Pittsburgh Penguins GM Looking to Make a Trade

The Pittsburgh Penguins are open for business. According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, general manager (GM) Ron Hextall is seeing what’s out there on the trade market. The NHL as a whole usually becomes more active with trades after American Thanksgiving, so it’s likely we could see a move here in the coming weeks.

Hextall has a number of different directions he could go via the trade market, but to me, it makes the most sense to add a forward or two to the team’s bottom six. For now, the goaltending seems to have turned things around, the defense core is rounding into shape, and the top two lines are firing, but it’s the depth up front which could use some adjusting.

Penguins Have Several Trade Candidates

Pittsburgh doesn’t have a lot of cap space, as they currently sit with a whopping $94,206 under the cap. That means options will be quite limited, so it’s going to need to be a money-in-money-out transaction. One Penguin in particular tops the charts when it comes to the team’s trade candidates and that’s forward Kasperi Kapanen.

Kasperi Kapanen Pittsburgh Penguins
Kasperi Kapanen, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The 26-year-old has struggled this season and can’t find consistent minutes in the lineup. This comes after a summer where the franchise made a two-year commitment to the player, which unfortunately now looks like a bad decision. Kapanen makes $3.2 million annually and so far in 13 games, has only one goal and five points.

The trade market for Kapanen is very thin as he’s overpaid for a checking winger. After scoring 20 goals as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, ‘Kappy’ has never been able to come close to this type of production in Pittsburgh. This season the coaching staff was finally using him in a penalty killing role, but unfortunately, that’s not been enough to keep him in the lineup. If I had to guess, I would say the Vancouver Canucks, Arizona Coyotes, and the rival Washington Capitals could have some interest in a deal to acquire Kapanen.

Related: Penguins Need More Production from Their Bottom Six

Another potential trade candidate could be Pierre-Olivier Joseph. The young defenseman is someone who was rumored to be available at the start of the season; however, no deal materialized at that time. Joseph has found some regular playing time this season and has appeared in 15 games, playing close to 15 minutes a night. The 23-year-old has recorded five assists so far this season and has shown off his poise, skating ability, and a solid first pass.

Trade Market for Defensemen Heating Up

Two teams in particular need defensemen and that’s the Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators. Both clubs have banged up blue lines and could look to someone like Joseph as a potential fit. This also makes me wonder if the Penguins would budge should there be some trade interest in veteran Brian Dumoulin. The pending free agent is making $4.1 million against the salary cap and does hold 10-team no-trade protection. After a slow start to the season, Dumoulin’s starting to find his game, but at this point I’d say it’s unlikely he’s moved.

Brian Dumoulin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Brian Dumoulin, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There’s also the ‘legacy’ factor in play here considering how long Dumoulin’s been with the franchise but unfortunately at times this season, he’s looked a step behind. It’s likely Hextall ‘listens’ to offers but he’s not likely ‘shopping’ the veteran defenseman.

Penguins Will Need to Be Creative in Any Deal

If the Penguins trade Kapanen, they’ll likely have to add a sweetener to the pot in order to get another team to take on all of his cap hit in the deal. If Joseph goes, Hextall has to make sure he’s getting back a player making close to league minimum money. If it’s Dumoulin, his hands will be tied when it comes to which teams he can negotiate with. At the end of the day, Penguins management will need to get their creative juices flowing to wheel and deal.

After a rough patch early on this season, the Penguins have turned things around and have leapfrogged some teams in the standings. There have been no concerns about their top two lines, meanwhile, the depth up front is a concern. It makes sense for Hextall to be actively discussing deals at this time, to try and jump ahead of the trade market and add some more depth. I could see him trying to package Kapanen with another piece or two, and to me, I’d keep Joseph and move a prospect in the deal as a sweetener. Now we just wait to see which GM has a sweet tooth.