Pittsburgh.’ Like, it’s enough. They’ve won twice in a row. Why is somebody going to help them. So I kind of laughed and thought that was pretty funny.”
Friedman | Penguins have kind of tested the water on Letang trade
Darren Dreger also appeared on the radio in the Vancouver market a short time later, but on TSN 1040.
Again the Penguins were mentioned, with the question put to Dreger if Rutherford might like to make a move to get a jump on the second half of the season.
“Yeah, I don’t think there’s any doubt that Jim Rutherford is going to do something,” agreed Dreger. “And your evaluation/assessment/recollection is bang-on. It’s looking back at the moves that he’s made, sometimes they’re depth moves like Ron Hainsey that turned out to be a key move that helped the Pittsburgh Penguins last year win a Stanley Cup because he elevated into a Top 4 and some nights, some shifts, a top-pairing defenseman. And he was brought in to be a depth guy at best. Sometimes those little tweaks can turn out to be much bigger deals.
“But that was a different team than the team we’re looking at right now. This Penguins team – it looks tired. It looks like it was hoping that some of the players that aren’t necessarily young players just developing, trying to turn a corner in National Hockey League, haven’t yet embraced the opportunity. And I’m not being critical of those guys, it’s just when you’ve got a team that’s front-loaded with the likes of Crosby and Malkin and Kessel and the big contract guys – and Kris Letang fits into that discussion as well – you need Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary and go down the list of all of those guys to really take a step forward.
“And I thought that they had very good years last year. But when you have a good year, everyone around you – including your coach and general manager – expect more from you the following year. And so I think the middle of that team has been somewhat problematic to go along with injury and some other things that are going on in Pittsburgh.
“So I’m not willing to write them off yet. I think that the goal for the Penguins is a pretty simple one: claw your way back into contention in terms of a playoff spot. If that team qualifies for the playoffs in the East, then all bets are off. Because again, their leadership can find a way to grab hold of the situation.
“But I suspect that Jimmy will try and pull a couple of things off to try and energize that group.”
LeBrun | Pacioretty trade speculation may spur more calls to Canadiens
Friedman said during his appearance that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Canadiens had interest in Pacioretty, and last week he had thought there might be a deal to be made there with Kris Letang and Pacioretty being the key pieces. Again, just speculation.
During his Tuesday hit on 650, Friedman was asked this question about the trade conjecture surrounding the captain of the Canadiens:
“It’s always noisy in Montreal. Is it noisy because it’s Montreal, or should we expect Pacioretty perhaps to be dangled somewhere?”
“Well, it’s definitely column A and it’s partly column B,” replied the Insider. “I mean, it’s always noisy because it’s Montreal. It’s like two weeks ago I came on your show and we talked about Gudbranson and it’s news because it’s Vancouver, right. So the same deal happens here. Nick mentions Pacioretty and it’s news because it’s Montreal.
“The thing is he’s making 4.5 and he’s got a year-and-a-half left on it. He’s not going to be making 4.5 on his next deal. He’ll sort this out and he will get a bigger number than that. Montreal is going to know if there’s another year-and-a-half of this, he’s not going to want to stay anyway. So I think they realize there’s a clock ticking here and I think that’s why they’re looking, but I believe the Canadiens are also well aware that if they trade him – their center situation, they can’t sort it out. They’re having a really difficult time finding wingers for him. The next team is not going to have that problem. You’re not trading for Max Pacioretty if you think you’re going to have the same difficulties setting him up in your new city as opposed to where Montreal is. So I think that’s why Montreal is really wary about this deal.”
Pacioretty does not have any trade protection in his contract and as Friedman mentioned, the 29-year-old winger counts as a $4.5 million cap hit for this season and next, at which point he can become an unrestricted free agent.
Whether or not Jim Rutherford will nab him or not remains to be seen, but there seems to be little doubt that the Penguins GM has an appetite to get something done on the trade front – potentially something significant.
Source: Sportsnet 650, TSN 1040, CapFriendly
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