The Pittsburgh Penguins have recently had their name involved in a number of different trade rumors, as some feel a fire sale could be on the way. The team does have several pending free agents to worry about next summer. Still, as we’ve seen early on this season, Tristan Jarry is developing into an elite netminder, and head coach Mike Sullivan is capable of taking just about any hockey roster into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Needless to say, enough with the fire sale trade rumors.
Earlier this season, I posted an article about how if the Penguins were struggling, it could perhaps lead to some major changes, but the team has been stellar so far in 2021-22. Pittsburgh sits at 10-6-4 on the season and has enjoyed some impressive wins, including beating the Toronto Maple Leafs twice and exercising the demons on Long Island Friday night.
Penguins Management Needs to Wait Out Health Concerns
The Penguins have once again dealt with their fair share of injuries and then add in the new COVID-19 protocol list, and the team has played shorthanded on numerous occasions. Game after game, some depth players have stepped up and performed when needed, including Evan Rodrigues, Kasperi Kapanen and Danton Heinen.
Penguins legend Evgeni Malkin has yet to play in a game this season, and the message to Penguins management should be to remain patient, wait for “Geno” to return and go ALL-IN once again! This means don’t trade Bryan Rust, who went down with another injury against the Islanders, or Jeff Carter, Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang and Malkin. The group deserves another shot at making some noise in the postseason.
Friday night’s 1-0 victory over the New York Islanders was a prime example that Jarry and the team as a whole have taken giant leaps forward from last season. Jarry especially, as he was awful in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, and the Isles seemed to have every corner picked over. That wasn’t the case on Friday night, and he is now 10-4-3 with a 1.91 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. While he didn’t make the initial long list of six goaltenders on Team Canada’s Olympic team radar, the Penguins netminder is certainly creeping closer to the conversation.
Penguins Will Be Adding Not Selling at the Deadline
General manager Ron Hextall and President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke will go fishing this winter, and it will be to find some players to fill the gaps on the Penguins roster. Because Pittsburgh does have so many pending free agents, 13 players on the active roster, they could certainly move a piece or two if someone is offering way over the asking price. But to think the likes of Carter or Jarry or Kapanen are getting moved any time soon is crazy talk.
One player who may be shopped is Jason Zucker. He’s one of only a few forwards who are signed for next season, and there’s no denying he’s been a disappointment in Pittsburgh. So far this season, he’s recorded nine points in 20 games, and while it certainly could be worse, the team is expecting more out of a player making $5.5 million on the cap. The hard salary cap is difficult enough to manage, but when you have expensive players, underperforming things can get very complicated.
While a fire sale is not happening, expect to see management go out and acquire a veteran netminder who can backup Jarry and provide more stability than Casey DeSmith. Consider this a bit of a security blanket if Jarry goes down with injury or needs some rest later on in the season.
Penguins Have a Few Holes to Fill in Their Lineup
Another move the Penguins could potentially pull off is for a versatile winger or a right-handed defenseman. Don’t expect someone like Evander Kane to get picked up, but the team could benefit from upgrading on Zucker and bringing in someone who can play both wings. One right-handed defenseman the Penguins were linked to was Justin Holl of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he appears to be staying put for the time being. Pittsburgh will surely be in the market to upgrade over Mark Friedman or Chad Ruhwedel on their bottom-pair.
Make no mistake about it; there’s a Stanley Cup championship on the minds of the Penguins brass. The team is playing great and hasn’t even iced their best lineup yet. Jarry looks like an elite netminder, and the offense has still yet to hit its stride, meanwhile, the team is sitting in a playoff spot. So, enough with the fire sale rumors, it’s just not happening this season in Pittsburgh.
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 find Seney also contributing at NHLTradeRumors.me, BaseballRumors.me & BBallRumors.com. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween