Welcome to episode two of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2022-23 Trade Targets series, where I examine Penguins’ potential trade targets from around the NHL. From blockbuster deals to minor upgrades, no stone will be left unturned, and we’ll be sure to have some fun along the way.
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General manager (GM) Ron Hextall is never shy to make a move if he feels it’s going to improve his hockey club, and this season will be no different leading up to the trade deadline in March. Here’s a look at two trade targets Hextall might be interested in from the Vancouver Canucks:
One of the most desirable forwards expected to be available leading up to the trade deadline, Canucks captain Bo Horvat would be the type of player who could take the Penguins over the top.
Horvat won’t come cheap as he’d likely cost the Penguins a multi-player package that would need to include their 2023 first-round pick and a top prospect. The Canucks’ captain is having himself a fine season in Vancouver despite all the noise, recording 26 goals and 39 points in 35 games.
Horvat could line up as the team’s third-line center five-on-five, meanwhile be a major addition for the Penguins first power-play unit which ranks a surprising 11th so far in 2022-23. Having Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Horvat down the middle, driving three separate lines would provide matchup nightmares for other teams during a seven-game Stanley Cup Playoff series.
Related: Penguins’ 2022-23 Trade Targets: Arizona Coyotes
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The interesting piece here is the fact the Penguins have almost $20 million in salary cap space to work with for next season. Horvat is a pending unrestricted free agent and to me, I don’t see Hextall making this move unless they can lock him in long term. With the Penguins losing some expensive contracts with the likes of Jason Zucker and Brian Dumoulin coming off the books next summer, the money is there to offer Horvat a respectable extension.
The Canucks have Horvat who is certainly getting lots of attention among trade rumors, however Brock Boeser may have started all the noise coming out of Vancouver this season. Boeser was supposed to be a healthy scratch a few weeks ago and instead, a late injury inserted him back into the Canucks’ lineup. Once this news broke, so too did the fact the Canucks gave Boeser’s agent permission to facilitate a trade before the deadline this season.
In 27 games this season, the 25-year-old Boeser has recorded six goals and 20 points. His goal production is certainly lower than expected so far, but with his track record of being an offensive talent, the Penguins should have loads of interest in making an offer.
Boeser is signed through the 2024-25 season at a reasonable $6.65 million annually. A figure that the Penguins could easily fit in their landscape moving forward past this season. Another kicker here is the fact Canucks management is made up of several executives who have spent some time with the Penguins, so familiarity of the system could come into play here when negotiating trade packages involving prospects or young NHL ready talent.
Significant Trade Interest Will Make Things Tough on Penguins
The Horvat and Boeser sweepstakes are going to be fun to watch for fans, however could become quite frustrating for rival executives. Both Canucks forwards are expected to be two of the better players available on the trade market and the acquisition price will not be cheap for any team finalizing a deal.
Pittsburgh isn’t necessarily loaded with young NHL ready talent and will have to center their trade packages around a first-round pick and a recent first-round selection. Kasperi Kapanen is likely a throw in to any deal with Vancouver, just on the basis they will need to make the money work and Kapanen makes $3.2 million against the cap.
Two other Penguins who likely would be included in any significant trade would be one of defensemen Ty Smith or Pierre-Olivier Joseph. Both blueliners are young, loaded with potential and have some NHL experience under their belt. The Canucks are looking for help on defense and could have some interest in either player. Again, high-end picks and prospects would also need to be included to have Vancouver even consider advancing trade discussions.
Hextall should go all-in this season, especially if it means they can acquire a player who will stick around Pittsburgh for years to come. This was the type of trade which landed the team Rickard Rakell from the Anaheim Ducks, and I could see the Penguins GM having interest in doubling down before the trade deadline this season.