The loss of winger Jake Guentzel to shoulder surgery created a gap on the Penguins' top line. Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford could attempt to address that issue before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
In an interview earlier this week with The Athletic's Josh Yohe, Rutherford acknowledged the difficulty of finding a short-term replacement for a star like Guentzel. Nevertheless, he didn't rule it out. “If the right one is out there, then yes, that's what we're looking at,” he said.
Yohe indicated there will be rental players, such as New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider, hitting the trade block soon. Several tempting players with term remaining on their contracts, such as the Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker, could also become available. Rutherford made a failed bid to acquire Zucker last May. Yohe's colleague Michael Russo last week reported the Penguins remain interested in the 28-year-old winger, who's under contract for three more seasons.
The sticking point could be Zucker's $5.5-million annual average salary. With Guentzel ($6 million AAV) on long-term injured reserve for at least the rest of the regular season, the Penguins have room to take on Zucker's cap hit for 2019-20. However, Rutherford must ensure they've got sufficient space for next season when Guentzel returns to the lineup.
LATEST ON THE LEAFS
Possible moves by the Toronto Maple Leafs generated plenty of speculation during the recent NHL All-Star break. With Morgan Rielly sidelined until at least mid-March with a fractured foot, they need a skilled top-four defenseman. The Leafs also require a reliable backup for overworked starting goalie Frederik Andersen.
Some observers believe they could be forced to peddle Kasperi Kapanen for a blueliner. The 23-year-old is on pace to reach 40 points for the second straight season. He also carries an affordable $3.2-million annual average salary through 2021-22. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported last week there's a growing sense the Leafs won't part with Kapanen unless it's for a return that makes them significantly better. In other words, they'd prefer not to swap him for a rental player.
TSN's Bob McKenzie believes the Leafs seek a right-side blueliner with at least a year (preferably two or more) remaining on his contract. He feels teams will want Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, or Alex Kerfoot in return.
The Anaheim Ducks' Josh Manson, the Los Angeles Kings' Alec Martinez and the Minnesota Wild's Matt Dumba recently surfaced in the rumor mill. Either of them could address the Leafs' defensive needs. The Ducks and Kings are rebuilding and the Wild could soon join them if they continue sliding out of playoff contention. They all need good, young and affordable forwards. Perhaps Kapanen would be enticing to one of them.
WILL FLYERS MOVE ‘GHOST BEAR’?
Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere resurfaced in recent trade speculation. Sam Carchidi of The Philadelphia Inquirer said the Flyers might have to package the 26-year-old ‘Ghost Bear’ with a draft pick to bring in a scoring forward.
A skilled puck-moving rearguard, Gostisbehere's struggled defensively this season under coach Alain Vigneault. Carchidi observed the Flyers won five of seven games with Gostisbehere out of the lineup recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. Once he returns on Jan. 31, his name could get bandied about before the trade deadline.
Despite his difficulties this season, Gostisbehere could be attractive to clubs seeking production from the blueline, especially on the power play. He reached a career-best 65 points in 2017-18 and might regain that form on a more offensive-minded roster.
Gostisbehere was linked to the Montreal Canadiens last November, but that chatter died away after the Habs acquired Marco Scandella earlier this month. The Vegas Golden Knights are believed in the market for a mobile blueliners.
(All salary cap information via CapFriendly)
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