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 and Veteran Forward Not Talking Contract Extension
Bryan Rust came back from his extended break this past weekend and scored a hat-trick against the San Jose Sharks. While he figures to be an important piece for the rest of this season in Pittsburgh, his future as a Penguin is in doubt. According to Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey Now, Rust and team management have not found common ground on a contract extension. Murphy notes the Boston Bruins have a ton of interest in the forward and should a trade be on the horizon, there’s potential the Bruins make an offer. Personally, I see absolutely zero chance of Ron Hextall and Brian Burke trading their first-line right-winger and especially to a rival in the Eastern Conference who Pittsburgh could end up facing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The 29-year-old forward is making $3.5 million this season and so far in 13 games in 2021-22, Rust has put up 14 points. He’s shown the ability to go from a fourth-line role player to a consistent 20-goal scorer who can produce on the first line with Sidney Crosby. Rust is going to get paid next summer, it just may not be in Pittsburgh.
Penguins Moving Rust Makes Zero Sense
To me, I don’t see management moving Rust before the March 21 trade deadline. The Penguins are very much going to try and win the Stanley Cup this season and moving your first-line winger, regardless of their contract status makes absolutely zero sense. Depending on how much money Evgeni Malkin leaves on the table with his new contract, there could be room for Rust. Malkin commented recently that he’s a rich guy and that money won’t be a factor, so we’ll have to wait to see just how much money is left under the cap. But at this point, Penguins fans should enjoy this season because there’s a chance it’s his last with the team.
Penguins Goalie Trade Much More Likely
As we all saw with the recent collapse that almost cost the Penguins the game against the San Jose Sharks, Casey DeSmith is not getting the job done. After Pittsburgh got off to a blazing start with a 6-1 first period, the backup netminder slowly but surely left the door open for the Sharks to work their way back into the hockey game.
DeSmith would go on to make only 18 saves on 23 shots and now has a 3-3-1 record this season and a 3.32 goals-against average along with a .894 save percentage. Your backup goalie doesn’t have to steal wins as your number one starter does, but they have to command the ability to keep your team in the game. Unfortunately for the Penguins, and their 30-year-old backup, that hasn’t been the case at all this season.
The Penguins need to find a proven NHL starter that can compliment Tristan Jarry and someone who has the ability to run with the crease should their starter go down with injury or get stuck in COVID protocol again. The good news for Pittsburgh is Jarry is now out of COVID protocol and back at practice on Tuesday, but the bad news is they still need to find a better-suited backup goalie.
Some names out there that appear to be available include Anton Khudobin and Braden Holtby from the Dallas Stars, Petr Mrazek from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Semyon Varlamov of the New York Islanders, Marc-Andre Fleury from the Chicago Blackhawks, Scott Wedgewood of the Arizona Coyotes, and Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers. Because of their cap crunch and limited resources to trade, don’t expect the Penguins to land any of the big names listed. Instead, the likes of Wedgewood and the two Stars netminders are much more likely on the team’s radar.
Penguins Remain Hot Thanks to Dueling Hat-Tricks
On Sunday, against the Sharks, the Penguins won their eighth straight game and were led by hat-tricks from Rust and Evan Rodrigues. For the former it was his fifth career three-goal game, meanwhile, for Rodrigues, it was his first career hat trick. He’s become one of the most surprising stories across the entire NHL and the pending unrestricted free agent is setting himself up to be paid handsomely this summer. The Penguins had two players record a hat trick in the same game for the eighth time in franchise history. The most recent occurrence came during a 9-2 home win at the Mellon Arena against the New York Islanders on Dec. 11, 2008. Forwards Pascal Dupuis and Petr Sykora each scored three goals in that contest.
After nearly two weeks off the Penguins remain the hottest team in the NHL. They are starting to get healthier and are expected to have a number of regulars back on Wednesday when the team hosts the St Louis Blues. As for all the movement off the ice, all the trade chatter is starting to heat up as we creep closer to the deadline. Big decisions to come for Penguins management, should be an interesting couple of months for the franchise.
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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