The Pittsburgh Penguins won’t be shy to make moves this season as both general manager Ron Hextall and president of hockey operations Brian Burke want to do whatever they can to upgrade the hockey club. Injury troubles have already hit the roster with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin starting the season on the sidelines. The show must go on, so look for Penguins management to be active throughout the season searching for trade partners and they will have some talent to dangle on the market. Let’s examine three Penguins’ assets who could be moved.
While some may argue Marcus Pettersson is not an asset, the defenseman is still young enough at 25 to find his game. Pettersson hasn’t played up to his contract just yet, as ex-Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford may have pulled the trigger a little early on a $20.1 million extension back in January of 2020. Regardless, the 6-foot-3 defenseman is going to be taking a regular shift with the Penguins again this season and look for him to build off the nine points he produced last season.
Some teams who could who could be interested in the defenseman include the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers. It’s not likely that a deal gets done before training camp, but Pettersson is a name to look out for on the trade market this season.
Belief is the Penguins were very disappointed the Seattle Kraken did not select Jason Zucker. I mentioned earlier in the offseason that the Penguins needed to trade Zucker to help create flexibility financially and unfortunately nothing has materialized as of yet. He’s not someone Burke and Hextall salivate over and Penguins fans have to remember the management duo don’t have a ton of fingerprints on this roster just yet.
Last season, Zucker put up 18 points in 38 games and so far in his 63 regular and postseason games total with Pittsburgh, he’s only tallied 35 points — a tough go for a player who was brought in for a solid prospect and a first-round pick and yet hasn’t been able to keep up within the Penguins’ top six.
The 29-year-old forward holds no-trade protection as he submits a list of 10 teams he’s not interested in playing for before the season starts. Needless to say, Hextall and Burke have options and should be listening and shopping Zucker throughout the season. Early on with the health concerns, it’s not likely a team would deal their second-line left winger, but once the roster is healthy, a giant spotlight will be shining on Zucker’s performance. If he doesn’t meet management’s expectations, he might as well pack his bags.
If you want to acquire talent, you have to give up some, and Marino is as talented as they come on the Penguins defense. While he could become a nice replacement to Kris Letang once the veteran retires, Marino isn’t exactly the type of defenseman Hextall and Burke love. Ideally, the young blueliner would have more of a nasty streak and be about three inches taller and 25 pounds heavier.
In Marino’s sophomore season in 2020-21, he took a huge step in the wrong direction, as his point production was cut in half, meanwhile playing the amount of games. During the postseason series against the New York Islanders, Marino saw his ice time cut by almost three minutes, going from 20:44 a night in the regular season to 17:45 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was obvious he was struggling and at times he did not look engaged. Three hits in six postseason games for a depth defenseman is not going to cut it for Burke or Hextall.
Marino’s contract pays him $4.4 million annually for the next six seasons. His no-trade protection begins in 2024-25 where he gets to submit a team of eight teams to avoid. For now, no protection and no job security. Right-handed defensemen are hard to find who can skate like Marino, but he can’t just be “out there.” He needs to produce offensively in the neighborhood of 40 points, he needs to be more physical and he needs to make sure the puck doesn’t end up in the back of his own net when he’s on the ice. Make no mistake, some teams in the league love Marino and would love to have him on their team. Turns out they could be given the chance in 2021-22.
The Penguins are going to have an uphill climb this season. The team is starting the season without two of their best players and management will be in tough to upgrade the roster while staying the course, reaching for another Stanley Cup. Some major changes could be on the way for the Penguins this season and these three players could all be involved.