The Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli posted a list of potential NHL trade targets for the 2022 offseason.
Several of them have ties to Pittsburgh, or the Penguins directly.
At least one of them the Penguins must investigate.
Marino on the move?
Let’s start with the one involving an actual Penguin currently on the roster. It’s defenseman John Marino.
“The Penguins received a few calls on Marino ahead of last season’s deadline but remained focused and committed to their playoff push,” Seravalli said. “The truth is Marino is not Pittsburgh’s preferred choice to move on their back end. That would be Marcus Pettersson. But no team seems willing to take on Peterson’s three more years at just over $4 million, while there are teams interested in Marino, and the Penguins have a real need to move money if they’re going to run it back with (Kris) Letang , Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust next season.”
Whether or not Letang stays in Pittsburgh, there has been scuttlebutt about the Penguins trading either Marino or Pettersson from the defense corps. Even Brian Dumoulin’s name has been whispered.
I’m not opposed to moving at least one of those guys. What I am opposed to is the perceived reason for doing so.
Moving salary off the blue line shouldn’t be done in an effort to keep Malkin or Letang. It should be done to expedite the rebuilding process for the years after those players leave and in the remaining seasons of Sidney Crosby’s time in Pittsburgh.
I feel those years should begin next season.
Every national hockey writer seems to be looking at the Penguins’ depth chart from the perspective of, “How can the Penguins manipulate their roster to keep Malkin and Letang?”
I’m looking at it from the perspective of, “Hey, what can the Penguins do with their roster if they are willing to say goodbye to Malkin and Letang?”
If the Penguins want to deal one top-6 defenseman for a cheaper player who can currently fill that role — or a prospect and a pick so they finally commit to Pierre-Olivier Joseph — I’d get it. It’d be more cap space to sign free agents or maybe trade for some of the other players on Seravalli’s list.
However, by dealing Marino or Peterson, we are talking about moving money off the roster, only to subtract from the core group of nightly skaters, all while attempting to “keep the core intact for one more run.”
Reallocating salaries and these resources while retaining Malkin and Letang seems counterintuitive to me.
Two players that Penguins fans have salivated over at times since the last Stanley Cup win in 2017 are current Montreal Canadiens power forward Josh Anderson and defenseman Jeff Petry.
I’ve been right there with you.
Neither player has taken the steps forward that we may have expected in recent seasons. In fact, it’s easy to argue they have regressed.
Anderson — a 28-year-old, 6-foot-3, 226-pound winger — put up 27 goals with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2018-19. His goal total dipped to 17 and 19 goals in his last two seasons in Montreal. But how is that potential production (at a $5.5 million cap hit) versus what the team got from Kasperi Kapanen and Jason Zucker?
Petry, a 34-year-old defenseman, makes $6.25 million and is under contract for three more years. Letang is going to make more than that, with potentially a longer contract term at age 35.
As Seravalli writes, Petry would be “a solid backup plan in Pittsburgh if the Penguins aren’t able to re-sign Kris Letang.”
I would have been much more intrigued by that two years ago. I’m not sure how solid of a backup plan Petry’s 27 points in 2021 are to Letang’s 68. But if Penguins general manager Ron Hextall genuinely wants to keep Letang and just can’t pull it off, don’t be surprised if Petry’s name comes up as a “Letang Lite” option.
The Pittsburgh kids
Seravalli has Anaheim Duck goalie John Gibson (Whitehall) on his board at No. 7 and Vancouver forward JT Miller (Coraopolis/East Palestine, Oh./Pittsburgh Hornets) fourth.
Miller was a pipe dream at the trade deadline. He totaled 32 goals and 99 points. However, if (again, if) the Penguins are willing to turn the page on Malkin and Letang, that’s $16.7 million that was on the books this year that won’t be next year.
Maybe Miller is more attainable for the Penguins in the summertime, despite his $5.25 million cap hit for one more year.
Then again, Miller is now more attainable for everyone else, too, and I bet the Pens would come up short in any bidding war given their lack of depth prospect.
Regarding the 28-year-old Gibson? Yes. It’s a fun, romantic idea. But my belief is the Pens’ staff isn’t giving up on current goal Tristan Jarry after the way his season ended. And you don’t trade for Gibson (at $6.4 million over the next five years) to back up Jarry.
Then again, if it truly is about “one more run,” maybe Hextall views Gibson as an upgrade for the 2022-23 season and trades Jarry for future assets and clears the way for Joel Blomqvist to begin his ascent through the organization behind Gibson.
But I doubt that would play out.
Speaking of local kids …
Here’s the big one.
If it’s even remotely possible. And, as Seravalli points out, it may not be.
But the New Jersey Devils are apparently dangling the second overall pick in next month’s NHL draft as a trade chip.
That means an opportunity for the Penguins — or any other team — to move up and get Logan Cooley, the West Mifflin wunderkind who is projected to go no later than No. 3 overall in this year’s selection process.
As Seravalli outlines, it’s been roughly 20 years since a team “traded out of a top-three pick after landing there in the Draft Lottery.” That’s what’s happening with the Devils.
Yet general manager Tom Fitzgerald, a former Penguins executive, is on record as saying, “I’m open to whatever can help our team improve.”
If Seravalli is suggesting that Fitzgerald is saying those words as anything more than lip service, the Penguins must take them seriously and make an offer. And if that offer requires any name that isn’t Crosby’s or Jake Guentzel’s, I’m on board.
The Penguins likely don’t have the ammunition to swing a deal to move up from No. 21 to No. 2 in this draft. But it’s worth a try.
Cooley isn’t Crosby. But he’s really good. Rated as the best player to ever come out of this region. And, if the franchise is looking for Crosby to pass the torch in a way that Mario Lemieux did to Jaromir Jagr (and eventually to Crosby), this is it.
It’d be the Kenny Pickett story on skates.
Better. It could become the Dan Marino story on skates, if the Steelers had kept Marino in town.
So Hextall needs to pick up the phone if Fitzgerald is seriously taking calls.
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at email@example.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.