Penguins News & Rumors: Malkin, Guentzel, Rust & Trade Targets

Welcome to Pittsburgh Penguins News & Rumors, where we cover all the hot topics about the club and dive into more than just box scores. Get ready for some rapid-fire headlines that will run us through all the noise surrounding Pittsburgh’s beloved Penguins.

Penguins Legend Creeping Closer to Return

Evgeni Malkin looks better and better with each practice, and there’s no doubt a return to the lineup is getting closer. On Monday, he saw a significant amount of time on the team’s second power-play unit at practice, and he looked outstanding and fresh.

The Russian forward took part in the morning skate on Tuesday as the Penguins prepare to face the Montreal Canadiens. Malkin seems to be using his edges a ton, is skating with ease and doesn’t appear to be holding back or laboring on a rehabbing knee. If I was a betting man, which I’ve been known to be, I’d expect to see Malkin in the lineup this Friday at home against the Buffalo Sabres.

Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin can’t wait to get his 2021-22 season underway (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This would give him another two days of practice this week and allow head coach Mike Sullivan to incorporate him into the regular lines. Penguins fans cannot wait to have Sidney Crosby and Malkin down the middle again.

Related: 5 Penguins Who Probably Won’t Be Back Next Season

There’s also the Olympics to consider. The veteran forward is a major part of his country’s roster, and he’d surely like to get a number of games under his belt before the tournament. While the Penguins may not want to rush him, it makes a ton of sense why Malkin wants to return to the lineup asap.

Malkin Not the Only Forward Close to Returning

Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust are also on the shelf, and on Tuesday, skated with ex-Penguin Matt Cullen in a side session. The two forwards appear to be on track according to their diagnosis, and the team is confident they will return to the lineup soon.

Before Guentzel went down with an upper-body injury, he was the hottest scorer in the NHL, so this was horrible timing. In the 24 games this season, the 27-year-old has 27 points. Look for him to get right back into the swing of things when he’s inserted into the lineup; playing with Crosby can have that effect on people.

As for Rust, he’s only played 12 games this season but was productive with nine points. It’s a contract year for him, so there’s added pressure to produce and showcase to the Penguins and the rest of the league what he can do. His name has come up recently as someone who might not return to the organization next season, but it will be hard to imagine management moving him in-season when they have a Stanley Cup to win.

Penguins Linked to Interesting Trade Targets

After Jim Rutherford took over as president of hockey operations and interim general manager in Vancouver, the Canucks are now a team to watch when it comes to trading with the Penguins. If they don’t get back into playoff contention under their new head coach, Rutherford won’t be shy to make moves. On the lesser side, think Jaroslav Halak; on the higher side, think Brock Boeser. 

Other players that Penguins management may be interested in from teams expected to be sellers include Phil Kessel and Lawson Crouse from the Arizona Coyotes, Robert Hagg and Vinnie Hinostroza of the Buffalo Sabres, and Calle Jarnkrok, Marcus Johansson, and Colin Blackwell of the Seattle Kraken.

Phil Kessel Arizona Coyotes
Phil Kessel will be traded this season and Pittsburgh could be in play (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Coyotes, Sabres, and Kraken are all expected to be sellers, as their playoff aspirations are over. Keep an eye on the Los Angeles Kings, Canucks, Chicago Blackhawks, Ottawa Senators, and Montreal Canadiens as well.

The Penguins continue to win games, and that’s largely thanks to their coaching staff’s ability to get the best out of their players. Some big names will return to the lineup soon, and some familiar faces could be on the way via trade. These are interesting times for the Penguins in a season full of surprises.

Morning Skate newsletter Click To Subscribe