A couple of days ago, Vince detailed why the Penguins may not really need to get a defenseman at the trade deadline in their present state. And with GM Jim Rutherford proclaiming that Riley Sheahan has done enough to satisfy the requirements of the third line center, which we agree with, it seems like it could be a quiet deadline for the Penguins.
That’s not to say they can’t tinker around on the edges with their 4th line, though, which has been a sore spot for most of the year. You can also never rule out Rutherford making a splash move, either, as he’s quite stealthy for a newly-minted 69-year old. But as Vince laid out, the Penguins don’t have much cap space — probably between $1.5 and $1.7M at present — so there may need to be some creativity to even get the prorated portions of salaries in place. There are some options on all ranges of the salary scale that could be of interest to the Penguins, though.
For me, this is a complete no-brainer. Not only are the Edmonton Oilers (sadly) out of the playoff picture, but Mark Letestu is a Penguin alum that was with the team over parts of three campaigns from 2010-11. He’s also affordable at $1.8M and the 32-year old is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, so there’s no commitment.
On top of all that, he’d be an upgrade at the 4th line center spot. His faceoff win percentage this year is 53.4% and his Corsi on a poor Edmonton team is 50.7%, indicating that he can control the flow of play during his shift. Both of these stats are why Letestu has been entrusted with a huge defensive zone start percentage split during his time in Edmonton. This year is the lowest of his three years at 53.5%, but the past two years have been an eye-popping 62.5% and 65.1%.
Many are hoping for a Matt Cullen reunion, but the 41-year old is showing his age. His Corsi is a staggeringly low 39.2%. Plus, with Minnesota battling to get in the playoffs, isn’t that why they brought Cullen there — for his experience and veteran leadership in the room ? I just can’t see a Cullen-Pittsburgh trade.
Like Minnesota, Carolina is also battling to get in the playoffs for the first time in 9 seasons, so this may seem like I’m contradicting myself from just one paragraph ago. But Derek Ryan wasn’t brought specifically to Carolina like Cullen was. He’s also a 31-year old unrestricted free agent that may or may not be in Carolina’s plans after this year. Carolina is a team on the rise and one that I think could be a real handful next year if their new owner chooses to invest more money in them, but I’m wondering if they may want to do a small re-tool on the fly.
If the Hurricanes squeak in as the 7th or 8th seed, they’ll get hammered by one of the big teams at the top of the Eastern Conference. Maybe they get the revenue from two or three home games, which is nothing to sneeze at, but ultimately if they could pick up a 4th round pick for Derek Ryan that may be something they’d consider, even though he’s their 3rd line center currently.
Ryan is like an amplified version of Letestu. His faceoff win percentage is a monstrous 56.2% and his Corsi is 56.8%. Both of those marks would top the Penguins right now. His $1.425M cap hit is affordable for them, as well. It would be a little bit like waving the white flag if Carolina would trade him, but pragmatically speaking it would be a smart move.
In a quest to get as many different spellings of ‘Derrick’ in one article, let’s talk about this spicy rumor that the Pens are in on Derick Brassard. From a view of 30,000 feet, it’s a great fit. Not only is Brassard on a team out of the playoff hunt, but he’s also a great player that would instantly slot in the 3rd line center role and bump Sheahan down to a 4th line center role. You would greatly improve two lines at once.
Brassard is also a seasoned playoff performer from his time with the Rangers and his stint in the playoffs last year with the Senators when they eventually lost to the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games. He’s good. But…
…he’s expensive. Not only does Brassard make $5M this year, but his cap hit is for $5M next year, too. The perennially cap-challenged Penguins are no different next year. The Pens could wedge Brassard’s $1.25M prorated salary in this year, but adding $5M next year would probably require salary going back to the Senators.
As a team looking to reload, the Senators aren’t going to probably accept my universal trade chip, Carl Hagelin, and his $4M cap hit for 2018-19. But would they be interested in the 25-year old Conor Sheary and his $3M cap hit for this season and the following two ? What if the Penguins and Senators could make a “hockey trade” and try to satisfy both team’s needs?
The Pens could ship out Sheary ($3M cap hit) and Matt Hunwick ($2.25M cap hit, 2 more years after this) for Derick Brassard ($5M cap hit) and 25-year old defenseman Fredrik Claesson ($650,000, RFA after this year). The Pens get an upgrade at 3C plus a depth d-man. The Senators get a solid 2nd/3rd pairing defenseman that just doesn’t fit the Pens’ system and a younger scoring wing.
I think I just talked myself into this deal for Brassard.
Ah, the hazards of writing an article a day ahead of time. This is the part of the article where I talked about Michael Grabner and how the Pens should trade for him. My proposal was a 2nd round pick and Daniel Sprong. And sure enough, Michael Grabner was traded last night to the Devils (supposedly the first ever trade between the Rangers and Devils) for a 2nd round pick and a d-man prospect named Yegor Rykov. Now, I have no idea if Rykov is better than Sprong, but clearly the Devils liked this deal and we don’t know what the Penguins may or may not have offered.
It does hurt for Grabner to go to a direct rival, even though I don’t think the Devils are on the same plane of the Capitals/Lightning/Bruins/Leafs. It feels like the Penguins missed an opportunity here to pick up a low cost ($1.65M cap hit, prorated to around $425K) addition.