The Pittsburgh Penguins are roughly two weeks into their new management regime after hiring general manager Ron Hextall and president of hockey operations Brian Burke, and their initial evaluation period should be ending. They will have to identify their roster’s needs and do their best to fill holes via trade. Over the weekend, hockey insider Elliotte Friedman shared some news that the Nashville Predators are likely to become sellers as we approach the trade deadline, and the Penguins should be the first in line.
Hextall and Burke won’t be shy to pull the trigger on a deal that they feel will make the Penguins better, and they both have a good working relationship with Predators long-time executive David Poile. It also helps that the Preds normally play in a different conference, which makes a trade easier to swallow.
Here are three Predators who would upgrade the Penguins:
Filip Forsberg, LW/RW
We might as well get the best Predators player available out of the way. When Friedman shared the list of untouchables, it was shocking to see Forsberg wasn’t included. He’s only 26, and his $6 million cap hit for this season and next is attractive for the Penguins because it’s not a massive commitment in case things go sour.
This season, Forsberg has eight goals and 15 points in 17 games, and he’s scored close to 30 goals a season or more four times. He is also a known playoff performer. He has scored 26 goals in 65 career playoff games, which is what the Penguins need to help support Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Any deal for Forsberg would require a big return going the other way, but perhaps a package including Kasperi Kapanen and prospect Samuel Poulin would get Poile’s attention. Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade to the speedy Kapanen, and if Jim Rutherford had known at the time that Forsberg was available, you can bet he would have sent his first-round pick to Nashville instead of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Juuse Saros, Goaltender
Saros is in the final year of his contract, and the 25-year-old would give the Penguins an upgrade on backup Casey DeSmith. The organization isn’t filled with young up-and-coming talent in the crease, so having Saros and 25-year-old Jarry would give them a much better setup moving forward.
While Saros hasn’t been great this season, he’s playing behind a really bad team in Nashville, so it’s hard to pick him apart too much. If you look at his career numbers of 58-41-16, including 11 shutouts and his 11 playoff games, it’s obvious he would be a welcomed addition over DeSmith.
Saros is only making $250,000 more than DeSmith, so if you package a prospect and perhaps the Penguins’ 2nd or 3rd-round pick in 2022, it may be enough for the Predators to bite. The Preds have made it known they aren’t moving veteran Pekka Rinne, and they have some high-end talent joining their team next season, so Saros should be available. At the right price, the Penguins should acquire the Finnish netminder.
Viktor Arvidsson, RW/LW
Another versatile forward who can play both wings and provide the Penguins with secondary scoring, Arvidsson would be a nice addition. While he doesn’t crash and bang like Burke and Hextall may be looking for, he is two seasons removed from scoring 34 goals in 58 games, and at 27, he’s in the prime of his career.
This season has been a struggle for Arvidsson, but again, that’s been the case for many Predators, hence all the trade talk. This means the Penguins wouldn’t have to pay nearly as much as they would have a season ago for Arvidsson, and perhaps with a sweetener, they could get the Predators to retain a little bit of his salary. Rutherford did not leave the Penguins with cupboards full of draft picks, so essentially, the new regime will need to be very creative in their trades this season.
As for Arvidsson, he could play alongside either Crosby or Malkin on either side of the ice, and his speed and work ethic would fit in seamlessly on the Penguins. He also has 10 career shorthanded goals, which never hurts a penalty-killing unit. He’s one of the more attractive Predators to the Penguins.
Penguins fans won’t have to wait much longer to see what Burke and Hextall have identified as team needs, as once their initial evaluation period concludes, they will try their best to upgrade the roster. Having a team like the Predators open for business increases the possibility of a substantial deal, as they have some talent that would fit in perfectly in Pittsburgh.
Shane’s been a part of The Hockey Writers team since 2020, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor, his versatile perspective on game results and everything off the ice produces diverse content. You can also find him on the Maple Leafs Lounge podcast with Peter Baracchini and Alex Hobson. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween