There may not be a more exciting time during an NHL season than the trade deadline, especially for a franchise like the Pittsburgh Penguins that isn’t afraid to shake up the roster. This season, Pittsburgh may have already made its biggest move by acquiring Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann from the Florida Panthers, but there are still plenty of options on the market to beef up the roster.
Because the Penguins have been Stanley Cup hopefuls nearly every season in recent memory, they’ve depleted their prospect pool and don’t have much elite talent coming up. Still, they have solid assets that can be packaged together to make a splash in the next week.
Honorable Mentions: Filip Hallander, Juuso Riikola, Zach Aston-Reece
7. Tristan Jarry
After the team extended Casey DeSmith through the 2021-22 season, Tristan Jarry was left as the odd-man out on the Penguins’ goaltender depth chart. The 23-year-old has shown that he can be effective at the NHL level, registering a 2.84 goals-against average and .906 save percentage in 29 career appearances.
He may never pan out as a full-time NHL starter, but Jarry is already capable of slotting into a backup role. Jarry is also signed through next season, though it changes from a two-way to a one-way contract. Teams could be interested in him in a package deal as some cheap goalie insurance.
6. 2020 First-Round Pick
The Penguins haven’t been active during the first round of an NHL draft since 2014 when they selected Kasperi Kapanen. Since then, all four of the team’s first-round picks have been used to improve the NHL roster.
Obviously, first-round picks are highly coveted around the league as the best way for a franchise to bolster its minor-league system. The Penguins’ picks are slightly less valuable than the average team because they are still expected to compete over the next few seasons. Pittsburgh may be more inclined to trade its 2020 first-round selection because general manager Jim Rutherford has noted that he’d like to keep the team’s top draft slot in 2019.
5. Teddy Blueger
Teddy Blueger has increased his stock more than any other Pittsburgh prospect this season. Selected in the second round of the 2012 draft, Blueger scored two goals on his first two NHL shots and is up to four points in his first nine games.
The 24-year-old also combined for 42 goals with AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton over the past two seasons. Blueger’s offensive success has been somewhat of a surprise as he was touted for his grinding defensive abilities during his minor-league career. Even in a small sample size, he’s showing that he can be a quality bottom-six contributor.
4. Calen Addison
Calen Addison was the Penguins’ first selection in the 2018 draft. He headlines a talented group of skaters from that class that could all prove to have a decent NHL impact. An undersized yet talented blueliner, the 18-year-old has plenty of offensive upside.
He’s currently on pace to finish top-10 in points among WHL defensemen for the second consecutive season. Addison has experience quarterbacking the power play and tends to always make the correct choice whether to pass or shoot.
The Penguins may be inclined to keep Addison, as he’s one of few defensemen near the top of their prospect pool. However, if the team gets in serious talks for upper-tier names on the market, they may not have a choice.
3. Jordy Bellerive
As an undrafted free-agent signing, Jordy Bellerive has done a tremendous job of giving his name value over the last few seasons. The 19-year-old lit it up for WHL Lethbridge during the 2017-18 campaign, scoring 46 goals and 92 points in 71 games, good for 12th-most points in the league. This season, he’s in the top-20 again with 67 points.
Bellerive seems to be Pittsburgh’s best prospect now that players such as Aston-Reece and Dominik Simon have graduated to the NHL level. Bellerive’s offensive skills are developing well, highlighted by a strong and accurate wrist shot. He might still be a couple years away from making his NHL debut, but Bellerive has a load of potential.
2. Bryan Rust
Of all the assets on this list, Bryan Rust is the one with the biggest NHL impact. Including the postseason, he’s racked up 66 goals and 131 points in 298 games with Pittsburgh. Rust is also effective in the defensive zone and has experience killing penalties.
The 26-year-old is under contract through the 2021-22 season making $3.5 million per season. Not only does he have trade value, but he can also be used to offset the money being exchanged, as Pittsburgh doesn’t have a ton of cap space to work with.
One knock on Rust is that he’s been known to struggle when he’s not on Sidney Crosby’s wing. Over the last three seasons, he’s posting a 47.2 goals-for percentage (GF%) without Crosby but has a 55.8 percent with him. However, even without Crosby on the ice, Rust has posted a 51.3 Corsi percentage during that same span.
1. 2019 First-Round Pick
As mentioned, Rutherford is on the record saying he’d rather not trade this draft pick away. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t be persuaded over the next few days.
Since taking over as Pittsburgh’s GM in 2014, Rutherford has made just one first-round selection. This year, the Penguins may not have the assets to go after the biggest names on the market and they might choose to make smaller moves instead.
If they do make a move for a big-impact player such as the Philadelphia Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds or the New York Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello, it’s hard to imagine a deal gets done without a first-round pick being involved.
With Pittsburgh already making a couple important moves this season, the team likely won’t be as active as usual in the last couple days prior to the trade deadline. Still, Rutherford is known as an active general manager for a reason and the Penguins still have a few needs if they want to be a serious Stanley Cup threat this season.