The 2021 offseason is officially underway throughout the NHL, and the news hasn’t slowed since. Through trades, contracts, and retirement, players are finding new homes and teams are making moves. But, a team that has been quiet so far is the Pittsburgh Penguins.
That shouldn’t last much longer.
With the Stanley Cup awarded, and not to the Penguins, they will be looking to improve and reach the mountaintop again. Over the years, Pittsburgh has found great success utilizing the NHL’s trade market, and 2021 should be no different. There is one name in particular that has been leading Penguins’ trade talks for quite a while now.
That player is defenseman Marcus Pettersson. He’s been talked about as a key trade piece since signing a five-year contract in January 2020. It seems like only a matter of time before the 25-year-old defender is dealt, but it should happen sooner rather than later.
Reasons to Move Pettersson
Pettersson’s trade value has never been higher – he’s only 25 years old, about to hit his prime with room to grow, and has a contract that will last another four seasons for just over $4 million per year. His contract takes on a modified no-trade clause in its final two years, but with the right organization, he won’t be a player to get rid of.
If the Penguins are able to take advantage of Pettersson’s skyrocketing trade value, they should be able to fill that void from within the organization. While Pittsburgh’s farm system may not be the strongest, they have a handful of guys that could come up and replace him in a pinch. He spent most of this season on the third defensive pairing, which is a perfect spot for both gentlemen soon to be mentioned.
The first player who can fill in and replace Pettersson is Pierre-Olivier Joseph. At 22, Joseph has already played in 16 NHL games and was productive in most of them. At one point due to injuries, he was forced to play on the top pair with Kris Letang. Playing on the first pairing that early into a career shows the Penguins have faith in this player. If he isn’t already, Joseph will be ready for a regular NHL role in the near future.
Joseph is a top prospect and has earned his right to take a step up the ladder and reach the NHL. If Pettersson is still in the lineup, it creates too much of a logjam, forcing Joseph to miss more critical growth as a player.
The coaching staff may not favor him, but Juuso Riikola has continuously proved to be a capable player. Analytics fans love Riikola and his on-ice play. He may not score goals or put up assists, but when he gets his chance to play, the Penguins have a higher opportunity of winning. Beyond stats and analytics, the team re-signed him prior to the 2020-21 season for two years at $1.15 million each, and he has played two games since. If the team didn’t find him useful they wouldn’t have given him that contract.
Let’s not forget, there is an expansion draft only days away. Ideally for Pittsburgh, a Pettersson trade occurs after Seattle takes a player from every team. Strike while the iron is hot – maybe the Kraken sent a team reeling by taking a useful defender and could use a young player who has a lot of career ahead of him.
The hardest part of predicting a trade is where would the player go, and what’s the return? If the right team takes a chance, the Penguins could land a pretty good return for Pettersson. A prospect maybe, but the focus for the Pens should be acquiring draft picks. Currently, Pittsburgh only has five picks in the 2021 Draft, three of them in the last round.
The Minnesota Wild just turned into an interesting case with their defensive core. They recently bought out Ryan Suter, are most likely losing Matt Dumba via expansion draft, and Ian Cole is an unrestricted free agent. Keep in mind that Wild general manager Bill Guerin used to be in Pittsburgh’s front office and is familiar with Pettersson. Minnesota has nine selections for 2021 and could afford to lose a pick or two. Pettersson isn’t worth a first-round pick, but a second or third could be useful to the Penguins.
Does Pettersson to the St. Louis Blues for Vladimir Tarasenko sound appealing? The Blues’ sniper recently requested a trade out of St. Louis and the Penguins have been a team linked as a possible landing spot. If the Penguins want to be in on the Tarasenko sweepstakes, Pettersson would have to be a part of the equation. St. Louis could use a young, steady face in their defensive core and Pettersson is a perfect name to fit in.
Obviously, this deal couldn’t be a one-for-one, but the right amount of draft picks and maybe a prospect or two could get the trade done. The Blues are to blame for the Tarasenko situation, and who knows if that leads to other key names wanting out. The Pens can try and take advantage of the situation and get what could be the big fish of their team.
The Penguins are in dire need to replenish their prospect pool. A Pettersson trade could provide the club with draft picks and/or middle to high-range prospects. The time to sell on Pettersson is now.
What do you think? Where would you trade Pettersson and what’s the return?
Nick Horwat is a graduate of Point Park University and was born and raised in Pittsburgh. A lifelong Penguins fan that has been watching and going to games for as long as he can remember.