Penguins’ 2023 Offseason Trade Targets

The NHL trade market will be active and lively this summer, as teams try to maneuver under a flat salary cap and avoid overpaying for free agents. There will be many quality names on the block, so what does that mean for the Pittsburgh Penguins and newly hired president of hockey operations, Kyle Dubas?

Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Determining which position group on the active roster is most worthy of addressing first, arguments can be made for all three positions (forward, defensemen, goaltender). Needless to say, there’s no wrong place to start improvement-wise.

There will be a wide range of talented players looking for new homes, so with that in mind, it’s time to analyze who may be a possible fit. This is part two of three in the series previewing Pittsburgh’s offseason, where we dissect the five best potential trade targets.

Player Target #1: Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck

One of the top trade targets this offseason, Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck, posted strong numbers behind a team that is about to purge much of its talent. Many general managers will be calling about the franchise goaltender who posted 37 wins, 25 losses, 2.45 goals-against average (GAA), and a .920 save percentage (SV%) during the 2022-23 season. Hellebuyck finished the season with fantastic numbers, and that is no light achievement in today’s volatile goalie market.

Connor Hellebuyck Winnipeg Jets
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Although he just turned 30, Hellebyuck has yet to slow down. If Pittsburgh is determined to fix its woes between the pipes, acquiring an elite goalie like him would be worth every penny in the short and long term.

Player Target #2: Goaltender John Gibson

The hometown kid is open to a hometown reunion, but will it happen? John Gibson grew up in the Pittsburgh suburbs and became another one of the handfuls of Steel City-born players to make it into the NHL. Is Gibson good enough to justify trading for? Recent history says no, but his overall career suggests he might also be worth the price. Gibson has averaged a .900 or better SV% in all but one season of his career (.899 in 2022-23).

Related: 3 Trade Destinations for Noah Hanifin

The Anaheim Ducks were a wasteland on defense last season, so would a change of scenery help him bounce back? The asking price shouldn’t be all that expensive, either. Gibson is worth the acquisition as he is under contract until 2027-28. He can put up good numbers in the net and can also complement another goaltender together in tandem as the season wears on.

Player Target #3: Forward Elias Lindholm

No stranger to putting up great numbers and being considered for prestigious awards, Elias Lindholm finds himself in a bit of an Alberta swirl. Entering the last year of his current contract, his value has never been higher. In 2021-22, he put up 82 points on a dominant Calgary Flames team that was ultimately upended by Edmonton. And in 2022-23, Lindholm, despite Calgary’s post-Tkachuk trade blues, still put up very good numbers (64 points).

Elias Lindholm Calgary Flames
Elias Lindholm, Calgary Flames (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

First-line centers can do several things exceptionally well: score, distribute, and win faceoffs. Lindholm checks off all of these boxes, and he’d instantly form a dangerous top six around Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Rickard Rakell, Bryan Rust, and Jake Guentzel.

Player Target #4: Forward Brock Boeser

In a state of limbo, Vancouver sits somewhere in the middle. Not the worst, but most definitely not the best either. One of those players who may benefit the Canucks in a trade out of British Columbia is Brock Boeser, a young and steady 20-or-more goal scorer. Entering the prime of his career, Boeser is a reliable forward who is bound to wind up on the stat sheet sooner than later.

Brock Boeser Vancouver Canucks
Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Consistently finding the back of the net and notching assists, he will field many suitors after tying his second-most all-time point total in a season (55). Depending on how much salary is eaten and the returning assets, Boeser will come somewhat cheaper than other high-profile forwards, yet still yield an appropriate return. Unlike JT Miller, Boeser is the best Vancouver trade target, if Pittsburgh were to seriously kick the tires on it.

Player Target #5: Forward Connor Garland

Talking about an undervalued and underrated figure who sifted in the shadows of a drama-filled season at Rogers Arena, Conor Garland fits the bill. If the Penguins are looking for an ideal bottom-six winger, this is their guy. By no means is Garland a flash in the pan, but he undoubtedly has left an impressive enough impact in a lesser role and situation. Since 2018, he has finished with no fewer than 12 goals per season in his career. In 2022-23, Garland concluded a season that saw him end with six fewer points (46) than his all-time total (52).

Conor Garland Vancouver Canucks
Conor Garland, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He’s not going to cost as much in a trade, knowing already what Vancouver has to eat salary-wise in the Oliver Ekman-Larsson buyout. If the other trade targets on the market don’t come to fruition, Garland is a perfect consolation prize that will end up surprising many due to his multifaceted upside.

Conclusion/Wrapping Up

Goaltending help will be the most important acquisition this offseason, as Tristan Jarry will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. A possible scenario that could play out is the re-signing of Jarry on a shorter-term deal, and then going out to acquire another goalie who can take over for current backup Casey DeSmith. Someone like Gibson may adequately fit this equation, but Dubas may look to greener pastures in acquiring Hellebyuck instead.

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Great goaltenders are essential to a team’s success, yet so are forwards. Lindholm, Boeser, and Garland all showcase the attributes a well-oiled bottom six needs and requires. The Penguins can’t do much worse than what they had last season; it was a complete and total disaster. Needless to say, the future will be quite telling in assessing how Pittsburgh opts to address several lingering holes. The NHL Draft in late June is when fans start to find out how the dominos fall.