The Pittsburgh Penguins are likely going to have to shed some salary this offseason, as Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are pending unrestricted free agents (UFA), and they have several other players with expiring contracts. Due to this, we could see some of their players made available, and the Chicago Blackhawks would be wise to take advantage of this. Let’s now take a look at three specific Penguins who the Blackhawks should consider targeting during the 2022 offseason.
With the Penguins needing to re-sign Malkin and Letang, Kasperi Kapanen is a player who they may look to move this summer. The 25-year-old winger is set to become a restricted free agent (RFA), and his placement on Pittsburgh’s depth chart has been lowered. He also just experienced a down year offensively, as he had 11 goals and 32 points in 79 games. To put things into better perspective, he put together a 30-point campaign in only 40 games during the 2020-21 season.
Although the Blackhawks are rebuilding, Kapanen is a player who could be worth considering, as he’s still fairly young and seems destined to have a bounce-back year in 2022-23. Given Chicago’s weak forward depth, he also would fit perfectly on their second line. This, in turn, would provide him with more ice time and could lead to him producing more frequently again. He would also be a welcomed addition to the team’s first power-play unit.
Given his down season, Kapanen’s trade value isn’t particularly high, either. A third-round draft pick and a young roster player would likely get a deal done between these two teams. One player who could interest the Penguins is MacKenzie Entwistle, as he would provide them with a far cheaper bottom-six forward. He is also already locked up for next season.
Pierre-Olivier Joseph has not been able to become a full-time NHL player with the Penguins. The 2017 first-round pick’s name has come up in the rumor mill because of this, and he should be a primary trade target for the Blackhawks. This is because the Laval native is just 22 years old and still has plenty of room for growth. If acquired by the Blackhawks, he would get the opportunity to play regular minutes at the NHL level. He also has been praised for his puck-moving ability, so Chicago would be wise to utilize him on their power play.
Joseph spent the majority of this season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League (AHL). It was a good year for him offensively, as he scored an impressive 10 goals and recorded 33 total points. Although he played well in the AHL, he only suited up in four games with Pittsburgh and did not get on the scoresheet. At this juncture, it seems that the youngster would benefit from a change of scenery to help truly jumpstart his NHL career.
The Penguins will not just give Joseph away for free, though. He is a former first-round pick, after all, so he is still viewed as having a lot of potential. Due to this, the Blackhawks would likely have to part ways with the second-round pick they received from the Minnesota Wild in the Marc-Andre Fleury trade, along with a mid-tier prospect. However, if the Blackhawks traded one of their top NHL players to the Penguins, Joseph could be a part of the package heading the other way.
Teddy Blueger is another player who the Penguins could end up shopping to free up cap space. The 27-year-old is set to make $2.2 million for the 2022-23 season and will become a UFA that following summer. He also increased his trade value after the campaign he just put together. In 65 regular-season games, the Riga native had nine goals and 19 assists while primarily playing fourth-line minutes.
When looking at the Blackhawks’ forward depth, Blueger would likely have the chance to play regularly on their third line. This could lead to him producing more offensively, which would benefit both him and the team. He is also highly praised for his defensive ability, so he would be a guarantee to play on Chicago’s penalty kill. Overall, he’s just an all-around solid player who every NHL team would love to sport on their roster.
Like Kapanen, the Blackhawks would likely have to give up at least a third-round pick to acquire him. A prospect of some kind would also be needed to make a deal go through. Entwistle might work in this kind of deal, but another player who could grab the attention of the Penguins is Antti Saarela. With the Penguins’ centers getting older, he’s a prospect that they should consider.
Nevertheless, it will be intriguing to see if these two teams end up striking a deal this summer, as the Blackhawks would benefit from adding any of these three players. Yet, out of the trio, Joseph has the most potential to help the team’s current rebuild. Kapanen and Blueger, on the other hand, could thrive in bigger roles in Chicago. Let’s see if any of the three are Blackhawks for the 2022-23 season.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. Besides his work for THW, you can also find him on NHLTradeRumors.me, BBallRumors.com, BaseballRumors.me, FootballRumors.me and The Rat Trick.