While Jussi Jokinen continues to be speculated as the presumed right winger on Evgeni Malkin’s line, Blues forward Chris Stewart might be an even better option.
Stewart, 25, is a registered right winger — unlike Jokinen who is a left — and although he’ll be hard to pry away from St. Louis, he’s the type of skater Malkin needs.
Traded to the Blues from the Colorado Avalanche in the Erik Johnson trade, Stewart plays a lot like Chris Kunitz.
Folks who can remember when Kunitz played alongside Malkin — due to Sidney Crosby’s infamous concussion — recollect the fact that he helped the Russian superstar win his first-ever Hart trophy (NHL MVP) that season.
Standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing in at a whopping 231 pounds, Stewart’s go-to-the-net mentality allows him to create a strong presence in front of the goal crease — which almost certainly propels him to cash in any loose pucks in sight.
Similar to the way Jarome Iginla was used last season, he’d be an even better fit because of how much bigger and younger he is than the 36-year-old ex-Penguin.
Stewart goes to wherever the open ice is, and when you’re playing alongside Malkin, you know that’s the right strategy to run due to his reckless mannerism’s when entering the offensive zone.
In 48 regular-season games with the Blues last season, Stewart compiled 36 points (18G, 18A), but only registered one goal in six postseason contests — which will change should he skate with Malkin.
The Pens are currently $1,098,333 over next seasons salary cap requirements, and although taking in Stewart’s deal of $4.15 million a year won’t allow them to make a move, they still need to shed cap one way or another.
Defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik are both set to be unrestriced free agents following next season, making them definite trade targets.
However, because Orpik’s history with the Pens organization goes back — having being drafted by them in the first-round — Â Niskanen is probably more on the chopping block than the Pittsburgh veteran is.
Making $2.3 million for this upcoming campaign, Niskanen would fit perfectly in the deal — considering the Pens are so reluctant on trading Paul Martin, who is making $10 million over the next two years.
The transaction won’t work yet because the Pens will still be over the cap — so trade away Tanner Glass and Jokinen as well.
Glass, who hasn’t been the player Pittsburgh’d hoped he’d be, is going to be making $1.1 million next season, and Jokinen is set to bank in $2.1 million.
If the Pens ship Glass, Jokinen and Niskanen to the Blues for Stewart, they’ll be shipping out $5.5 million and ultimately finish $251,667 under the salary cap — which’ll be like killing two birds with one stone.
But because it’ll be difficult to persuade the Blues to give up Stewart for all three of those players, the Pens could also sweeten the deal with a first-rounder.
Should they desire not to part ways with another first-round draft choice — as they did in last seasons trades — Martin is always a great piece to ship, because of his contract status.
Whether the Pens decide to trade for another player or not, they still have to meet the salary cap before the summer is over — so why not retrieve a building block for expendables?
Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how the Pens go about meeting the league’s payroll limit.