Penguins & Panthers Emerging as Potential Trade Partners

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers are two teams to keep an eye on as the 2023 NHL trade deadline approaches. Penguins general manager (GM) Ron Hextall is likely going to be very active on the trade market, trying to add some talent to his group in anticipation of a long Stanley Cup Playoff run. Meanwhile in the sunshine state, Panthers GM Bill Zito appears destined to sell off some assets to make his team more financial flexible for next offseason.

One way both teams could make each other happy is finalizing a deal that sees Panthers center Sam Bennett end up a Penguin. There’s a number of different reasons why Pittsburgh should be interested and they include:

Bennett Huge Upgrade Over Jeff Carter

The Penguins are currently using veteran Jeff Carter as their third-line center. Unfortunately for Carter and the Penguins, it hasn’t worked out quite as planned this season as his production is down. There’s many issues including five-on-five defense and Pittsburgh should look into the acquisition price of Bennett.

Sam Bennett Florida Panthers
Sam Bennett, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While Carter may win more faceoffs, it’s the style of play that really stands out here. Bennett is the prototypical Hextall/Brian Burke type of player as he plays an in-your-face style that can push opponents off their game. The 26-year-old loves to use the body and has collected 103 hits so far in 2022-23. This compared to Carter who has registered only 42.

Carter is better suited to play the wing on the third line or even move up to the second line should there be an injury. He’s versatile so he could still be valuable for the Penguins moving forward, especially if they need to win a key faceoff at an important time of the game. Bennett is much the same, someone who can play down the middle, in all special teams’ situations and has experience filling in on the wing if needed.

Bennett Would Bring Much Needed Sandpaper to Pittsburgh

While the Penguins can be an offensive juggernaut who can also play a structured defensive game to shut down opponents, what they don’t have is a ton of sandpaper or grit. Bennett fits the bill as he’s never shy of contact, loves the dirty areas of the ice and will drop the gloves if needed.

Related: Penguins’ 2022-23 Trade Targets: Nashville Predators

His swiss-army like tangibles is something the Penguins could use more of as they are constantly making lineup adjustments as injuries seem to play a factor year in and year out. Bennett is built for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and as a third-line shutdown center, could give the Penguins some depth down the middle that would be hard to match by other teams.

Bennett’s a Short-Term and Long-Term Fix for Penguins

According to Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff, the Panthers are a team to watch as they could be interested in trading either Bennett or Sam Reinhart for future considerations. Seravalli mentions the Panthers could then turn around and address their need for another defenseman. The Penguins could kill two birds with one stone for Zito and company.

Ty Smith Pittsburgh Penguins
Ty Smith, Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Penguins have a surplus of defenseman and Ty Smith is someone who stands out as a potential trade option here. Smith is a former first-round pick and is only 22 years old. He’s making $863,333 against the cap and has shown lately he has all the tools to be a consistent NHL contributor. Smith’s an offensive-minded defender, something the Panthers could use more of.

Along with Smith, Teddy Blueger stands out here to be included. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent and someone the Panthers could potentially let walk next summer to free up more cap space for their blue line. Blueger plays a similar style to Bennett, however doesn’t have the same offensive input but still could be a plug-and-play addition for Zito. Hextall would need to include a first-round pick in this deal and should consider doing so because Bennett is signed through the 2024-25 season and isn’t a short-term rental.

The more I think about this trade the more I feel it’s something the Penguins need to heavily pursue. Bennett is the type of player who is needed in Pittsburgh and can have a lasting impact on the team for the rest of this season and beyond. Hextall has been trying for weeks to make a change, the team needs it. The Penguins GM should be working the phones with Zito and the Panthers and do whatever he can to add Bennett to the lineup.