We recently saw the Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs strike a deal that sent Jared McCann away in exchange for prospect Filip Hallander and a 2023 seventh-round draft selection. Despite this, I don’t fully believe that this is the last deal we see between the two clubs this summer, and I have a couple of potential trade candidates that I believe could benefit the Penguins in a trade.
This is the big one, and I’m not sure how realistic it is, but Morgan Rielly could be a very good addition to the Penguins’ blue line if he were to be traded. I believe the Maple Leafs are more willing to trade him this offseason, as he has just one year remaining on his contract, and he has fallen behind TJ Brodie and Jake Muzzin on the depth charts in Toronto.
I’m not sure the Maple Leafs would have much interest in roster players in return for Rielly, as I predict they will go for Dougie Hamilton in free agency, so the cleared cap space would be big for them. It would likely be picks and prospects going back the other way if this is the case.
During the 2020-21 season, Rielly had 5 goals and 35 points along with 4.1 goals above replacement (GAR) and 0.7 wins above replacement (WAR) through 55 games played. He was very good offensively both at even-strength and on special teams but was a liability in the defensive zone, so he would have to be paired with a good defensive-minded defenseman.
The good thing about Rielly is his versatility, as he can play either side, meaning the Penguins could pair him with either Brian Dumoulin or John Marino, depending on the side they decided to play him on.
If the Penguins don’t want to spend big on Rielly, they could also opt to pursue his cheaper teammate in Travis Dermott, who recently signed a two-year extension worth $1.5 million but was left unprotected by the Maple Leafs in the expansion draft, as they chose to protect Justin Holl instead.
Dermott, 24, struggled last season, with just two goals and six points along with a minus-2 GAR and minus-0.4 WAR in 51 games played. Once an analytical darling, he’s likely the seventh defenseman behind Rielly, Jake Muzzin, and Rasmus Sandin. This is why I could see the Maple Leafs being willing to move him out, as he is too qualified to be an extra player.
Dermott would likely cost around a third-round pick and a prospect, perhaps Nathan Legare or, ironically, Filip Hallander again. He would be a good replacement if the Penguins choose to move Marcus Pettersson or Mike Matheson elsewhere this summer.
Another player that the Maple Leafs left exposed in the expansion draft is Alex Kerfoot, who is signed at $3.5 million annually until 2023. Even if the Kraken pass up on him, I expect Toronto to trade him quickly prior to the free-agent period to clear his money.
Kerfoot is a player who took a big leap in the postseason. After an underwhelming regular season in which he had 8 goals and 23 points in 56 games played, he posted one goal and six points in seven games when John Tavares went out with a head injury and was one of the team’s best players within the top-six.
With Evgeni Malkin out for potentially the entire season, if not at least a huge part of it, it would not be bad to add a player like Kerfoot, who has shown when it matters that he can pick his play up to another level. Ideally, he’s a good third-line centre who can entire the top-six as a winger if necessary, and I think that is what he would be in Pittsburgh.
Zach Hyman is somebody who has recently been linked to the Penguins, as the team has called with interest in acquiring his unrestricted free agent rights.
While I personally would not go for Hyman, as he is set to make big money this offseason as the most touted power forward available, it’s hard to deny that he would make the Penguins much better when added to the lineup, and would give the team another option for Crosby if they want to move Jake Guentzel down with Malkin.
His rights would hardly cost the Penguins anything, as he is not signed yet and it has become apparent that he likely won’t return to Toronto. With Barclay Goodrow’s rights fetching a seventh-round pick, I’d assume Hyman’s cost a fifth-round pick, or fourth-round pick, maximum.
Obviously, as you can see, there are many realistic options from Toronto that the Penguins could pursue, so it’s up to Ron Hextall to decide if he wants to make another move with them after the roster freeze is lifted.
PIT Penguins Writer THW. Instagram: puckempire. Formerly a Florida Panthers writer.