The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of many teams expected to be active on the trade market before the March 3 trade deadline. General manager Ron Hextall showed the fan base last summer that he’s willing to wheel and deal to improve his hockey club and Pens fans can expect much of the same now that the holiday roster freeze is behind us.
The Penguins could be in the market for some help among their bottom-six forwards and some goaltending depth. There’s been some inconsistencies from Pittsburgh’s third and fourth-lines and backup goaltender Casey DeSmith hasn’t found his game, which could lead Hextall to target these areas this spring.
Here’s three Penguins who could be shipped out to help improve the roster for a Stanley Cup Playoff run:
Penguins winger Kasperi Kapanen has been involved in trade talks throughout most of this season and it’s had a ton to do with his very slow start to the 2022-23 campaign. Kapanen found himself in and out of the lineup at times and appears to be a prime candidate to be traded.
Kapanen has found himself on the third line and in his last 10 games, only has recorded five assists. Some nights he’s seeing less than 10 minutes of playing time and it’s become quite obvious the coaching staff can’t trust the speedy winger as much as they’d like.
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The 26-year-old Kapanen still has some potential and even with his contract taking him through next season at $3.2 million annually, there will be a market for his services. The Penguins may have to add in a mid-round draft pick or a mid-level prospect to get a team to bite, but this trade will likely be a case of dealing one struggling player for another.
Keep an eye on the Edmonton Oilers as they have been dangling Jesse Puljujarvi on the trade market. Another potential target could be Lawson Crouse of the Arizona Coyotes, who plays the game tough and would fit in perfectly on the Penguins third line this season and potentially on the team’s second line next season and beyond as he’s signed through the 2026-27 season.
The Penguins recently called up defenseman Ty Smith to their NHL roster and for me, this is a showcase as he’s a prime trade candidate before this season’s deadline.
Smith was acquired in a head-scratching trade which sent John Marino to New Jersey and he’s now flourished as a Devil. Smith on the other hand, has spent the entire season in the American Hockey League (AHL) and is just now getting a chance to crack the NHL roster.
In 26 games in the minors, Smith has put up a respectable 14 points. With his two seasons of NHL experience under his belt, many forget Smith is still only 22 years old. There’s still a ton of upside to his game and with the Penguins having eight, maybe nine NHL-caliber defensemen when Jeff Petry is healthy, he’s a prime candidate to get moved for some help up front.
A trade package including both Kapanen and Smith could land Hextall and the Penguins a very respectable third-line winger who has Stanley Cup Playoff experience on their resume.
With the Penguins have Tristan Jarry as their legitimate number one netminder and with the likelihood he re-signs a long-term extension to stay in Pittsburgh this summer, the team could shop goalie prospect Filip Lindberg before the trade deadline.
Lindberg, 23, is having himself a fine season in the AHL, registering a 2.39 goals against average and a .915 save percentage through 11 games. The Penguins have the necessary financial means to keep Jarry in town for the foreseeable future and they would be better off to find a veteran to back him up than put in an unproven rookie.
Lindberg has a ton of upside as he’s a very athletic goaltender who isn’t the biggest at 6-foot, however uses his tenacity and his compete level to shine. Injuries are a concern as Lindberg battled an ankle injury last season and is currently on the shelve with a lower-body injury and is expected to miss at least a couple of weeks. If he can get back healthy, and into game action before the trade deadline, look for the Penguins to include him in trade offers.
Hextall and company are in a very unique position and need to take advantage of it. The Penguins are a Stanley Cup contender, who have several trade assets at their disposal. Pittsburgh also has close to $20 million in cap space to work with next season, so a deadline deal could include not just rentals, but players who could be with the franchise for years to come.