The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks have already completed one trade this season, and perhaps there could be some more action before the trade deadline. Both teams are headed in opposite directions, and soon enough, in Chicago, there will be some crucial conversations taking place regarding the future of some of their players.
After an offseason full of transactions that created a ton of expectations, the Blackhawks frankly haven’t met any of them and have struggled their way to near the bottom of the NHL. A fire sale could certainly be on the way in the Windy City. Let’s examine a few players the Penguins could target from the Blackhawks roster.
This would constitute a “hockey deal” as the Blackhawks winger is 26 years old and a pending restricted free agent with team control. Penguins president of hockey operations Brian Burke made it clear the team is not interested in keeping the trend alive of offloading assets at the deadline. However, a trade like this for Kubalik could be something Pittsburgh’s management duo considers as general manager Ron Hextall would want nothing more but to add a couple of pieces to get his team over the top.
So far, in 39 games, Kubalik has recorded 16 points and is a player that isn’t shy to mix it up in the dirty areas. The former seventh-round selection of the Los Angeles Kings scored 30 goals as a rookie in 2019-2020 and followed that up last season as a sophomore with 38 points in 56 games. There’s no doubt he’s talented and could play on any team’s top three lines, including the Penguins.
With a $3.7 million salary this season on the books, the Penguins would need to worry about fitting half of that under their salary cap for the remainder of the season. The Blackhawks only have three defensemen under contract for next season. Perhaps a deal that included Pittsburgh defenseman Michael Matheson could be worked out between the two clubs.
The long-time Edmonton Oilers forward signed a two-year deal with the Blackhawks before the season started for $975,000 per season, and he’s been through an up-and-down first year with the team. He’s averaging just over 13 minutes of ice-time a night and has played a familiar role on a checking line and killing penalties.
Khaira has battled some concussion issues as he, unfortunately, was on the wrong end of some big hits and big punches thrown in fights, but this shows just how hard he loves to play and how he’s not shy to stick up for his teammates. These attributes would be great to bring in for the Penguins. You can never have enough depth as you head into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Blackhawks forward wouldn’t cost a crazy amount to obtain. He’s under contract for next season at under a million dollars on the cap. The proto-typical grinder likes to come in hard on the forecheck and throw his weight around. A “Brian Burke” type of player, this is certainly someone to watch when it comes to another Blackhawks and Penguins deal.
I wrote about it last July, and I will gladly double down now, the Penguins need to trade for Fleury and bring him in for the playoff run. Not necessarily to be the starting netminder, I think Tristan Jarry and his All-Star performance all season long has warranted the net for game one of the playoffs. Regardless, the long-time Penguins’ great could come in and bring his positive energy that you know he won’t disrupt the dressing room, and he’ll become a cheerleader and love every minute of it while he’s not playing.
Fleury agreed to go to Chicago because the team had made some serious moves, got back Jonathan Toews, and was supposed to be a playoff contender in the west. That hasn’t been the case at all, and the team sits eight points out of a playoff position with five teams to leapfrog. It certainly doesn’t seem like they are getting in, and the Blackhawks should do the veteran netminder a solid and ask him if he would like to be dealt at the deadline for another Cup run. If the Penguins came calling, you can bet your bottom dollar the Flower would be open to it.
His $7-million salary this season is the elephant in the room, however, it’s not as bad as you think. Because of when the deal goes down, likely in the middle of March, Fleury’s salary will actually only have half remaining to pay, plus the Blackhawks could retain half, making it a $3.5 million salary to worry about on the books. If the Penguins sent Casey DeSmith and his $1.25 million salary, along with Marcus Pettersson or Matheson, the money could easily be worked out.
Consider the last trade Fleury was a part of, which included a player nobody had heard about before heading to Vegas. The Vegas Golden Knights terminated his contract weeks later, so it will be interesting to see how the Blackhawks handle their trade asset. While he would potentially be a cheerleader for Jarry, in all seriousness, he’s an elite netminder that would provide security and be ready to go if called upon.
Fleury heading back to the Penguins would be an amazing storyline that would be a full-circle moment for the future Hall of Famer. He spent over a decade in Pittsburgh before the Vegas expansion drafted peeked its ugly head, and there’s no doubt if the Blackhawks management approached Flower about heading back to Pittsburgh, his ears would perk up, and he’d start doing cartwheels in the tunnel.
The Penguins and Blackhawks have a history of making deals and could agree on another trade before the March 21 trade deadline. Chicago has a couple of interesting options up front who Pittsburgh could find room for in their lineup. Meanwhile, adding Fleury would send the city into a frenzy and give the team a huge boost to their goaltending depth and morale in the dressing room. Pens’ fans hope Burke and Hextall feel like gardening in March and add another Flower to the mix.
Shane covers any and everything to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor to the THW family, his passion and unique perspective on the game results in some diverse content. Certainly versatile, you can also find him contributing at NHLTradeRumors.me, BaseballRumors.me & BBallRumors.com. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween