The Pittsburgh Penguins made one of the earliest trades of this season by shipping forward Scott Wilson to the Detroit Red Wings for center Riley Sheahan. While the Penguins are jockeying for top spot in the Metropolitan Division, the defending Stanley Cup champions might not be done dealing.
Sheahan’s addition as the Penguins has done little so far to improve his offense. Since moving to Pittsburgh, the 25-year-old third-line center has just three points in 12 games. Addressing this issue in a recent mailbag segment, Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette speculated general manager Jim Rutherford could add a center to his shopping list.
Last Saturday, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos said the Pens could seek a backup goaltender with NHL experience and perhaps some veteran leadership and offense. His colleague Elliotte Friedman thought the Penguins may have made a last-second pitch to the Colorado Avalanche for center Matt Duchene before they shipped him to the Ottawa Senators.
As for possible trade bait, Werner doubts Patric Hornqvist will get shopped. While the 30-year-old right winger is eligible next summer for unrestricted free agent status, he’s a vital part of their roster, particularly at playoff time. Werner suggested Carl Hagelin as a more likely candidate. He thinks Rutherford would like to shed the 29-year-old left winger’s $4-million annual cap hit and perhaps put some of the savings toward re-signing Hornqvist. Hagelin’s subpar play, however, makes finding a trade partner difficult. Werner considered winger Tom Kuhnhackl or promising Daniel Sprong as better trade chips.
SPEZZA FOR SALE?
In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Friedman reports hearing Dallas Stars center Jason Spezza’s named being floated recently in the rumor mill. The 34-year-old has just 7 points in 19 games heading into Saturday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers. His ice time’s been reduced and he’s shuttled between center and right wing.
Spezza carries a $7.5-million annual cap hit through 2018-19 plus a full no-movement clause. Friedman points out there’s a period between mid-June and Sept. 1 when he must submit a 10-team no-trade list. After Sept. 1, it reverts back to a full no-move. Friedman believes the Stars’ preference is to make things work with Spezza but suggests this situation could bear watching. He notes the Columbus Blue Jackets are looking for a skilled center but adds that’s just guesswork on his part.
If Spezza were a few years younger, perhaps the Blue Jackets or Penguins might kick the tires. At this stage of his career, however, he’s a fading center with a history of injuries carrying an almost immovable contract. Should either club go shopping for a center before the Feb. 26 trade deadline, it’ll likely be for younger, more affordable options.
LIGHTNING COULD CONSIDER DEPTH ADDITIONS
Having missed the 2017 playoffs after struggling through a season that saw several key players sidelined by injuries, the now-healthier Tampa Bay Lightning are once again reclaiming their place as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. With 32 points in 19 games, they enter this weekend atop the NHL’s overall standings.
However, the Lightning do have one area of concern. During Tuesday’s “Insider Trading” segment, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported the Bolts need a top-nine forward to skate on their third line with center Tyler Johnson and left wing Alex Killorn. LeBrun said they’ll look to within their system to address this issue but GM Steve Yzerman could also keep eye on the trade market.
Given their present lofty perch in the NHL standings, Yzerman can afford to take his time to find the right player. There could be some tempting targets available closer to the February trade deadline. James Neal and David Perron of the Vegas Golden Knights, Rick Nash of the New York Rangers and Thomas Vanek of the Vancouver Canucks are among the pending UFAs who could hit the block by then.
If Yzerman can’t find anything suitable via trade, maybe he can consider signing free agent Jarome Iginla to a professional tryout offer. The 40-year-old reportedly isn’t giving up on playing in the NHL this season. While Iginla’s not the power forward he once was, he could bring additional experience and leadership to the Lightning.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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