Pittsburgh Penguins general manager (GM) Ron Hextall is happy to admit a couple of things as we approach the March 21 trade deadline. He likes his team and is comfortable standing pat, but if he’s able to do anything it would be to upgrade his forward group. In order to do so, look for him to move out either defenseman John Marino or Marcus Pettersson.
From all accounts it feels like the team would prefer to keep Marino over Pettersson, however, sometimes things don’t work out that way. The two blueliners have been linked to several trades so far this season, with both being of interest to ex-GM Jim Rutherford, who is now the president of hockey operations for the Vancouver Canucks.
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet confirmed last weekend that Marino was a big target of Rutherford and given he signed both of these defensemen to their current long-term contract extensions, it makes sense for his interest to still remain. The Canucks could use some help on their blue line, meanwhile, the Penguins are looking for wingers. At this point, no deal is imminent but appears some options have been discussed.
Penguins Prefer Boeser Over Garland
From what I can gather, Hextall and company are reluctant to move Marino even if it means Canucks right-winger Brock Boeser is included in the deal. The move would cost the Penguins more than just their young right-handed defenseman and it doesn’t appear they’re ready to meet Vancouver’s high demands.
Garland, on the other hand, has been linked to several deals. With his contract being locked in at $4.95 million for the next four seasons, you can understand why Rutherford is not interested in just giving him away for spare parts. A Pettersson for Garland deal isn’t enough for the Canucks and a Marino for Boeser deal doesn’t cut it either, so both executives have some work to do if they’re going to convince the other to give them what they want before Monday’s deadline.
Penguins Defenseman Falling Down Depth Chart
With the emergence of Michael Matheson this season, who is now playing some minutes on the top pair with Kris Letang, it’s essentially spelled the end of Pettersson’s tenure in Pittsburgh as his name is openly available on the trade market. At 25 years old and signed to a reasonable contract of $4.02 million through the 2024-25 season, there should be some interest outside of just Vancouver before the trade deadline.
Pettersson was recently a healthy scratch for the first time this season and appears to be once again set for the press box on Tuesday night when the Penguins take on the Nashville Predators. He’s managed to record 14 points in 55 games this season and has shown he can play a more physical game than expected out of the 6-foot-3 Swedish blueliner. The former second-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks has collected 101 hits so far this season, an impressive number that’s basically doubled from last season. The knock on his game is the fact he’s over $4 million and doesn’t play a ton on special teams. This has more to do with the Penguins’ depth than his abilities at this point, and any team acquiring his services should give him a look on their second power-play unit and penalty kill.
Hextall and president of hockey operations Brian Burke have long mentioned they prefer hockey deals over anything this season and aren’t interested in moving assets out for rentals. Any move involving either of their defensemen will be for a forward who has term left on his contract, or team control if you will, as the Penguins are stopping the trend of unloading their future for short-term fixes.
Another player who could be packaged with Pettersson is Kasperi Kapanen, who has been inconsistent to say the least this season. The speedy winger continues to look for his offensive touch as he’s been going through a major struggle these past few weeks, leading to his own healthy scratch last week. So far in 58 games, the 25-year-old has tallied 26 points and as a pending restricted free agent in need of a contract extension, there’s potential he gets packaged in any deal. This would allow the Penguins to open up some room within their top-nine forward group and give them more flexibility to focus on the contract extensions for Bryan Rust and Evan Rodrigues. There won’t be enough money to go around, so Hextall’s going to have to prioritize somewhere.
Keep an eye on the Penguins as their two respected executives continue to work the phones trying to upgrade their roster before the trade deadline. A forward with term remains Pittsburgh’s interest, meanwhile, if it’s a huge blockbuster expect to see Marino shipped out, while if it’s a lesser deal, Pettersson will likely be the one packing his bags.
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