The Pittsburgh Penguins head into the 2020-21 season with high expectations and several new faces. General manager Jim Rutherford has been busy trying to upgrade his roster and give his team a new complement of talent.
Rutherford has already made six trades since August and is notorious for his in-season moves, so we can all expect a few more to follow. If the Penguins meet expectations, they should be primed for a long playoff run and will be looking to add to their mix. Here’s who they could potentially target in a trade.
Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
It’s still to be determined if Getzlaf ends up signing a new extension in California, but if he’s available at the trade deadline and willing to waive his no-movement clause, Rutherford should have him on his radar. He would fit in perfectly as a ‘third-line’ center for the Pens. He’s right-handed, which they need more of down the middle, and his résumé speaks for itself. Getzlaf would immediately make their power-play better, regardless if he’s on the first or second-unit, and his playoff experience would just be the cherry on top for the dressing room.
Getzlaf’s feet may have slowed down a touch, as the 35-year-old’s next game will be his 1054th in the league. But his vision, hockey IQ, and ability to make the right play would be something any team could use more of come playoff time. Any deadline deal for the Penguins should focus on bringing in proven winners with playoff experience, and Getzlaf’s 125 playoff games qualify him for the role.
Something else to consider is the Regina, Saskatchewan native has played with Sidney Crosby on multiple teams representing Canada. They know each other well, and the transition has potential to be an easy one. Comfort is a big thing for players, and if Getzlaf is comfortable enough to leave the Ducks temporarily for a playoff run, heading to Pittsburgh makes a ton of sense.
While the weather in Pittsburgh compared to Anaheim may be hard to get used to, it’s only a couple of months, and winning never gets old.
Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils
The long-time Devil has spent 14 seasons in Jersey, and if the young team doesn’t find its stride this upcoming year, Zajac could be a rental at the deadline.
Last season the Winnipeg, Manitoba native had a down year while he begins to get pushed down the lineup in New Jersey. Zajac collected 25 points in 69 games, which was his lowest production total in over six years. The Penguins, however, wouldn’t be looking for Zajac to score. He could fill a spot on their bottom-six and provide some stability and experience to the group. His $5.75 million cap hit is a touch rich for Rutherford’s blood, so New Jersey would have to retain some salary to facilitate a deal.
A solid prospect and mid-round pick may get the Devils’ attention. However, Zajac’s no-trade clause could be a hurdle. It’s going to be up to the player if he wants to change his jersey colors, as Zajac would have to approve any deal.
Playing for a Stanley Cup alongside Crosby and Malkin should be enough to close the deal.
Niklas Hjalmarsson, Arizona Coyotes
The Arizona Coyotes have already asked Niklas Hjalmarsson if he wanted to leave the team once before and the veteran defenseman decided to not waive his no-movement clause.
Perhaps the question comes up again.
In Hjalmarsson, the Penguins would be getting one of the best defensive defensemen of his era. The 14-year veteran is in an elite class when it comes to the combination of positioning, blocking shots, and making the first pass.
Back in September of 2019, the team approached Hjalmarsson about a move, and the conversation didn’t get very far. If the Coyotes aren’t close to making the playoffs around the deadline next year, they could approach him once again. While he’s not the 2015 all-star he once was, in a limited role, the stable defender could give Penguins’ head coach Mike Sullivan the perfect complement to their defensive depth.
The 33-year-old’s cap hit goes down in the final season of his deal, making him even more appealing on the trade market.
Jim Rutherford has made over 50 trades in his six seasons in Pittsburgh, and as long as he’s given authority to do so, more trades will follow. The GM will be keeping a close eye on the rental market. And if the likes of Getzlaf, Zajac, or Hjalmarsson become available, conversations should be taking place.
If you have a pending free-agent with playoff experience, make sure you have Rutherford on speed dial.