The Pittsburgh Penguins are rolling at the moment with a 7-2-1 record in their last ten games. They are comfortably in third place in the East Division and appear headed for another playoff berth. The new management tandem of Ron Hextall and Brian Burke is still evaluating the roster as they look for ways to improve it. While blockbuster trades aren’t likely this season, if the Penguins do make a move, expect them to receive a center in return. Here are three possibilities.
3 Centers the Penguins Should Consider
Mikael Granlund, C/LW
While Granlund isn’t a prototypical center, his versatility would benefit the Penguins a ton. He won 49% of his faceoffs this season, and he could easily slide into the second-line spot while Evgeni Malkin rests his knee. Granlund is a dynamic offensive player that the Nashville Predators are looking to move before the trade deadline on April 12.
While Granlund has been linked to the Toronto Maple Leafs all season, no deal has been completed as the North Division teams await word from the government on getting the quarantine protocols changed. For the Penguins to acquire him, the Preds would need to retain some of his $3.75 million salary, as Pittsburgh has very limited cap space. However, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible, and Ron Hextall could sweeten the pot by including a prospect or two in the trade.
This season, the 29-year-old has managed 12 points in 29 games. It wasn’t long ago he was pushing 70 points a season and slotted into the Penguins’ top six, his speed and creativity would be key for creating chemistry with the team’s best players.
Luke Glendening, C
Glendening’s name has come up before, and it’s not going anywhere; he’s one of the best faceoff specialists in the NHL, and the pending free-agent is on a cheap contract (from ‘Red Wings’ Rasmussen soaking up faceoff tips, knowledge from Glendening,’ Detroit News, 03/08/2021). The Detroit Red Wings are paying the 32-year-old $1.8 million against the cap this season, so this is the type of ‘value’ contract the Penguins could afford. The savvy veteran has chipped in with nine points in 31 games and has won 64% of his faceoffs this season.
Glendening would provide the Penguins with a veteran presence in their bottom-six forward group as the team is full of inexperienced journeymen. Most of their bottom-six is in the 25-27-year-old range, and they don’t have a ton of NHL experience. Glendening’s 531 career games are significant, however, it’s his character and leadership skills that would be extremely beneficial to Pittsburgh.
Erik Haula, C/LW
The Nashville Predators are only four points behind the Chicago Blackhawks, which wasn’t the case a week ago. The Predators will stay there for at least another week to ten days, but if they do slide out of contention, Haula is going to be moved.
In 29 games this season, Haula has struggled, with three goals and nine points. The pending unrestricted free agent is making $1.75 million against the cap and won’t cost an arm and a leg to pry away from the Predators. Haula could provide some minutes on the second line while Malkin is out and then easily slide to the wing on any of the top three lines.
The 30-year-old native of Finland also has 43 games of playoff experience with 23 points. While you need your big guns firing to succeed in the postseason, it always comes down to secondary scoring and a balanced attack, and Haula could be a key piece for the Penguins in this regard.
Pittsburgh’s new management was put in an awkward position by taking over the team mid-season. Not only did they have to get familiar with everyone on the fly, but they also needed to evaluate their talent as fast as possible. Now they must turn their attention to upgrading the roster, and they will have to get creative and make trades with basically no cap space and limited assets. With injuries and depth concerns, the Penguins’ next trade should be for a center.
Shane Seney is a Canadian blogging veteran who couldn’t be more passionate about his love for hockey. The German born Seney will be covering any and everything to do with the Pittsburgh Penguins, bringing an educated and entertaining perspective to The Hockey Writers family. Seney is versatile as you can also find him at NHLTradeRumors.me & BBallRumors.com and routinely podcasting at NHLTradeTalk.com.