The trade deadline is fast approaching and while Jim Rutherford and the Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t likely to make a splash, there’s a good chance they can add much-needed depth to this roster. As we’ve ramped up trade deadline coverage, I covered five potential targets that would fit the Penguins’ needs perfectly. Of course, that was written before Ben Lovejoy’s recent injury, which is significant and will force him out of the lineup for an extended period of time.
The Penguins announced today that they’ve recalled Steve Oleksy from their AHL affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Oleksy will likely be their seventh defenseman while Ian Cole continues to play in Lovejoy’s spot. They also have David Warsofsky available, who’s currently on a conditioning stint in the AHL following an extended absence due to a concussion. However, adding another NHL-proven blue-liner may become a priority.
Last night, when the Toronto Maple Leafs faced the Nashville Predators in Toronto, the Penguins had Derek Clancey, the Director of Pro Scouting in attendance. He was one of 20 scouts from around the league on hand, as everyone knows about the fire sale occurring in Toronto, and the Leafs have a few names that could help Pittsburgh. P.A. Parenteau is definitely a name to keep an eye on but what about their blue line?
Hunwick is a name that hasn’t been mentioned much in the rumor mills. Considering Pittsburgh’s current situation though, he may be a good option. Of course, that will depend on his cost. He fits the mold that the Penguins prefer, as he’s a fantastic skater and moves the puck very well.
Here’s a look at how he stacks up with Lovejoy…
While his defensive numbers are far worse, he’s a clear upgrade as a puck-moving, mobile blue-liner. You also have to consider the impact that playing in Toronto has on his defensive numbers before assuming he’s a liability. There are only six teams that have allowed more goals this season, and believe me, that isn’t all on Hunwick by any stretch of the imagination.
Also, keep in mind that Trevor Daley was considered a defensive risk when the Penguins acquired him. He’s no shutdown defenseman but he also isn’t a hinderance in that regard either.
Hunwick’s most common partner this season has been Morgan Rielly, a 21-year old former first-rounder with a ton of upside as a puck-moving, offensively minded defenseman. Sounds awfully similar to the partner Lovejoy has been playing with as of late, right? He could fit well next to Derrick Pouliot and would likely have a positive impact on his development. Plus, Hunwick is signed for another season with a cap hit of $1.2 million. He could become a valuable part of Pittsburgh’s defensive depth at a fairly cheap price.
There’s no indication yet as to whether or not the Penguins are indeed scouting Hunwick but it makes a lot of sense. With Clancey in the house last night, there’s obviously interest in what Toronto is offering. This will be a situation to monitor as we approach Feb. 29.