Pittsburgh Penguins Desperately Need to Make a Trade

The Pittsburgh Penguins are setting themselves up for an interesting offseason as general manager Ron Hextall and President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke are ready to roll up their sleeves and upgrade the roster. There’s one problem, though; as it stands right now the Penguins have no salary cap space to work with next season, and desperately need to make a trade to create some flexibility.

The Penguins have some talent on their roster who are locked into long-term deals, but could appeal to other teams. It’s going to be up to Hextall and Burke to find the right suitor, and to get back a return that not only helps the current roster, but gives them some extra money to work with moving forward.

Penguins Have a Few Players Who Could Be Moved

Marcus Pettersson

Moving on from Pettersson’s $4.02 million cap hit for the next four seasons who be heaven on earth for Penguins management. While he’s a serviceable player, he is arguably very overpaid thanks to ex-general manager Jim Rutherford pulling a quick trigger on a long-term extension for the former second-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks.

Marcus Pettersson Pittsburgh Penguins
Moving Marcus Pettersson would go a long way for Penguins management (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Last season the 25-year-old recorded nine points in 47 games. While he’s not “soft” by any means, Pettersson isn’t a Hextall/Burke type of 6-foot-3 defenseman, as he doesn’t play a nasty style. In an ideal world, the Penguins would love to trade him for a cheaper defenseman who plays a much meaner game.

Jason Zucker

Again, he’s not the type of player Hextall and Burke love, and for $5.5 million for the next two seasons, the organization could find a better option for less money. Ideally, alongside Evgeni Malkin and Kasperi Kapanen, you would want a power forward who can skate and won’t shy away from the physicality of the dirty areas. Zucker plays hard, don’t get me wrong, but he’s not going to be the first in line to stick up for his teammates.

Jason Zucker Pittsburgh Penguins
Jason Zucker is a prime trade candidate for the Penguins this offseason (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Zucker holds no-trade protection as he submits a list of 10 teams to management when free agency opens up, so that’s a small curveball in this deal. However, given he’s still only 29 years old and has a 30-goal season under his belt, he still holds value on the trade market.

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A team to watch here is the Los Angeles Kings. Kings general manager Rob Blake has made it known league-wide that the team is looking to upgrade their top-six forwards and Zucker could be a great fit in California. Considering he’s a native of Newport Beach, it’s very likely he agrees to waive his no-trade clause to play with the Kings. Wouldn’t that be something if the Penguins and Kings completed another big trade? It could happen.

John Marino

Marino is the least likely of these three to get moved as right-handed, mobile defensemen are extremely hard to find. The 24-year-old has his contract extension kick in next season at $4.4 million for the next six seasons. It was a grind at times for the sophomore last season, and his offensive numbers dropped significantly and caught the attention of management. Again, he’s another player who isn’t an aggressive force on the ice as he averaged less than one hit a game.

John Marino Pittsburgh Penguins
John Marino is on the trade radar for other teams (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It’s likely Hextall and Burke give Marino another look next season and hope he can find his offensive production, much like his rookie season when he put up 26 points in 56 games. If there ever comes a time to move Marino, it would be for an impact, top-six, power forward, who are about as rare as trying to find a unicorn. It’s very unlikely the defenseman gets dealt, but if he does, look for it to be a hockey deal that saves the Penguins some cash moving forward.

The flat salary cap is something the Penguins have to deal with, of course, like every other team in the league. Hextall and Burke have taken over a team that, even with Sidney Crosby being extremely underpaid, has financial constraints. Management wants to get tougher and they want to add size next season. None of this is going to be possible unless they add some money to their pockets.