While the Pittsburgh Penguins are hitting their stride just past the halfway mark of this season, they have a couple of areas of concern which need to be addressed before the March 21 trade deadline. While another winger for the bottom-six who can move up the lineup and a rugged defenseman would be nice additions, it’s the backup goaltending position that screams trade.
Current backup Casey DeSmith won the spot out of training camp this season and frankly hasn’t been consistent enough to be trusted as the playoffs approach. He holds a 3-3-1 record on the season with a 3.37 goals-against average (GAA) and a .892 save percentage (SV.%). While Tristan Jarry won’t be pushed anytime soon from the starter’s crease in Pittsburgh, president of hockey operations Brian Burke and general manager Ron Hextall need to consider adding some more depth. Let’s take a look at a few options who should be available on the trade market:
Kevin Lankinen, Chicago Blackhawks
While screams for Marc-Andre Fleury have been shot down numerous times this season, the Chicago Blackhawks have another goaltender who should be on the radar of Burke and Hextall. Lankinen was spectacular last season as a 25-year-old rookie, appearing in 37 games and posting a .909 SV%. This season he hasn’t necessarily enjoyed the same success but it’s definitely been a different dynamic having Fleury in the fold as well.
Lankinen should be a target of the Penguins for numerous reasons as he’s only making $800k on the salary cap and is a pending free agent who the team can re-sign to pair with Jarry for years to come. Considering how thin the system is for goaltending talent in Pittsburgh, this should be considered. While the Penguins have mentioned they won’t be moving a ton of assets at the deadline, it wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to acquire the undrafted Finnish netminder from Chicago. His 2-5-4 record isn’t anything to write home about this season but keep in mind the Blackhawks have been terrible this season and have some major holes on their blue line.
Playing in front of the Penguins d-core would be a breath of fresh air for Lankinen and he’d be able to get his game back on track. He’s currently sidelined with a hand injury but it does not appear to be serious. Pittsburgh should be keeping a close eye on how things shape up in the windy city.
Anton Forsberg, Ottawa Senators
The Senators netminder has quickly become one of the best names available as Matt Murray appears to have found his game in Ottawa. Forsberg is a free agent who, again, is another cheap option for Pittsburgh, making only $900k against the salary cap. The team has been listening on trade offers and it’s likely a mid-round pick and a mid-level prospect get a deal done and Burke and Hextall should be doing some due diligence here.
On a really bad team, the 29-year-old has managed some respectable numbers with an 8-8-1 record to go along with a wonderful .911 SV.%. Impressive stuff on a team that’s currently near the bottom in the Eastern Conference with a 16-22-4 record.
Forsberg would be a candidate to be re-signed in Pittsburgh as he’s a big goalie at 6-foot-2 and would likely be interested in a two or three-year extension around $1.5 million on the cap. Certainly a figure the Penguins could make work for next season and considering all the big names left to re-sign, money will be tight. The team only has one goalie signed at the moment for next season, with Jarry making $3.5 million. The Senators netminder may not be the perfect fit, but he should be considered based on the acquisition cost.
Martin Jones, Philadelphia Flyers
There’s certainly a connection to Jones through Hextall’s time with the Los Angeles Kings organization and the Penguins GM could circle back before the trade deadline. The Flyers are open for business and Jones is a candidate to be dealt, as he’s on an expiring contract and isn’t likely being brought back in Philly.
For me, I think Jones could be the perfect fit to run with Jarry for the rest of the season as he’s a veteran who has been around the block, has playoff experience and is a wonderful teammate. The Penguins have an extremely tight-knit group, however, the 32-year-old is familiar with several members of the roster including Jeff Carter.
While his numbers have been down recently, again let’s remind everyone he’s not playing in front of a Mike Sullivan-coached hockey club. Don’t let the 6-8-2 record scare you and same with the $2-million cap hit. The Flyers would likely be willing to retain some salary and even with the money aside, the acquisition price will not be steep. The Oilers tried already to acquire Jones for a late-round pick and the Flyers brass wasn’t having it but adding a second-tier prospect for fifth-round pick should get the job done.
The Penguins need to improve on their goaltending depth as they once again get ready for a Stanley Cup push. While the team has Louis Domingue as a decent option, who is currently on the injured reserve, it’s not enough and the team needs to get away from giving DeSmith more starts. These three goalies are all worth inquiring about and let’s see what tricks Burke and Hextall have up their sleeve as we creep closer to the trade deadline in late March.
Shane covers any and everything to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor to the THW family, his passion and unique perspective on the game results in some diverse content. Certainly versatile, you can also find him contributing at NHLTradeRumors.me, BaseballRumors.me & BBallRumors.com. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween