Pittsburgh Penguins’ forward Evgeni Malkin has seen his fair share of linemates through six games so far this season, and the New Jersey Devils are struggling out the gate.
Is it possible that the two teams make a deal? One involving forward Jaromir Jagr, perhaps?
Recognizing Pittsburgh’s salary cap situation — in which they have no money to spare — and understanding they’ll have to move somebody on defense once Kris Letang returns, Matt Niskanen could be the piece that brings Jagr to the Pens.
Niskanen, who’s set to become an unrestricted free agent following the season, was speculated to be moved to clear up cap space in the offseason; however, was not, and has the perfect contract to land Jagr back in Pittsburgh.
Making $2.3 million for the 2013-14 campaign, Niskanen is making $300,000 more than Jagr — who is also set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season — and could ultimately clear up some room for Pittsburgh in future endeavors.
Pens’ rookie defensive prospect Olli Maatta has shown great poise and understanding for the six contests he played in so far this season, and I have a hard time believing Pittsburgh would want to return him to his junior club (London Knights) once Letang does make his debut.
Not to mention the organization has built great depth on the defensive side throughout recent years, which makes it all the more reasonable they’d be willing to ship Niskanen.
Despite the fact the 26-year-old former first-round draft pick is having a good start to the season, for long-term considerations, Pittsburgh may best be suited to have another winger rather than a blueliner.
Plus, New Jersey has surrendered 19 goals in regulation through six games, and are averaging 3.2 goals allowed per-game — so maybe a change on defense is exactly what their team needs.
If Pittsburgh chooses to go after Jagr, he’d be a great fit on the right side with Malkin, and should feel a slight bit of chemistry from their overseas ties.
Let’s face it, Niskanen is more than likely playing in his last season as Penguin’. And because Jagr’s retirement is imminent, wouldn’t it make all the sense in the world to return him to his NHL birth-team.
It would also clear the air with Jagr, considering his perception by Pittsburgh fans is a bit murky after he chose to sign with their instate rival, the Philadelphia Flyers, a few years back.
Having him retire in Pittsburgh would be a sweet ending to a great player’s career.